Increasing access, retention and performance in primary education in Sierra Leone
The programme stopped all activities in March 2014 because of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. After a year redesigning it, we have now launched a new educational radio programme in Sierra Leone; read about it here.
To address low levels of education in the poor and remote Kailahun District, Sierra Leone, Child to Child has introduced an adapted version of ‘Getting Ready for School’, its community-based model of early childhood development, which is being implemented by local partner and long-standing Child to Child associate, Pikin to Pikin.
Funded with £1.2 million five-year grant from Comic Relief, this project (which started in 2011) prepares pre-schoolers to enter primary school with basic foundation in literacy, numeracy and the socio-emotional skills required for learning. It aims to increase on-time enrolment, reduce dropout rates and enhance academic performance.
What are we doing?
We are adapting Getting Ready for School, a programme designed by Child to Child and implemented in partnership with UNICEF between 2007 to 2010 in six pilot countries.
Getting Ready for School is a one year programme delivered to pre-school children during the year prior to primary school enrolment. It involves a series of interactive learning games and activities which focus on early numeracy and literacy. These activities are conducted by older children who act as Young Facilitators (YFs) who facilitate weekly group sessions for pre-school children either at school or in the community.
The project is also improving classroom teaching and learning practice by supporting teachers to develop the knowledge and skills they need to engage small children effectively.
In addition to the focus on early years, the programme is engaging older children in life-skills education as a response to the challenges faced by children – especially girls. Topics include child protection, sex education and teenage pregnancy and are designed to reduce vulnerabilities and risk-taking behaviour and improve life choice.
Finally, parents and guardians are also being supported to understand early child development and child safeguarding, so that they can support their children more effectively.
What have we achieved?
Now in its third year, the project is already seeing positive results. Pikin to Pikin staff, together with headteachers and teachers, have noted higher rates of enrolment in the project schools. Teachers confirm that those children who have completed the school readiness programme perform better than those who have not, and they make friends more easily.
The Young Facilitators have more self esteem and confidence as a result of engaging with the Young Learners. Classroom practice has improved because teachers have received relevant supported and access to much needed learning resources.
In fact, the programme is so promising, that it has been selected by the UN Girls Education Initiative as one of only 17 projects (out of over 350 applicants!) globally to be showcased as a model of good practice for its positive impact on girls’ education. We will be working with the Overseas Development Institute over the next year to develop a case study for wider dissemination.
We are very focused on generating high quality evaluation evidence about the impact of the project overall. To achieve this, we are working with research partner, the Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. RRC is recognised globally as one of the leading centres of expertise on enhancing the resilience of children who live in very challenging circumstances.