As I have mentioned a few times now (and bemoan daily), the root of the illiteracy problem in St. Lucian primary schools is the amount of time spent off task. Starting with the fact that grades K-2 have just 4 hours and 15 minutes of class time a day, continuing with all the ways that schools shrink class time for sports, religious speakers, prayer, and countless other ways, and including all the time spent when class is actually meeting on behavior management rather than teaching and learning, it is no wonder that students are not performing at grade level.
Time off task is also greatly affected by school attendance. Many parents keep children home from school for any number of reasons not related to illness or other legitimate causes. In Grade 1, the same four boys (plus random others) are usually absent. And these boys are, by now, way behind the other students.
Case in point. One of the village elders died a couple of weeks ago and his funeral was scheduled for Friday at 3:00 pm. With this in mind, school let out at noon (time off task). Because this was announced in advance, many parents decided it was not worth their time to send their children to school for a half day. Grades 1 and 2 each had just six boys show up.
In Grade 1, we reviewed capital letters and punctuation, until the small group seemed to have come to understand it. If we had gone on, the majority of boys who were absent would get even further behind. So I went to the library and got some coloring books and we colored. Here are the six children and their colorings.