Factors contribution to low literacy levels among learners under the Interactive Radio Instruction Programme: A case of learning at Taonga Market Center under Chikuni Community Radio Station
Hambayi, Moonga Alfred
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Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) Programme has been incorporated in the Zambian education system because it has been viewed as one way access to education by many Zambian learners, especially the orphans and vulnerable children, can be enhanced. For that reason, the programme has received overwhelming support from both the government and the church. Apparently, the IRI programme has greatly expanded attracting a huge number of learners in rural areas. The concern therefore has also been on the quality of education such huge number of learners are receiving. Although the IRI programme has received much support, it has been established through conducted studies that their performance in literacy is below the expected level. This study investigated the underlying factors behind the low literacy gains among IRI learners. The study engaged with the central theoretical, methodological, and pragmatic challenges in the tradition of IRI programme and literacy development. The study specifically established the extent to which the IRI learners were engaged in the meaningful learning activities. It also established the effects mentor translations had on the learners. It as well established the challenges mentors faced when doing translations and it also shows how learners performed in literacy at the selected IRI center. The data presented in this study were collected through lesson observations, initial literacy tests administered on the IRI learners as well as through interviews. The interviews in form of follow up questions were used as a way of clarifying on some observed behaviour and activity. The study used both quantitative and qualitative methods to collect and analyze data. The target population of this study comprised the Grade One (1) learners and the mentors handling Grade 1 learners from the selected IRI Center. It was found that several factors contributed to the low literacy gains recorded among the IRI learners. The first one is the IRI mode of initial literacy lesson itself which restrained both the learners and the mentor on doing a variety of learning activities. The other factor is the aspect of translating radio teacher’s English instructions into the familiar language of the learners, which was not clearly done at times. The medium of instruction (English-to-Chitonga) was also established to have contributed to the low literacy gains recorded at LTMC; it confused both learners and the mentor and consequently distorted the progression of the lesson. Lack of full parental support in the learning of children at LTMC was another factor which could also have greatly contributed to the low literacy levels that obtained among the IRI learners. This study recommended that the radio recordings should be in the familiar language of the learners so as to do away with the translations. It also recommended that the Educational Broadcasting Services in Zambia should ensure that the IRI lessons are put on soft copies which can be played and paused by the mentor. That would allow for more flexibility and allow more time for learner participation and for the mentor to do remedial work there and then. This study further recommended that parents/guardians should be actively involved in the learning of their children, and that there is need for refresher courses for mentor training and retraining.