Access to education in one’s native language significantly impacts learning outcomes. As part of the broader USAID Let’s Read Project, the EDC and Cambridge collaboration aimed to bolster early-grade reading by supplying local Zambian-language books. As the Product Owner at Cambridge University Press and Assessment, I undertook a detailed journey through language adaptation, rigorous quality assurance, and professional stakeholder management, ultimately delivering over 1.5 million books in seven Zambian languages.
In Zambia, the Ministry of General Education started the Primary Literacy Programme (PLP) in 2013. However, it faced hurdles such as inadequate teacher training, insufficient student resources, and limited community involvement. The USAID Let’s Read Project was initiated to improve reading outcomes for early-grade students and support the education system with a whole school-whole system approach, emphasising the integrity of the PLP. Cambridge came on board to develop and supply primary readers in seven Zambian languages.
Stakeholder management was at the core of the project. The collaboration with USAID/EDC was essential for the project’s success. I worked to build and maintain strong relationships with key stakeholders, ensuring alignment of goals, transparent communication, and collaborative problem-solving.
One of the primary responsibilities was to engage in open dialogues with USAID/EDC to understand their objectives, align on project timelines, and ensure adherence to quality standards. Regular updates and discussions facilitated trust and mutual understanding.
Complex Project Management
This project was complex due to its international nature, tight schedule, and linguistic elements. As the owner, I was responsible for navigating through this complexity. By meticulously planning, setting clear milestones, and monitoring progress, I ensured that the project stayed on track.
A significant challenge was coordinating between teams in Zambia and South Africa. I conducted multiple trips to Zambia for on-site engagement with the language specialists to address this. This allowed for real-time problem-solving and assured quality in content adaptation.
Forging connections with language specialists in Zambia was critical. Through on-site visits and ongoing communication, I built rapport, which paved the way for seamless collaboration. A shared goal united us – elevating education for Zambian children. This communal vision enabled cooperative teamwork. This was further bolstered by valuing and recognising the language specialists’ expertise.
A resilient risk management strategy was indispensable for tackling potential setbacks and ensuring compliance with the tight delivery schedule. I maintained continuous communication with both teams to enable swift responses to any emerging challenges.
My role with Cambridge University Press and Assessment was central to developing and adapting books for the Zambian context, an essential requirement for the broader USAID Let’s Read project. This collaboration distributed over 1.5 million books across Zambia, reaching approximately 450,000 children. Assessments in the coming year will show the percentage improvement in reading comprehension among beneficiaries.
The USAID/EDC Reading in African Languages project underscores the importance of stakeholder management, relationship building, and project management in achieving critical educational goals. The project exemplifies how international collaboration and commitment to a shared vision can transcend borders and language barriers to make a lasting impact on education.