Family Literacy Projects

Addressing low literacy achievement in primary school children in Malawi and Ethiopia.

What we achieved


tutors trained on teaching mathematics and English
schools carried out gender audits of their school to better address specific barriers to education faced by female students
schools with improved sanitation facilities for girls
learners benefitted from improvements to the management and teaching and learning practices at their schools


learners enrolled in reading clubs with access to over 14,000 Chichewa language books
adults who enrolled in the literacy course were able to read and write well by the end of the project
more learners were able to read commonly known words on a literacy test, compared to learners who were not part of the project
The overall average scores on standardised literacy tests of learners enrolled in project schools were significantly different from learners in non-project schools who scored only 22 points


Although Malawi has free universal primary education, many children in disadvantaged rural districts are not learning basic literacy skills at school due to large class sizes and insufficient resources.

This issue is compounded by the fact that these children typically live in a literacy-poor environment, with illiterate parents and community members and little access to reading materials. The same is true for marginalised communities in rural Ethiopia and is particularly problematic amongst young girls.

Aims and objectives

These projects in Malawi and Ethiopia aimed to address the low literacy achievement of many primary school children, while also tackling the lack of confidence of parents and community members in their ability to provide support to these children.

Objectives included:

  • Improving reading skills and attainment of early primary learners
  • Encouraging parental and community support for young children’s literacy skills
  • Increasing parental and community capacity to support school improvement

In Ethiopia, there was a specific focus on improving literacy in primary school aged girls in four woredas (local districts) of rural Wolaita, as well as encouraging them to stay in school for longer and achieve better results.

How we got there


We established after-school reading clubs in 60 schools, as well as providing training and support to reading club mentors who were local high school graduates. This was in addition to running Adult Literacy Centres associated with selected project schools. We sourced and distributed early grade reading books in Chichewa (local language) and held annual reading fairs to generate community excitement around reading.


Our work focused on improving education through raising community awareness and supporting the education system through building processes and capacity development. This was in addition to gender-responsive teacher training, leadership training, HIV/AIDS training, the inclusion of female role models and self-esteem training for club coordinators.