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UTSA awarded $13 million to improve literacy of African children
Around Texas

October, 2009

For the second time in five years, the UTSA College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) has been selected to provide educational materials and teacher training to improve literacy rates of children in Africa.

The three-year, $13 million cooperative agreement between COEHD and the Republic of Malawi is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and is the largest amount of funding COEHD has received to date. USAID provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide that supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances U.S. foreign policy.

With a population of 14 million, Malawi, a landlocked country in Southeast Africa, is among the world's least developed and most densely populated countries. In the area, the life expectancy rate is 43 years and nearly one million suffer from HIV/AIDS.

"After witnessing firsthand the outstanding success of UTSA's program in Africa, it is very gratifying to see the program being recognized for its humanitarian efforts to improve literacy rates in underdeveloped countries," said UTSA President Ricardo Romo. "We are very appreciative to USAID for providing the resources to support this important work helping the school children of Malawi."

The project, Read Malawi, will involve more than a dozen faculty and graduate students across five disciplines working together over the next three years to provide five million books for children in grades 1-3. Additionally, COEHD faculty members will train teachers, principals and Malawian communities to support the educational improvement efforts in one of the poorest countries in the world.

"This college-wide initiative is a systemic approach to improving literacy rates in Malawi and involves our collaborating with local educators and community partners in that country," said Betty Merchant, dean of the UTSA College of Education and Human Development. "Once written and developed, the textbooks will be designed and printed by businesses in Malawi, therefore strengthening and expanding the country's infrastructure and keeping the majority of the funding in country."

UTSA's efforts in Malawi will be led by Misty Sailors, UTSA associate professor of interdisciplinary learning and teaching. Sailors will return to Africa, where she was the principal investigator of UTSA's first agreement with USAID in 2005. The Ithuba Writing Project was a $5 million effort that provided approximately two million books for children in grades 4-6 in South Africa.

"This is another opportunity for us to get better at what we do and fully understand how we fit in, not only as an institution, but as people in a globalized economy," said Sailors. "Personally, I would not trade this experience for anything in the world. Next to being the mother of three, it's probably one of the most rewarding things I've ever done."

The Read Malawi project will provide 120 titles of books in both English and Chichewan, the native language of Malawi, to 1,000 of the country's 5,000 public schools. The Malawian government began free primary education 10 years ago and has seen an increase in the number of children attending schools. Average classrooms range in size from 120 to 150 students per teacher.

The UTSA College of Education and Human Development is the leading provider of educators in the San Antonio area and one of the largest in Texas. Ranked third in the Unites States as producer of teacher-education degrees for Hispanics, the college is responsible for innovative research and grants in professional development, technology enhancement, health, school readiness, and bi-national and bicultural issues.


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