Early and earliest years – a shrewd investment

Investing in the early years is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality, and boost productivity later in life. Today, millions of young children are not reaching their full potential because of inadequate nutrition, lack of early stimulation and learning, and exposure to stress. Investments in the physical, mental, and emotional development of children — from before birth until they enter primary school – are critical for the future productivity of individuals and for the economic competitiveness of nations.

Affecting one in four children under five globally, chronic malnutrition can hamper their long-term health and cognitive development.

Governments seem unable to prioritise the early years for real investment as they may only be in power for 5 years – a true vision for a country (health ,education and environment ) demands a vision and a strategy lasting 20 years.

In Peru, however, the government has achieved staggering results in cutting the stunting rate, which was formerly one of the highest in South America. The country more than halved its rate of chronic malnutrition among children under five, from around 28% in 2008 to 13% in 2016. As a result, an estimated 377,000 young children avoided stunting between 2007 and 2016. Many countries in the region experienced economic growth, but Peru’s acceleration in cutting stunting was a result of structural changes in its approach.

Reforms were driven by the Peruvian Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), which established a Results-Based Budgeting (RBB) system in 2008. This included analysing stunting rates in different areas and targeting resources to where they were most needed. Using real-time data, they could work out which interventions were creating impact or not, and make changes accordingly. “They really restricted it to the most critical period of life when you can still have an impact on malnutrition,”

Here in Tanzania we have nearly 50% of the children who are stunted – when will these 50% have a voice and a stake in their future potential or will they just remain a statistic?

World Read Aloud Day

World Read Aloud Day will be celebrated on Feb. 1st .

Of course many children do not have the luxury of having reading materials at home, due to poverty, illiterate parents or lack of a printed script for their local language.

So it is worth highlighting the importance of reading aloud where a teacher with only one book can at least share the joy of stories (with their illustrations) and foster an interest ,then love of reading.


In Tanzania we are working at pre-primary level,ensuring children who are more disadvantaged can not only access education but can enjoy learning through stories.


After a read aloud, during which children may volunteer to answer questions,predict what will happen next or re-enact part of the story, children will self select activities from the learning areas. They may work alone,in pairs or in small groups on activities dealing with family, health,environment learning practical skills and new content as well as their social and emotional development.

teacher Lucy cosmas Shinyanga

Read Aloud, Shinyanga,Tanzania


Group work 1Mtwara TP

Group work, Mtwara


Observer group work Mtwara TPTeacher observing group work, Mtwara


It is in the training that teachers learn new skills of story telling,which is more interactive than they may be used to.

story telling train 1


kode na kole

story telling 2

Working in small groups ensures teachers build confidence as well as skills.

role play parent poster

Using a poster for guidance,teachers learn to work with parents on story telling and early stimulation such as talking,playing and singing with their children from an early age.

masks 1

Role play ,using masks are practised during training.


health1 role

While using a story on malaria,teachers extend learning through the use of role play in health care situations.

book write 1

Teachers extend their minimal classroom resources by learning to make their own books.

Read Aloud Guide

Studies show that literacy is the foundation for emotional and physical well-being, intellectual growth, and economic security. Furthermore, reading aloud improves listening skills, vocabulary acquisition, and the understanding of common story themes and structures that will factor into children’s future success. Use the tips below to create a powerful, memorable read aloud experience. • Read the book beforehand to familiarize yourself with the story. Make note of places you want to stop and ask questions. • Be animated! Change your voice during the read aloud to match the expressions of the characters and emotions of the story; this will truly bring the text to life. • Use different voices for different characters so that children come to recognize dialogue within a text and individual character traits. • If your book has a lot of text, try a story walk instead of reading every word. A story walk is when you summarize what is happening on each page while pointing to the illustrations to help explain the action. • Ask questions out loud as you read. Ask listeners to predict what will happen next, how they would feel if they were in the story, or the meaning of a vocabulary word that might be new. Limit your questions to one or two so they do not disrupt the flow of the story. • After you finish the story, have a conversation that focuses on connecting the text to the listeners’ lives and experiences.

The power of communities – SDG4

Sustainable Development Goal 4 states:

“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”


Easy to state, but what does it mean and how can we achieve it?

In Tanzania, there are many ‘out of school’ children who are not able to access any type of education due to the location of their homes -many kilometres away from the nearest pre-school or primary school. And if they finally get there -they may not understand much, as the language of instruction is not the children’s home language or mother tongue.

In EQUIP-Tanzania, we have tried to consider the issue from a child’s point of view and have established 1000 school readiness centres with bilingual Community Teaching Assistants (CTAs) volunteering to support these children to access quality educational experiences.

The centres may be quite remote, but at the start of the School Readiness programme where we may expected 15 0r 20 children to join as many as 200 may turn up -anyone from 4 to 12 years of age! Such has been the demand (and official statistics often miss many of the out of school children) that we have suffered from ‘success problems’. The problems exist due to a lack of space and materials and lack of experience for the CTAs, who have done an amazing job in taking on such challenges.

Many headteachers would dearly love to employ CTAs who have such commitment,and some have done so or at least supported them as they work in standard 1 classrooms at the end of the SR classes.

Commitment of the CTAs is such that when asked if they would like to continue supporting their children after the end of the 12 week SR class -98% of the 1000 CTAs agreed to do so – again voluntarily. We are now trying to provide extra support so that eventually they can be recognised as a pre-school teacher by the Government.

A School Readiness centre demands much support from the community and many communities have stepped up to the challenge. A class may well start under a tree….


due to the interest and demand, community members decide to build a simple structure to protect the children from some of the elements…..


and then finally to start on the road to building a more permanent structure by their own efforts and resources…..


