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International Literacy Day: Amujae Leader Dr. Yakama Manty Jones discusses the rewarding challenge of promoting children’s literacy in Sierra Leone

Literacy is an essential component of sustainable and inclusive societies. It is key to making our world a more prosperous and peaceful one.

Ahead of International Literacy Day, the EJS Center interviewed Amujae Leader Dr. Yakama Manty Jones and discussed the successes and challenges encountered in her work to improve literacy in Sierra Leone through her foundation—the Yak Jones Foundation.

 By investing in libraries, as well as the people delivering the learning experience—teachers and reading coaches—the Yak Jones Foundation contributes to creating learning spaces that offer quality, equitable, and inclusive education. Pointing to this year’s International Literacy Day theme “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces,” Dr. Jones highlighted the Foundation’s continued endeavors to make libraries available to those most in need across Sierra Leone.

“The Foundation focuses on public schools, especially those with low pass rates in public exams, to reduce this learning gap. The goal is to help learners in these schools to be as equipped in terms of literacy skills, especially reading, as counterparts in other learning institutions.”

With early childhood education programs severely underfunded and many missing out on pre-primary education, Sierra Leone is facing substantial literacy challenges. By focusing its efforts on Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers and primary schools through books and learning materials donations, the Yak Jones Foundation is working on addressing these challenges, Dr. Jones said.

Navigating the rapidly-changing global context—including the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis—hasn’t been plain sailing for the Foundation, she noted. However, it was quick to adapt in order “to keep children’s minds active while increasing their literacy skills, general knowledge, and creativity,” such as embracing educational technology solutions and expanding the range of support: 

“The Foundation has intentionally been working to increase the uptake of the Government’s EdTech offerings across our constituents… We launched our Paper Re-Use Initiative and are currently fundraising to expand the provision of food and beverages for our Reading Squads in addition to our other activities.”

As a woman leader, economist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr. Jones is “living my passion of being a human capital development champion.” Through her various leading roles, she strives to support the protection of girls and women, and to offer financial literacy and business development training to women in rural communities.

Asked about the achievement she is most proud of when it comes to advancing the literacy agenda in Sierra Leone, Dr. Jones said that “the almost six thousand children my foundation has reached with books” are her greatest source of pride.

Read the full interview here. https://bit.ly/3B1ayXh

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