Literacy Chair and Rotarian Sharon McConnell spoke to the Rotary Club of Belleville about a successful global grant under the literacy project umbrella in Bangladesh.  It was a large grant of $73,000 U.S. over a five year span of 2015 to 2020.  Two Rotary Clubs co-sponsored the project -- the Rotary Club of Belleville and the Rotary Club of Dhaka Midtown along with the Amarok Society as a partner.  Overall the funding came from three Districts with eleven Clubs providing funds, including Belleville.  The funds raised were matched by the Districts and the Rotary International Global Fund.  The Amarok Society is a small NGO operating and overseeing 23 Amarok Schools where mothers from slum neighbourhoods are taught literacy two hours a day.  The mothers, in turn, become their own micro-schools with a minimum of 5 children each who are taught by the mothers one hour a day.  The skills acquired include basic literacy, math and English.  The goal is to get the children up to speed so they can be transferred once the skills are learned, into government schools.  Children in government schools are taught three hours a day and are considered full-time students.  Tuition is free, but learning materials are paid for by the children. The purpose of the grant is to introduce participants to digital skills by providing equipment (tablets and laptops) and training and to develop curriculum in Bengali, English and Math.  The project also collects data and administers tests to measure progress.  Drama development through video storytelling is introduced and has been successful in influencing social practices.  Both the mothers and children become digitally literate and the program graduated 450 students who were transferred to government schools.  Jobs became more available that required internet skills and the mothers and students learned how to advocate for themselves.
The outcomes of the project included 700 mothers who acquired digital skills, the goal was 500 as well as 3,675 children, goal was 2,500.  The world of Internet was opened to them and of the students who transferred to government schools, 62% performed in the top 10% of their class and nine received government scholarships.  All of the students graduated high school and several went on the post-secondary.  Some of the mothers started their own businesses and many were able to secure higher income jobs.  Social issues such as child marriage, domestic violence and eve calling (bullying) were acted out through video presentations that resulted in significant attitudinal changes in families and neighbourhoods.   Teach a mother, change the world.  The Rotary Club of Belleville is very proud to have been involved with this project that produced very positive outcomes.
The current project, a digital reading App, developed by past Rotarian Michael Maloney who is a literacy specialist, has been made available to Rotary at a cost of $1,000 U.S. which works out to $40 per student to teach them to read.  Each purchase includes 60 lessons and internet licenses for up to 24 students that can be used in a group setting or by individuals.  No training is needed and the App can be used locally in schools, community centers, libraries and church groups as well as internationally.  English is a prized asset in the job market.  A pilot project is currently in place in Bangladesh as well as being used by 300 homeschoolers.  Basic education and literacy is the 6th area of focus of Rotary and introduced during RI President Wilf Wilkinson's term in 2007/2008. The Rotary Club of Belleville in support of this area of focus developed a tutoring program called Each One Teach One through the local library and YMCA that although proved to be labour intensive, operated for ten years.  Rotary also participated in Spelling Bees in the District for three years and most recently was a co-sponsor of the Global Grant in Bangladesh for over nine years.  The Digital Reading App project will be coordinated through the Rotary Club of Belleville with contacts made with other Rotary Clubs to expand the project locally as well as internationally.  The power of Rotary is evident.  A big deal according to Sharon McConnell who has seen the success of these projects around the world.  Here is link promoting the Digital Reading App by Past President of Rotary International, Wilf Wilkinson, Valarie Wafer, VP of Rotary International and Literacy Chair Sharon McConnell