Once they have built the foundations and walls with their own resources the government will take on their proposal and may agree to pay for the roof and basic essentials for a classroom.

Equip-Tanzania are now considering supporting the government to implement their policy of one year pre-school education for 5/6 year olds along with their plans for building of satellite schools for those living in more remote areas.


Watch this space as we revolutionise rural education with 3000 SR centres during 2016. Bringing a taste of quality education to at least 150,000 children.











The power of stories and storytelling – in Tanzania!

“A lion walked near the village one night, left its paw prints, and was heard giving its blood curdling roar.

The next morning, all the children refused to go out. The Community Teaching Assistant, walked around to all the homes and encouraged the children to come with her as she said in a convincing manner  -” the School Readiness class is a place of safety for all children”

This was a story told by district facilitators during an oral story telling session as part of a reflection workshop in Dodoma, Tanzania.

Facilitators entered into a range of activities such as ‘learning journeys’  ‘force field’ and ‘community participation cooperative book making’, all punctuated with rounds of


singing and dancing – typical of a School Readiness training session. This heady mix of creativity, story telling, puppet making and singing and dancing enables a truly trusting learning environment where participants work together as a family (as one participant stated).

This learning context has ensured that the quality of training is maintained throughout the cascade, as observed in the most remote School Readiness centres.


More on the impact of School Readiness as the children start primary school in the next post…….



note:A lion  can roar as loud as 114 decibels, about 25 times louder than a petrol driven lawn mower.

School Readiness – a formula for equity?

After a slow start early childhood education is now picking up a pace, with more governments increasing their pre-school provision, through a mixture of state and private investment.

What is only recently being recognised is that there are still many children not being able to access pre-school provision through living too far from the school, living in poverty, being a girl whose domestic responsibilities prevent her from starting school at the correct age, and those who are not ready to start primary school because their mother tongue is not the language of instruction.

At primary level if the language of the learner is different from the teacher they are less likely to succeed and more likely to fall behind -the teacher may not be trained to work bilingually and may not have the patience or resources to differentiate their teaching for their diverse class.

What is also certain, those children living in disadvantaged families, including those living in poverty, will not receive the cognitive stimulation at home which will support their brain development. Once these children start some distance behind other children they are likely to fall behind their peers, may have to repeat grades and eventually drop out or be too old to continue due to the pressure of early marriage,for example, in the case of girls.

If we are to improve equity -what can we do to ensure that all children start formal schooling ready to learn in a context which can be rather intimidating to many young learners?

The formula has to be RC+RF+RS=RC , where R=Ready, C=Community,F=Family, S=School and C= children.

This approach is having benefits in Tanzania where the GoT/EQUIP-Tanzania initiative on School Readiness is being piloted.


Community Teaching Assistants presenting their teaching aids made from local materials


More news on this initiative coming quite soon.




Effective training approaches in Tanzania

Here in Tanzania we have just completed  a second workshop for national facilitators for the School Readiness Programme.

The core aspect of the training is that what we practice during the national training is exactly what we expect the Community Teaching Assistants to do in their classrooms, so there is little loss in quality as we pass through the cascade.

As you can see, we spend much of the time on the floor!

We spend time on the floor national facilitators2 national facilitators1

At National Level




using masks in groupUsing pictures

During training for District facilitators (Regional level)



cta Mpwapwa

Application by Community Teaching Assistants at village level.

Not only are the results noticeable within a couple of weeks but the feedback to facilitators enthuses them greatly and they can feel great pride that their work, at such a distance, can have such an impact on children directly, within a relatively short time. During their next training they are so motivated and are able to build their ‘vision’ of their impact on the next generation of Tanzanians. This professional vision develops into a true intrinsic motivation that really changes behaviour.


Achieving the Education SDG – in Tanzania and beyond

Here in Tanzania, we are trying to support children who have been unable to access education, or arrive at the start of primary school not knowing ther language of instruction. Our School Readiness Programme is a short but essential intervention which has already allowed up to 10,000 children access to some sort of education. In one community 400 children were registered to attend the School Readiness class. Luckily for the Community Teaching Assistant, this number was reduced to 99 by reducing the number of very young children and some of the much older children for this year, which is a pilot year.

We believe, that this type of intervention is in the spirit of the new SDGs (see below).

Achieving the Education SDG: Start Early and Stay the Course
UNICEF Connect 

Blog Post
Now the razzmatazz celebrating the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals is over, it is time to get down to business. For education (Goal 4) that means prioritizing the 250 million children who are not learning the basics, to ensure this global learning crisis is a thing of the past by 2030.

The first, and most vital, step that needs to be taken is to address disadvantage from early childhood.Evidence from around the world is clear: the children who encounter learning difficulties early on, face an uphill struggle to catch up. Learning inequalities are visible before children start school, and these inequalities often widen during the school years. This pattern is apparent across a range of sources of inequality, including poverty, gender, geographic location, disability, and ethnic and linguistic minority status, with these often interacting with one other to reinforce disadvantage.

Click here to read the full blog.

Other initiatives worth reading about:

Educational Results Stories
Global Partnership for Education 

Interactive Website 
The Global Partnership for Education wants to make it possible for all children, including the poorest and most marginalized, to attend school and receive a quality education. That’s why the GPE supports developing countries from the design of their education sector plan to its funding, implementation, and evaluation.

The GPE has provided a new feature on their website titled “Results Stories” that provides an interactive scroll-down of positive stories related to the impact of global educational initiatives. The stories can be filtered by Focus Area, Country, and Media Type.


More on the Tanzania School Readiness Programme (SRP) in later posts.

SRP mpwapwa