African children often leave formal schooling without adequate literacy and numeracy skills, an early learning deficit that makes them inadequately prepared to succeed in a globalized workforce.
Our Early Learning Innovation Fund, a partnership with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, has developed scalable and cost-effective models in Uganda, Kenya, and Senegal.
These innovative models, located both in and outside of schools, include preschool reading acquisition, school management improvements, reading clubs, tutoring and community involvement. Some utilize children’s first languages to boost their ability to acquire skills in a second language they may encounter at school.
The fund is recognized for its production of reading materials for children, most of which are in local languages, and for the establishment of an early learning community of practice that is not just limited to our grantees. Another tangible outcome is a local library established by one of our partners in Kenya which enjoys great support from the community. Case studies are available here.
A recent evaluation of this work found that pilot innovations improved children’s literacy and numeracy competencies in a range of contexts in the three project countries. It made special note of our capacity-building services, which were tailored to specific needs of each grantee. It also recommended efforts to build lasting civil society networks on the continent and enable grantees to become significant education players. This work is underway. We are providing assistance to the most successful of these innovations, including tailored monitoring and evaluation, with the aim of scaling up their initiatives in order to reach more communities with early learning opportunities. Also, each partner is working on a theory of change, with a set of monitoring tools that will determine the path of the projects and can also be used for advocacy.
Our work with LCDU in Uganda has led to improvements in teacher training, the production of more local resourced materials for teachers, and they are now starting an “at home” intervention, which will include parents, and community volunteers working with children. Similarly, the Madrasa Early Childhood Program in Kenya has been approved by the government to be a teacher training center and its curriculum also approved, to be integrated into public school and be used as the curriculum of choice. The organization is now expanding into public schools, instead of just creating its own community schools and working in Muslim communities.
Thanks to the work of our partner ARED, Senegal will soon have its first complete pilot of bilingual education in primary school. The government is supporting the work of this partner.