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Introducing Jolly Phonics for Grade One Children

Luwam Araya is an Early Childhood and Early Primary School Professional Jolly Phonics trainer. She studied at Barka Secondary School in Asmara and later joined an art school. In 2004, she became a kindergarten teacher at Rain Bow International School in Asmara.

In the first week of April 2005, Luwam Araya, along with a friend of hers, Mebrhatu, staged a Pottery and Craft exhibition at the then Intercontinental Hotel, today’s Asmara Palace Hotel. The exhibition was successful and the two had an auction for their work, titled “A Pot in a Glass Table.” They donated the income from the auction to Bidho, an association of people living with HIV/AIDS. Luwam is currently studying Educational Psychology at Makarere University in Uganda. Eritrea Profile interviewed Luwam Araya about her experience as a kindergarten teacher and a Jolly Phonics trainer in the pilot program being carried out in Eritrea. Luwam Araya came to Eritrea as a Jolly Phonics trainer following an agreement reached between the Ministry of Education and Jolly Learning Company to implement Jolly Phonics program in 18 schools across the country. An excerpt of the interview follows:

  • Alright Luwam, please tell us more about your career?

Right after graduating from high school, I attended an art school. Following which, I pursued a career as a kindergarten teacher for six years, from 2004 to 2010 at Rain Bow International School. Meanwhile, I staged my second exhibition within the premises of Rain Bow International School in 2009. Afterwards, I started running Hilina Kindergarten in Asmara. In 2014, I traveled to Uganda and started running a Kindergarten called Twinkles, which follows international standards of teaching and curriculum. The experience I gained as a kindergarten teacher while I was in Asmara and the Jolly Phonics training I attended helped me a lot to become a professional trainer.

  • What made you become a head teacher?

The achievement that brought me to the level of head teacher in Kampala was the Jolly Phonics Program which we were using in Asmara at Rain Bow International School and also in the Kindergarten I was running. When I traveled to Kampala and joined Twinkles Kindergarten the same program was popular and an important curriculum for kindergartners. That program, Jolly Phonics, enables children to read and write at a very young age.

After becoming a Jolly Phonics trainer, I started travelling around East Africa, within Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Eritrea, trying to implement the Jolly Phonics Program in all public schools in those East African Countries.

  • What is the Jolly Phonics Program all about?

Basically, the Jolly Phonics Program is a donation program which goes only to Sub-Saharan countries and South African countries at the moment. This is being implemented through the donation of books and training. The beauty, the content and the richness of the books is that it enables very young children not only to read and write in the English language but at the same time it helps them comprehend and then take it to another level. In countries where children start learning English at the first year of their schooling, using Jolly Phonics, the children become confident, have fun, enjoy learning the subject and learn how to communicate at the standard level. Jolly Phonics is a program that raises the standard of English and it builds self-esteem. In brief, Jolly Phonics is a systematic and multi-sensory approach to English language teaching.

  • Could you please tell us about the training materials?

The training materials are in the form of books but also include songs in audio form. In the teaching process it is the teacher that we enrich. We make sure that the teachers are ready to keenly attend and take the lessons forward on their own. So, the teachers should be able to listen to and speak in English. The program has a detailed lesson plan. The teachers have a structure to follow on a daily basis. There is no way for them to struggle with what they are going to do.

  • How is the training program offered?

On a daily basis we have two books, known as pupil book one and pupil book two. We donate the books to all the classrooms of grade one government schools selected for the pilot. We call it Jolly Features and the program has three phases. Jolly Features is a UK-based company. It is enabling many Sub-Saharan African countries to teach English with an international standard.

In Eritrea’s pilot phase, we select three schools from every region of the country — one kindergarten and two grade one classes. The training is first given to grade one English language teachers, a head teacher and a supervisor. All in all, we provided the training for two English teachers and one school director from one school and a total of 60 staff members. We train and enable them with resources. So, the books that the kids in the classroom get are amazingly beneficial. The displays in the class room are very attractive enabling the children to engage and learn. The children are taught to say the letter sounds not the letter names. The phonetic approach of teaching is now happening in many countries in Africa. Through this approach children learn to blend words.

We have seven groups in the first week of the lesson. Every time we finish the first group, the students have big books with story lines. The children learn the sounds through a story line.

  • Accomplishment in the pilot phase?

In the pilot phase we teach Jolly Phonics to grade one children. For the students from grade two through grade five we have another program called Jolly Grammar. The first thing we do is make sure the children learn the sound of the letters and develop their listening skill. Each letter sound has an action. The English language has 26 letters but about 42 sounds. With Jolly Phonics, we introduce the 42 letter sounds at grade one. The children learn how to associate the letters with the speech sounds they represent and pronounce the letters. Once the children understand the story line, we have a flash card and a display on the wall that reminds them what they have learnt. The feedback we’ve got so far is very encouraging; the teachers have been determined to implement the program on the ground.

  • Future plan?

The future plan is to sustain the program and deal with all phases of Jolly Phonics. Making use of audiovisual materials, which the Department of General Education and Curriculum Office at the Ministry of Education are looking forward to implementing, is the next step. I took an on-line Jolly Phonics training and have become Jolly Phonics trainer, which is enabling me to empower other teachers to teach English in a systematic, funny, child-centered and multi-sensory way. The Jolly Features have three phases. In the pilot phase we have reached all the six regions of Eritrea. We gave training in August 2019 and this time I came for refresher training. Our future plan is to have an adoption of the program throughout Eritrea. We want grade one teachers to adopt the program and to receive pupil book one and pupil book two, class room materials, teaching aids and teachers’ guides. Finally, the program will be integrated into the country’s curriculum. Jolly Learning will, in the third year, give a copy right to the country to publish books by its own, which will be free of royalty. For grade two children we will have Jolly Grammar one, Jolly Grammar two and it goes all the way to the end of primary school and it will end with Jolly Grammar six. So, our next plan is to have a pilot program for grade two.

  • Any message you would like to convey?

I would like to thank the Department of General Education, the Curriculum Office and, generally, the Ministry of Education, and Mr. Chris Jolly, Managing Director of Jolly Learning, for their instrumental support.

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