The project aims to improve the quality of Early Childhood Education ( ECE ) in the district of Chipangali, Zambia, and more specifically in nine selected schools in the Chalumbe area. The project is in collaboration with the local office of the Ministry of Education.
The main expected result of the project is to improve the knowledge of volunteer teachers (Caregiver) to enable them to provide quality education in selected ECE which are located adjacent to government schools. In this sense the project plans to prepare volunteer teachers through specific training courses.
A second result envisaged by the project is to proceed with the construction of Pre-schools, latrines, playgrounds, as well as supply books and games in order to provide safe and suitable environments and tools for the learning of preschool children.
Finally, it is planned to set up a monitoring system that, in addition to measuring the achievement of objectives and results, allows us to understand how to act to improve and arrive at a model of Pre-school that can be replicated in the future in other contexts.
The project purpose is to follow a "children's rights-based approach" to provide Pre-schools as an integral part of the curriculum offered in schools by the Ministry of Education.
The Republic of Zambia is among the medium/low income countries in the world with an average per capita income of $ 1,572.3 per year for an estimated population of 18 million people. Life expectancy at birth is 66.2 / 60.3 (F / M) years.
Since 2010, Zambia has had economic growth mainly due to the high price of copper (Zambia is the second- largest producer in Africa, after Congo and the seventh in the world) as well as massive investments from other countries. Unfortunately, in the last seven years the trend has reversed; last year the growth rate shrank from 6% to less than 2%.
As a result of the decline in economic growth, unemployment has risen, the local currency, the Kwacha, has lost value against other convertible currencies (38% against the euro in 2020) and the stock of debt for Zambia has increased.
In this difficult situation, with high debt rate, Zambia like other nations was hit by the Corona-virus pandemic which further complicated the situation, leading the country to be near to default debts payments in 2020. Similar situations occurred to countries such as Argentina, Ecuador, Lebanon, Belize and Suriname.
Nevertheless large cities have seen an ever-increasing demand for services aimed at improving education and the consequent training offer for teachers, especially by individuals who have venture in running pre- schools, private schools and universities.
There has also been a significant increase in enrollment in government schools. Statistics show that the net primary school enrollment rate increased from 80% in 2001 to 98% in 2017 (https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.PRM.ENRR?locations=ZM ), but on the other hand critics say poorly trained teachers, inadequate learning materials and poor school management undermine the quality
of education (Global Partnership for Education, 2018).
Although enrollment in public, community-based and private kindergartens doubled between 2014 and 2018, this enrollment accounts for less than 10% of preschool children. The percentage of first-grade students who previously attended kindergarten has grown from 16% in 2004 to 29.4% in 2018. But Zambia lags behind some of the other states in the Southern African region in terms of kindergarten access, such as Zimbabwe (32%), Malawi (45%), South Africa (over 50%) and is below the SSA average of 53%.
In an effort to improve the quality of education for Early Childhood Education, the Ministry of Education has introduced the following innovations:
- It standardized the early childhood curriculum, which was linked to the first grade. Previously, the centres used different curricula of which some learning activities did not provide a smooth transition to the first class. The new curriculum is mandatory for all early childhood centres, whether public or private.
- The government has limited the minimum qualification of early childhood teachers from certificate to diploma. The government has also developed an Early Childhood Teacher Course curriculum that prepares teachers to qualify for a diploma or degree. The Ministry has also developed a curriculum for early childhood teachers that prepare them to teach children between the ages of 3 and 6.
- Introduced undergraduate, masters and PhD programs in early childhood education offered at Chalimbana University and Zambia Open University, as well as short courses in a mentoring program, ECE pedagogy and ECE management center.
- The Ministry of Education has developed a policy on ECCDE (Early Childhood Care Development and Education) which will govern the implementation of ECCDE in Zambia. The ECCDE is the level of education, both formal and informal, to which a child undergoes from birth to the age of 6, before reaching the compulsory age of 7 years old in order to access to Primary school.
And more recently the Minister of Education announced five pillars of the reform: teacher recruitment, career advancement, use of school information technology, textbook development and improvement of school infrastructure and exams (Lusaka Times, 2018a).
Early childhood education has also evolved in recent years as a consequence of the socioeconomic situation. The strong demand for a better quality of education derives from an increase of awareness of the value of quality education and early stimuli; children who attend kindergarten are more likely to enroll at the expected age and have a lower risk of repeating. This reduces the number of years it takes to finish studies, thereby increasing the system's overall efficiency.
