Radio has had a great influence on me over my life. I grew up in Mazabuka, Zambia, and my father was always listening to the radio—news, entertainment, and even educational programming that he thought might benefit us, his children. Growing up, we had one radio in our home, and I could only use it when my father was around. Among my favorite programs were those that taught me how to be respectful toward others or complimented what I was learning in school.
As a family, our favorite radio drama was Ifyabukaya, a program that was popular in almost every household as it touched on aspects of our everyday lives. Episodes varied, such as how to live in harmony with neighbors, the importance of upholding family values, and the rewards of showing kindness toward elderly people.
Learning to respect others regardless of age, race, gender, or beliefs is an important part of a child’s development. By following the mistakes and triumphs of fictional radio characters in radio dramas, I learned that my words and my actions affect other people, either positively or negatively. Teaching children good values and behaviors helps them to think from other people’s perspective, inculcates the desire to help others, and provides a mechanism for self-regulated behavior.
These values of interacting with others, which I learned from earlier radio dramas, are similar to the values that the USAID Let’s Read project teaches in its education programs, such as respect for others, compassion, honesty and hard work. Let’s Read has helped bring positive changes in the behaviors of parents and children.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Let’s Read project introduced the Parents as Partners radio program, aimed at supporting parents to continue engaging with their children in learning at home. The nationwide closures had resulted in the disruption of learning as children were not attending school, and these closures created a very real threat of learning loss for school-age children. Let’s Read staff recognized this danger and assisted in creating an environment to nurture literacy through positive messaging and radio spots that encouraged active parental commitment as well as community engagement to support all children reading.
Even today, with schools reopened, Let’s Read radio breakfast shows continue to guide communities and households on how to support learning beyond the classroom and develop positive values that strengthen and encourage listeners to learn and grow.
One of the positive things that I learned during the pandemic was how instrumental radio was as an emergency response to school closures. It ensured ongoing interaction among teachers, parents, and learners, especially those living in hard-to-reach places without access to the Internet. The Let’s Read project, working with the Zambia Ministry of Education, developed audio-based programs, including Tips for Teachers, folktales, and parental and community involvement messages.
Every time I listen to these innovative radio transmissions, I am reminded that teaching and learning are no longer confined to the classroom. The Let’s Read project has indeed helped transform lives through one of the most inclusive outreach platforms—radio!
Angela Mpongosa served as the Community Engagement Specialist for the USAID Let’s Read project.