Sustainable Development Goal 4, in particular 4.2:
SDG target 4.2: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.”
Even this simple statement demands some unpicking – we have been attempting to increase access to primary education for some time, but quality has remained a more difficult goal to achieve. Development,care and education is a bundle of initiatives that are often left wanting due to the lack of coordination between such ministries as Health and Education.
‘they are ready for primary education‘ also suggests that there is a deficiency at the level of the child rather than the system or society. As mentioned in my previous post it is the responsibility of the family, the community and school to ensure that children have the opportunities for their needs to be met in terms of making the most of the education that is available to them.
A starting point could be the consideration of the language of instruction.
Where children do not speak the language of instruction at home -should they be taught in their mother tongue?
Should teachers be trained to learn methods to provide support to second language learners?
Should assessments take into consideration that children have differing language backgrounds i.e. is the system ready for all the children?
The Tanzanian School Readiness Programme has been piloting an approach which starts to address some of these issues. The programme has as its foundations the need for play, singing and story telling, which have been developed from a curriculum framework devised by the Tanzania Institute of Education (2015).
At the core of the 12 week programme is a set of 12 books (one story per week) around which a variety of activities are structured.
Training Community Teaching Assistants in story telling techniques (Dodoma region)
Activities encourage full participation and a belief that learning Kiswahili through singing, talking and playing can provide the foundation for further and lifelong learning.
Children enjoying singing in a School Readiness Centre in Kilwa,Lindi,Tanzania
It is the first week of the new school year and children from the 12 week School Readiness Programme are already showing how they have benefitted from the Programme. District facilitators have been monitoring standard 1 classes this week and have reported that those children who have attended the School Readiness Programme, instead of being scared to come to school, are now eager to ask questions and have shown confidence in learning with others. Even though they do not use Kiswahili at home, they are confident to greet people, count to 10 and understand some of the instructions given by the teacher,in Kiswahili. This is already a huge step forward for many of these children who previously would have had no access to pre-primary education and may not have the support of their parents to send them to school at all.
Older children really want to learn, but may miss out on opportunities if they live far away from school. School Readiness brings the school to them!
In fact, many of the children who turned up for the first School Readiness class were over age (even as old as 12) as they lived too far away from school and their parents could not witness any benefits of attending school, from other children. Girls,particularly, would have been at risk as the walk to school may not have been safe.
The presence of a number of older age children has brought into focus the larger problem of the number of out of school children, many not known to the authorities and so little provision is made for them.
The commitment of the volunteer Community Teaching Assistants (CTAs) has provided the Gov. of Tanzania with ample evidence that as a human resource for the nation, there are many young people who with their knowledge of the families and community as well as bilingual skills, are often not given enough opportunities to develop their talents in a meaningful way. By engaging more women CTAs we are also hoping that some will gain more training to become a pre-primary teacher and return to their villages.
Simple mobile phone technology has enabled CTAs, often living and working in isolated rural communities can now receive information about the week’s story as well as providing monitoring data in real time. Monitoring data from such diverse and distant locations is a powerful tool for formative interventions, rather than waiting months for paper based data to find its way home and eventually to be acted upon. Feedback to CTAs can also be almost immediate , if necessary.
District facilitators have taken the initiative to use new technologies to develop and maintain an informal but professional network of facilitators across the country (at least across the seven EQUIP-Tanzania regions from the far north in Mara to the South in Lindi) using What’sApp. The atmosphere created and camaraderie developed, amongst the facilitators during zonal training workshops supported the development of this network. Through this network, a participant in a workshop starting at 9 a.m. in Mara can communicate a photo, comment or video clip to any one across the country by 10.a.m Again a very simple but powerful tool for exchanging views and ideas without any downward pressure from ‘above’ -a pure community of practice!
Just in from the WhatsApp network -we heard that training in SRP approaches have been arranged for all pre-primary teachers in two districts, Tarime TC and DC in Mara.
Excited children attending a School Readiness Class