From Struggling Student to Top Performer – the impact of Catch-Up Clubs of Chifundo’s Journey

Tuesday 16 April 2024

 Chifundo's Journey Illuminates the Impact of Catch-Up Clubs

In a rural community of Lilongwe, Malawi, Chifundo, a 12-year-old standard 4 learner at Kapedzera Primary School, is defying the odds. She recently achieved the top position in her class, a remarkable feat that speaks to her journey from a struggling student to a top performer. Chifundo's story is one of transformation, thanks to the Catch-Up Clubs (CuC) initiative implemented by Save the Children with support from Swedish Postcode Lottery.

Chifundo’s path to success was not straightforward. She used to struggle with reading due to limited resources in her crowded classroom. Often absent from school due to illness and the challenges of food insecurity at home, she found it difficult to focus on her studies. Her classroom environment was chaotic, and she often acted out in frustration.

"I used to fail to read because of the high population of learners in our class, limited books, and the challenge for our teacher to give individual attention," Chifundo recalls.

The Struggle to Read

Many primary school leaners in Malawi grapple with mastering reading skills, especially in the early grades. According to the 2017 Malawi Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), only 7.2% of Standard 3 students met the benchmark of reading 60+ syllables per minute, and 55.5% were non-readers or low beginner readers. Overcrowded classrooms, limited resources, high leaner absenteeism and challenging socio-economic conditions further exacerbate the issue. Catch-Up Club's baseline assessmentrevealed similar struggles, with 96% at lower or beginner reading levels and somestudents unable to identify alphabet letters. Reading and comprehensiondifficulties often impact performance in all other subjects.

A Turning Point: The Catch-Up Clubs

Chifundo’s life began to change when she was enrolled in the Catch-Up Clubs, an afternoon program designed to provide personalized attention to struggling learners. With only 15 students in her group, Chifundo had the opportunity to practice reading and writing in a supportive environment.

"Since I enrolled in the afternoon classes, I have had several opportunities to practice reading and writing. During the Standard 3 final examination, I was thrilled when the head teacher announced at assembly that I had scooped the first position," she beams.

The Role of Catch-Up Clubs in Chifundo’s Success

The Catch-Up Clubs initiative focuses on providing targeted support for literacy, and social and emotional learning (SEL). Chifundo’s teacher, Charles James Mtengo, has witnessed firsthand the positive impact of the program on her and other students.

"From Standard 1 to 3, Chifundo used to struggle due to the high population of learners in class, which made it difficult for us teachers to address the needs of each student," Mtengo explains. "But when she enrolled in the CuCs, everything changed. She began to thrive academically and emerged in the top position during the final examinations in Standard 3."

Engaging and Innovative Teaching Methods

The CuCs program employs play-based approaches to teaching, making learning enjoyable for students. Community Facilitator Koneliyo Tokoma shares how they use dances and interactive activities to teach reading and writing.

"Through dances, we teach children how to read and write. We've created a positive and energized environment for the children through the Maheu [a beverage made from maize or millet] we provide," Tokoma explains.

A Brighter Future for Chifundo and Her Peers

Chifundo’s journey demonstrates the transformative power of the Catch-Up Clubs initiative. The program not only provides academic support but also instills confidence and resilience in students. With the help of Save the Children and the Swedish Postcode Lottery-funded project, Chifundo and her peers are now on a path to a brighter future.

The success of the Catch-Up Clubs is evident not just in Chifundo’s achievements but also in the impact on the entire community. As more students excel in their studies and gain essential skills, the future of education in rural Malawi is becoming brighter and more hopeful.

With initiatives like the Catch-Up Clubs, many more students like Chifundo will have the chance to reach their full potential and dream of a successful future.