The consequence is that in urban areas there has been an increase in the educational offers (kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and even universities) thanks above all to private individuals. On the other hand, rural areas still suffer from very low pre-school education quality and attendance rates. Ministry of Education data indicate the Eastern province as the one with the highest percentage of children who have never attended early childhood programs (86.1%).
The area affected by the project is the Chipangali District, which covers an area of 5,252 sq km with a population of 127,604 inhabitants. It has 132 schools, of which ten are secondary schools and 104 primary schools and 18 community schools. The total school population is 41,077 students of which 19,898 are males and 21,179 are females.
For administrative reasons, the school district is divided into 15 school zones. The project area of intervention is that of Chalumbe, which has nine schools, two of which are community schools. In total, the nine schools are attended by 2882 students (Chipangali School District 2019 data). The estimated population in the Chalumbe area is about 15,000 people, about half of these people are under the age of 18
and about a third are under the age of 9.The facilities in the area include a clinic, small towns with small shops and local markets. The population is mainly of the Ngoni tribe and is mainly devoted to agriculture and pastoralism (cultivation of corn, peanuts and vegetables).The project idea was born from the collaboration in 2020 between the Zambian based organization “Pamodzia Ndi Ana” (PNA) and the Italian based Organizations “Santina Gusmini Onlus” and “Evergreen Sport Association” which together implemented the construction of a Pre-school and a primary school in Kaulembe community school (Chalumbe area).The construction of the Pre-school was the first step to be able to make a more in-depth analysis of the educational needs and requirements of children aged 3 to 6 in the Kaulembe area and the neighboring schools.A meeting with the head of the Chipangali school district confirmed the need to improve the education offered in Pre-schools in the Chalumbe area; an opinion also supported by the parents' committees and the teachers of the selected schools.Data was then collected and verified on the ground, which confirmed what had emerged during the consultations. In line with national policy, there has been an effort to introduce Pre-schools in all schools of Chalumbe Zone and all but one (Kukwe school) have a class for preschool children. However, enormous limitations have also emerged concerning the declarations of intent and desired standards.Enrollment in pre-primary classes varies from a minimum of 15 students at the Mgwazo school to a maximum of 66 at the Molozi school, with the hours varying from a minimum of 2 hours to a maximum of 4 hours a day.Comparing the data on enrollment in the primary class, it appears that not all children from their respective communities go to school and many children are enrolled in school only in the first grade, with the result that most of the children stay at home and thus receive next to no education.From the data collected it emerges that the average of children enrolled in primary school is seven years old, it can be deduced that children (who go to school) in the area of Chalumbe begin to receive their first school rudiments only at 7 years of age.As for the teachers of the nine schools, only one is a qualified teacher paid by the government, whilst all the others are volunteer teachers or Caregivers. Volunteer teachers are typically chosen from communities and receive a small contribution for their service.Unfortunately, volunteer teachers / Caregivers have little or no training in teaching early childhood and on how to manage children aged 3-6, they also have very few opportunities to receive training; however, they carry out a fundamental task of accompanying children in their developmental age, highlighting the harsh reality of rural areas.Colleges that offer courses for Early Childhood Education are located far from rural schools (Chipata or Lusaka) and are prohibitively expensive for those living in rural areas. The consequence is that only a few can reach and attend such courses, with the further aggravating circumstance that even with a possible qualification does not guarantee that they will be hired by the government or even that they will go to work in the communities in which they belong.Finally, the infrastructure situation is even more dramatic; of the nine selected schools, only one has an adequate structure available as a nursery school (the Kaulembe School built by Santina Gusmini Onlus, with the support of Evergreen Sport in 2020). All the other schools use primary school classrooms, or improvised structures with traditional materials, or loaned buildings such as churches or others. No school has a playground dedicated to children, some schools (three) have used books donated previously, while the presence of latrines is completely absent to allow for adequate hygiene.In conclusion, in rural areas many of the children spend time playing with each other at home in situations of general poverty, very often without the supervision of an adult, but with other children older than themselves. If this model could have been sufficient in traditional Africa, in the perspective of progress it is
inadequate. Children who stay at home/village receive less stimulation than their classmates who attend kindergartens or who live in the city, with a consigning delay in learning with less chance of success in adult life.
The general objective of the project is in line with the sustainable goals set by the United Nations, in the document the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development (the document was signed on 25 September 2015 by 193 United Nations countries, including Italy and Zambia). It wants to be a guide to share the commitment to guarantee a better present and future for our planet and the people who live in it.
