Navigating the Crossroads of Language and Education: USAID/EDC Reading in African Languages Project

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

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.

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Diji: Empowering African Youth Through Language-Specific Digital Learning

Diji is an innovative digital learning platform providing short, skills-based courses in African languages. The platform’s primary objective is to empower post-school, unemployed, or under-employed African youth by offering learning opportunities in their native languages. Delivered via mobile browser or chat applications, Diji makes learning accessible and practical.

Diji’s development process was guided by the Successive Approximation Model (SAM), an agile instructional design approach that involves repeated cycles of development and refinement. SAM’s iterative process allowed for a more tailored and efficient development of a learning platform aimed at empowering African youth through accessible content in their native languages.

The Challenge

During SAM’s ‘Preparation Phase’, a needs analysis was conducted to understand the target audience and identify the gap in accessible, skills-based learning resources in African languages. This phase established the groundwork for the platform’s objectives and informed the subsequent design and development stages.

The Solution

The ‘Iterative Design Phase’ of SAM played a critical role in the development of Diji. The feedback from over 8,500 people was vital in shaping the platform through several iterations. The content was designed to be data-conscious and tailored for accessibility on mobile browsers and chat applications. This iterative approach allowed Diji to refine its platform to meet the user’s needs effectively. Additionally, the partnership with, who provide access to their messaging platform, exemplified how collaboration during this phase can enhance product development. The platform was piloted with Zulu and expanded to include Xhosa, Swahili, and Yoruba.

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Equipping Teachers with Coding and Robotics Skills for the Foundation Phase

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution surges, integrating technology and digital literacy in education is essential. The new CAPS subject, Coding and Robotics, presents an opportunity to prepare young minds for the challenges of a technologically-driven future. Cambridge has developed a cutting-edge workshop, “Coding and Robotics for Foundation Phase Teachers,” to equip educators with the necessary skills and print and digital resources to effectively teach coding and robotics to young learners. I was the product owner for this subject area and these instructional products.

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