It’s 8.30 am as we arrive at Tiling’wa Primary School, in the East Pokot region of Kenya. Expecting to find children finishing the first lesson of the day, we find them just leaving their morning assembly. We quickly meet the acting head teacher and introduce ourselves. He tells us that the head teacher is currently on maternity leave. Mr. Kitur is responsible for teaching Class 1. However, due to severe teacher shortages in their school, he also pops in Class 3 during the morning as they currently do not have a teacher.
Education has been arguably the most consistently supported and discussed development issue in Tanzania’s nearly six decades of independence. Early on, Tanzania’s founding father Mwalimu Nyerere linked education to development, arguing that education is not only a way to escape poverty, but a way of fighting it.
“So, now close your eyes and imagine we have arrived at the year 2030. What does Africa’s education now look like?” invited our facilitator, Dzingai Mutumbuka. My imagination wanders, and I see Africa’s children running around the school, happy, and fulfilled.
According to a review undertaken by Charlotte Waters at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), the citizen-led approach being used in India, Mali, Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda is yielding reliable information about children’s basic learning levels, measuring change in these levels and raising awareness of local issues.
Late in 2015 I jointly posted with Dr. Abhijeet Singh of the Young Lives team in Oxford: Getting learning assessments right when money depends on it about a novel, national scale experiment that directly links financial aid for education to improvements in student learning outcomes.
Despite marked progress in increasing access to education in recent years, Uganda has not fully met its commitments under the Education for All Goals. And the improved national average figures conceal stark contrasts between the different districts and wealth classes of Uganda.
In Tanzania, Firelight is working to encourage, strengthen, and replicate or scale innovations in early learning among community-based organizations to improve children’s school readiness, literacy, and numeracy outcomes.
Meet Aditi. Aditi is 11 years old. Aditi lives with her mother and younger sister Didi, who is 7 years old. They live on the outskirts of Mumbai, in a waste-picking community. Aditi and Didi have lived here ever since they were born. Every morning, their mother leaves very early to collect used plastic to sell.
Uwezo receives many requests from around the world, from civil society organisations and others wishing to learn more about the methodology and how they might go aobut conducting their own citizen-led assessment.