In particular, the project aims to achieve objective No. 4 "To ensure inclusive and equal quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all." Specifically, in paragraph no. 4.2: "By 2030, ensure that all children have quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education"
The specific objective of the project is to improve Early Childhood Education of 9 Schools in Chalumbe Zone in the district of Chipangali, Zambia.
To achieve this goal, the project will support the expansion of Pre-schools in the selected area and improve the quality of the services offered with the aim at enhancing the cognitive, socio-emotional and physical development of children.
Net enrollment rate, one year before the official primary school age, both sexes (%) from…. to the....
Three are the expected results of the project:
1) Improved skills of volunteer teachers (Caregivers) and their ability to involve children in learning and guarantee them adequate nutrition and health.
Indicator: Volunteer teachers with minimum qualifications in each project school (currently only one teacher out of nine schools, expected result nine schools with qualified volunteer teachers).
2) Improved learning spaces, buildings, classrooms, playgrounds, latrines etc ... so that children have learning opportunities in a safe place with the help of quality educational material, based on play so that they can develop the socio-emotional aspect and the cognitive functions that they will need to be successful in school;
Indicator: 33% of the schools with a minimum standard for ECE (currently only one school out of nine schools, expected result two out of nine schools).
3) A system of continuous evaluation of children's progress has been initiated to ensure the personalized attention necessary to develop their full potential.
In the first semester, the preliminary conditions will be created for the start of activities, an official presentation of the project will be made in the Chalumbe area and data collection will be perfected thereafter.
The baseline survey will take place through a combination of field visits and a desk study, which will serve to identify the direct beneficiaries of the action and their characteristics, such as teacher qualifications, the state of infrastructure and teaching materials, as well as the learning, gender equality, school progression and enrollment rates. The data collected will allow us to examine the interactions between initial conditions and the impact of the project and to measure progress in results in all areas.
The first component will focus on improving the skills of volunteer teachers. With the support of the school parents' committee and government teachers potential volunteer teachers in each school will be selected. Priority will be given to girls who have completed secondary school but with no formal teaching experience and willing to serve the communities.
Once the teachers have been identified, the training will be carried out during the school holiday period. The training will consist of 6 modules lasting two weeks. Upon completion of the course, candidates will have a week-long practical training to be carried out at a kindergarten in Chipata, which is selected by the PNA.
A child-centred approach will be adopted as a methodology to promote every child's right to participate and communicate. In particular the following training courses will be offered: children's rights approach, general pedagogy (from observation to educational planning), special pedagogy (basic elements), ECE pedagogy and management of ECE centres, the inclusion of childhood, elements of developmental psychology (main stages of psychomotor development of the child), teaching methodology and teaching techniques; all of which are elements of childcare.
The second component of the project focuses on improving the school infrastructure.
Regarding infrastructures, it is worth remembering that in 2020 PNA and Santina Gusmini ONlus, with the support of the Evergreen Sport Association, collaborated for the construction of a nursery school and a classroom block at the Kaulembe School (one of the selected schools). The construction of the two blocks allowed the school to provide an adequate place for children to learn in an adequate and safe environment.
Therefore, to respond adequately to both the identified infrastructural needs, the construction of 8 preschool buildings will follow a standard floor plan dictated by the Ministry of Education. Whilst the buildings will be built in the vicinity of the primary schools it will nonetheless be a separate place. In any case, it will be owned by the government school. Communities' will have to share the cost of construction by preparing the bricks, sand and gravel that will be used for construction.
To improve the tools available to students and teachers, it is planned to donate desks, books and games to the completion of every single building to facilitate teaching activities. Finally, the possibility of setting up a small playground for children and as well as toilets will be ' assessed based on the available budget.
Throughout the project, there will be a monitoring component to assess the quality of children's learning to determine which things work, which don't and why.
This component will be developed in close collaboration with Dr. Rita Florenti, psychopedagogist form Italy and author of the program for the training course proposed to the volunteer teacher candidates
This will make it possible to evaluate the progress of the project from the point of view of the various actors involved and will allow them to make individual and collective contributions.
The goal is to guarantee the quality and effectiveness of the entire project and each specific process, and more specific it will ensure that: (i) any potential problem or challenge is identified and addressed immediately during the life cycle of the project, (ii) the systematic application and verification of activities, according to the defined indicators, (iii) the analysis of the quality of the results achieved in order to use the experience acquired for other projects.