Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has recently conducted a visit to Sri Lanka led by Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, to conclude its three-year literacy program in support of more than 40 schools in underdeveloped districts across the country. The AED 3.4 million (USD 930,000) program in partnership with international children's fund, Save the Children, has directly supported the learning and development of more than 8,587 children, 10,000 indirect beneficiaries and 370 teachers who have received specialist literacy skills development training.
Launched on 1 January 2013, the program was implemented in schools located in some of the most impoverished communities in Sri Lanka's Northern Province. According to UN statistics, a staggering 23% of Sri Lanka's population lives under the poverty line, as the country continues to rebuild itself after a 26-year conflict which grossly hindered the country's opportunity for development and growth. Despite the associated hardships of the civil war's legacy, Sri Lanka has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving standards of education, and the country is regarded as the best performer in South Asia in primary school indicators, and is on track towards achieving universal primary education, with a net enrollment ratio of 98.35%.
The Dubai Cares literacy program sought to harness the country's enthusiasm for learning by creating a supportive and inclusive environment for children to improve their reading and literacy skills. Discussing the success of the literacy program Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said: "The people of Sri Lanka have whole heartedly supported the work of Dubai Cares and Save the Children by placing childhood literacy at the forefront of the country's agenda. Teachers, students, parents and government figures have fully embraced the importance of education in the growth and development of the country and they have worked tirelessly since the program began in 2013, to ensure that Sri Lankan children across the country will have a better start in life. As a result of the literacy program, more than 8,000 children in some of the most underprivileged areas of Sri Lanka will have access to quality education and specialist teachers, and the sustainable literacy framework that has been created will greatly improve the career prospects of future generations of Sri Lankan children."
The program aimed at achieving three objectives, beginning with equipping teachers with the knowledge to create a supportive and inclusive environment for children to improve their reading skills. This was accomplished through comprehensive training plans for teachers, imparting them with the skills to motivate and encourage their students, particularly those children who have previously struggled with reading and writing.
The second objective of the program was to incorporate literacy as early as possible in the learning journey. As a result, first grade readers were actively supported and encouraged to read books by schools, parents and the wider community. Crucial to the success of this, was Dubai Cares' assistance in supporting the establishment of more than 100 libraries, and the publishing of three local language titles of which more than 98,000 copies have been printed and distributed through the course of the organization's interventions in Sri Lanka. This ensured that reading material was available to children from a young age.
The final objective of the program was to monitor the progress of the early grade readers to allow best practice and project results to be distributed to relevant stakeholders and policy makers. This was pivotal to ensure that the literacy framework was sustainable and could be replicated nationwide.
Saeed Al Ismaily, Senior Programs Officer at Dubai Cares who was part of the Dubai Cares delegation to Sri Lanka said: "I am delighted to witness the successful completion of a program that has achieved what we set out for it to accomplish at the onset. As a member of the programs team at Dubai Cares, I have been routinely visiting Sri Lanka since the launch of the program three years ago to monitor the results, processes and experiences which we learn from and rely on to make informed decisions. However, this trip is quite different as it marks the conclusion of a successful program, something that inspires us to continue to innovate and implement programs that create a positive impact in the lives of children, their communities and their country."