02 June 2015

The learning crisis in Sierra Leone

"Mohammed’s father is an illiterate petty trader. Although he never got any school himself, he has always been determined that Mohammed [13] should get a good education. When Mohammed joined us, we asked him, as we ask all our students, to complete a word reading assessment. The assessment, which we administer one-to-one in the child’s home, involves reading out a list of 90 words that increase in complexity and difficulty, and from the number and difficulty of the words read correctly an inference can be drawn about the student’s reading age based on UK norms. 

Mohammed got stuck straight away. He barely made it past the first line or two – words like ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘cup’, ‘said’. Mohammed’s father couldn’t read but he could see that his son was struggling and did his best to encourage him. “Try your best Mohammed”, he said. And Mohammed did. He kept trying. But no matter how long he took he couldn’t recognise the words, and eventually we had to call time on the test. Mohammed’s father was heartbroken. “I’ve paid all this money for school,” he said, “but his head is empty.” 
Unfortunately, Mohammed’s story is far from unique."
From an essay by Paul Skidmore, CEO of the Rising Academy Network