Remarks by Ambassador Godec: Tusome Early Grade Reading Launch

President Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya,
Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi,  Cabinet Secretary, Education, Science and Technology,
Other Cabinet Secretaries,
Senators and Members of Parliament,
Principal Secretary,
Dr. Christian Turner,
and all dignitaries present;
Ladies and gentlemen.

Waheshimiwa, mabibi na mabwana,

Hamjambo! Habari zenu?

Leo, tupo hapa kuzindoa mupango mupya “Tusome.”

Today, we are here to launch the new Tusome program – or “Let’s Read” in English.  I am pleased to stand with President Kenyatta, the Cabinet Secretary, the Ministry team, and all of you here today to help realize the potential of Kenya’s children.  And, it is also a pleasure to meet some of the class one and two pupils who will take part in Tusome.  I’m proudest of all to stand with you!

Tusome is an evidence-based national literacy program.  The United States is contributing $43 million of the total $53 million dollars – nearly 5 billion shillings – for the Tusome program for the next four years.  We will reach over five million students in 22,600 public schools.

Tusome embodies the innovation and commitment that come from great partnership.  It takes hundreds, thousands, of extraordinary individuals and organizations committed to the education of Kenya’s youth to make a program of this magnitude and scope possible.  The Tusome program will not only train primary school instructors in a new state-of-the-art teaching methodology, but also put new textbooks in the hands of every standard one and two pupil in Kenyan public schools.

Tusome in Kenya is part of USAID’s global reading strategy – in fact, Tusome is USAID’s flagship reading program.  Education experts across the globe are now looking at Tusome as it rolls out across Kenya.  Why?  Because we know it works.  Test results show it more than doubles the chance that a child will learn to read in standard one.

So I want to commend the Cabinet Secretary, and all of our partners, for their commitment to technical excellence throughout Tusome’s development.  The Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, implementing partner RTI International, and, of course, USAID, for dedicated years of work to bringing the program to fruition.  Both the Ministry and USAID used evidence to drive each decision.  They piloted the reading intervention component of the program for several years, studying the impact of new lesson planning methodologies, teacher training systems, learning materials and electronic assessment tools in Kenyan schools.  This gave the Government of Kenya the evidence needed to support the launch of a national reading program.  Tusome will now provide a sustainable instructional leadership system and the concrete tools to make it work.  In a nutshell, the Tusome materials and methodology are designed so that all children that enter the school system will first learn to read and then read to learn.  And Tusome will give children the concrete tools for success.  Through the course of this program, the U.S. government will print and distribute over 12 million books.

As we embark on this exciting project, I am reminded of the words of Nelson Mandela.  He once said: “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination.  But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”

Tusome is designed to awaken something very special in every child that enters the school system.  As a life-long learner and reader myself, I am proud of this program that will help share the joy of reading.  For reading is magic.  It expands the mind and opens new doors.  Books, articles, stories, poems – they connect all of us, all of humanity across space and time.

For a moment, I would like to speak directly to the students here today – you are the true focus of the Tusome program.  One of my favorite authors is an American children’s book writer named Dr. Seuss.  In one of his many wonderful books, he said:  “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Dr. Seuss and Nelson Mandela had it right:  with reading and writing skills, there is no limit to what you can discover and achieve.  Reading and writing are not just the foundations of all learning, but also the skills needed to realize your dreams.  The Tusome program will empower you.  It will show you the world.  And it will help you find better jobs when you grow up.  You can become whatever you wish, a doctor, a businessman, a scientist.  And, along the way, you will help the great Kenyan nation make its hopes and aspirations a reality.

To the parents here, you are crucial to making the Tusome program a success.  Read with your children, and encourage them to imagine and explore through their books.  Help them find their dreams.  Kenya has some of the world’s brightest young minds.  I have met them in the schools of Kibara, Kisumu, Mombasa and so many other places across this country.  And, I’ve seen it through my interactions with young Kenyan leaders in U.S. exchange programs.  Kenya’s young people can be world beaters.  With a little help from Tusome, Kenya’s students will get there.

The United States Government and the American people are excited to be a part of this opportunity to help Kenya launch Tusome, this flagship reading program.  As partners, we commit our expertise, time, and resources, along with our long-standing friendship and respect, to ensure success for Kenya’s young learners.  You can count as well on my personal and unwavering support for Tusome.  Because I believe in Kenya’s young people.

Hii ni mwanzo tu. Pamoja, tunatarajia vitu vyema kwa wanafunzi wetu. Pamoja tusonge mbele.

Asanteni sana!