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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Photo by Ricardo Romo

In the Loop

To Africa with books

For the second time in five years, the College of Education and Human Development has been selected to provide educational materials and teacher training to improve literacy rates of children in Africa.

The three-year, $13 million cooperative agreement between COEHD and the Republic of Malawi was announced in September. It will be funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide in support of U.S. foreign policy.

The project, Read Malawi, will involve more than a dozen faculty and graduate students across five disciplines working together over the next three years to provide 5 million books for children in grades 1–3. Additionally, COEHD faculty members will train teachers, principals and Malawian communities to support the educational improvement efforts.

The initiative will provide 120 titles in both English and Chichewan, the native language of Malawi, to 1,000 of the country’s 5,000 public schools. The Malawian government began free primary education 10 years ago and has seen an increase in the number of children attending schools. Average classrooms range in size from 120 to 150 students per teacher.

"This collegewide initiative is a systemic approach to improving literacy rates in Malawi and involves our collaborating with local educators and community partners in that country," said Betty Merchant, dean of the College of Education and Human Development. "Once written and developed, the textbooks will be designed and printed by businesses in Malawi, thereby strengthening and expanding the country’s infrastructure and keeping the majority of the funding in country."

Misty Sailors, associate professor of interdisciplinary learning and teaching, will lead UTSA’s efforts in Malawi. Sailors was the principal investigator of UTSA’s first agreement with USAID in Africa in 2005.

With a population of 14 million, Malawi, a landlocked country in southeast Africa, is among the world’s least developed and most densely populated countries. The average life expectancy is 43 years, and nearly 1 million suffer from HIV/AIDS.

- Rudy Arispe

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