Kilifi County Leads the Fight Against Illiteracy in Kenya With Jolly Phonics; so What is Jolly Phonics?

[wpedon id=”734″ align=”center”]The Kilifi County government has taken a giant step towards eradicating illiteracy in the County by partnering with the UK not-for-profit organisation – Universal Learning Solutions – and educational publisher – Jolly Learning Ltd – to train their government school teachers in the fast-track English literacy method – Jolly Phonics.

Jolly Phonics is the world’s leading synthetic phonics programme. With Jolly Phonics the pupils are first taught the 42 letter sounds of English at a fast pace. At the same time, they are taught how to ‘blend’ those sounds together to read words (so d-o-g makes ‘dog’), write words by segmenting the words into its sounds, and correctly form the letters for those sounds. The letter sounds are introduced through culturally appropriate stories, songs and actions that engage children and make learning the sounds multi-sensory, memorable and fun.

Following a successful pilot project in 2017 and 2018, which saw pupils reading ages increasing by up to two years and two months in comparison to nine months in control schools, the project has now been rolled out to all public pre-primary schools in Kilifi County and has seen similarly spectacular results.

Prof Gabriel Katana Gona, County Executive Committee Member, Education and ICT of Kilifi County, said: “We are delighted to be the first County in Kenya to adopt the Jolly Phonics methodology in our public pre-primary schools.  This has seen a positive and drastic change in the literacy levels of the County. The reality of our primary age children not being able to read is changing as we see our pre-primary children reading and writing with confidence. This leading International methodology is one that has the potential to radical improve the literacy levels of our pupils. The Kilifi County Government is proud to be the host of this ground-breaking initiative and look forward to continuing our collaboration with our key partners”.

Photographs: School Kids using Jolly Phonics Technology
To date, 3776 pre-primary teachers having been trained across both public and private schools. The Jolly Phonics project’s partnership with Jolly Learning means that schools and pupils involved in the project are provided with free training and resources to enhance effective teaching. Teachers are then provided with ongoing support and mentoring from a dedicated project support team, who regularly visit schools, send out SMS messages to teachers and provide guidance via WhatsApp groups.   Universal Learning Solutions Jolly Phonics Coordinator – Sian Summers Issa – said “There has been an incredible shift in teacher’s positive attitudes towards teaching. Their enthusiasm is infectious and pupils are eager for Jolly Phonics lessons. Teachers can see the positive impact of their teaching on their pupil’s abilities. It is highly motivating for all involved”.The quality of teaching was reflected in the performance of 20 outstanding teachers who were identified by the ULS team due to their excellent teaching and creativity in the classroom. In addition to these 20, a further 75 have been selected across the County to be trained as Jolly Phonics Teacher Leaders, who will then support teachers in each of their respective wards to ensure that they are using the methodology effectively.

The quality of teaching and success of the project is also evident in the fantastic results of the Phonics Screening Test. This is a test to assess pupils’ knowledge of the 41 basic sound of the English language and their ability to use this knowledge to decode words. The results of the screening showed the great potential of the project as in both PP1 and PP2 97% of pupils can now identify between 10 and 41 of the 41 sounds. PP1 pupils can read up to 9 words and in PP2 66% are reading 9 plus words and 34% are reading up to 40 words.

These results highlight the significant potential for Jolly Phonics to transform literacy levels in Kenya and place Kilifi County at the very forefront of the fight against illiteracy, not only in Kenya but across East Africa.

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