• 1 April 2019

A delegation from Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, recently visited Sri Lanka to launch a new program, in partnership with Save the Children. The program aims to improve children's literacy levels in the Northern and Southern Provinces of Sri Lanka, where there is a critical need to improve the quality of education.

New program to address significant education gap in the Northern and Southern Provinces

Driven by the success of the first program, Dubai Cares has renewed its partnership with Save the Children in Sri Lanka towards a new Literacy Boost program titled "Improving Children's Literacy in Sri Lanka". The AED 3,673,500 (USD 1 million) program aims to improve the literacy skills of over 30,000 children in two districts of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka: Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu; and two districts of the Southern Province: Galle and Matara. It is also expected to indirectly benefit 7,500 children, 1,000 teachers and 13,900 parents through teacher training and community-based activities. The project is articulated around Literacy Boost's three main pillars: assessing students' current literacy levels; building the capacity of teachers, school administrators and government in supporting children's literacy skills; and working with the community to promote reading awareness and strong language development.

The program is set to create realistic and competency-based curricula, standards and government textbooks that reflect comprehensive literacy components, and ensures that teachers are prepared to use them effectively. It also aims to train pre- and in-service teachers to design lessons while ensuring that the in-service training for teachers is regular, practical, local and complemented by mentoring and peer support. Moreover, the program promotes investing in research to develop simple methods of delivering reading skills to teachers on a large scale, as well as embedding reading expertise throughout the education system to ensure teachers are equipped with the necessary skills to teach reading.

Commenting from the field on the importance of the new program, Abdulla Ahmed Al Shehhi, Chief Operating Officer at Dubai Cares said: "The return on investment in education is immeasurable. It is the greatest long-term investment and all children have an inalienable right to have access to quality education from the earliest age. We are encouraged by the success of our first program in Sri Lanka, which demonstrated the high impact of Literacy Boost within the country's education system. By building up on the success of the first program, we are helping to tackle the education gaps through expanding our reach to more districts throughout the country, as well as supporting the Ministry of Education to phase-in Literacy Boost in every primary school in Sri Lanka."

Dana Jawad Amr, Programs Officer at Dubai Cares added: "We are delighted to continue and scale up our efforts to promote literacy in Sri Lanka. From student assessments to capacity-building for teachers and administrators, we are proud to support the creation of skills-based curricula that can embed literacy components and be used by teachers effectively in their pedagogy. Our work with Save the Children has had a powerful impact in children's learning and through our programs we are advancing our cooperation with the Sri Lankan government."

Dubai Cares' delegation attends high-profile meetings and conducts program site visits

As part of the agenda, Dubai Cares' delegation met with His Excellency Ahmed Ali AlMualla, United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Sri Lanka, who hailed Dubai Cares for its active role in supporting education in Sri Lanka. His Excellency also shed light on the relief, health and educational initiatives that the embassy is implementing in Sri Lanka.

AlMualla said: "I am happy and grateful to Dubai Cares for taking the initiative to conduct a much needed and worthy project, aimed at uplifting the standards of education and wellbeing of the tens of thousands of children in underdeveloped districts of Sri Lanka. Dubai Cares has been conducting various initiatives, such as "Back to School" and "Million Book Challenge", as well as "Children's Literacy" and "Teachers Training" programs among others, which have immensely benefited the underprivileged people around the world. The contributions made by Dubai Cares, provides children and young people in developing countries with access to quality education, regardless of their gender, nationality, race or religion. I welcome the delegation from UAE visiting Sri Lanka, and wish them every success."

Dubai Cares' delegation also met with Hon. Mrs. Vijayakala Maheswaran, State Minister of Education, Mr. Tissa Hewavithana, Secretary to the Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka, and Save the Children's in-country and global teams including Helen l'Anson, Country Director. The delegation then left for Galle in the Southern Province, one of the four districts targeted by the program, for three successive program site visits and meetings. The delegation then concluded the trip with the program's launch event in the presence of Mr. Chandima Rasaputtara, Provincial Minister of Education, Southern Province.

Helen I'Anson, Country Director, Save the Children said: "Our education program is focusing on quality and relevance of education and access for marginalised children. Working in close partnership with the government and networks at national and local levels, Save the Children is providing technical support and guidance to the Ministry of Education to adapt and roll out Literacy Boost methodology across the country. This builds on a successful pilot undertaken with the Ministry of Education and supported by Dubai Cares, where Save the Children tested the Literacy Boost model, improving reading skills for 3,000 Grade 1 and 2 children, including 550 slow learners across 40 schools in the north of Sri Lanka. The Literacy Boost approach helps children improve key reading skills through a mix of school, community and home-based activities. We also train teachers and education staff so they have comprehensive knowledge in core reading skills and can effectively teach and monitor literacy in their classrooms."

This program is the second partnership of Dubai Cares with Save the Children in Sri Lanka. In 2013, the first 3-year project targeted 40 schools in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka and was composed of three components: school, community and learning. The final evaluation confirmed the significant success of the project and demonstrated that Literacy Boost is feasible and appropriate to the country's education system.

Sri Lanka has suffered over 25 years of armed conflicts that ended in 2009. The country has nevertheless experienced a sustained period of economic growth, and its enhanced economic status and business potential has drawn considerable interest from the global corporate sector, in terms of investments as well as contributions to social responsibility projects. However, many challenges remain, despite the government's launch in 2017 of its Vision 2025 to strengthen democracy and reconciliation, inclusive and equitable growth, and to ensure good governance. Pockets of extreme poverty still exist across the country and some sectors of society are still marginalized due to their ethnicity, historical circumstances and geographic isolation. Recent studies also indicate that millions of girls and boys who reach Grade 5 are still unable to read or write.

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