Celebrating Ghana’s Independence 2022

Roleplay depicting the declaration of Independence Day of Ghana by Kindergarten students of Amenano Model Basic school. 

On 6th March 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to achieve independence from colonial powers. Ghana’s independence and achievements are celebrated throughout the month of March. Celebrating Ghana’s independence means celebrating the culture, heritage and accomplishments of Ghana and its people. With family and friends on Independence Day, laughter rings out, songs are sung and memories are shared all over Ghana, as people celebrate their history and simultaneously shape the future. 

We wanted to join in with the celebrations this year and decided to ask our Foundation First team in Takoradi, Ghana, what Independence Day means to them. We wanted to celebrate what independence has done for education and for the future generations of Ghana.

“The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up to the total liberation of Africa.”

Dr Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana

Godwin Agbavor – CEO & Foundation First Founder

I grew up as a proud citizen of Ghana, eagerly learning about the history of our independence. To this day, I find myself pondering over one of the most inspirational speeches in African and world history: “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up to the total liberation of Africa.” Spoken by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, this statement still holds true today.

To me, President Kwame Nkrumah’s words also encapsulate the significance of independence for the Ghanaian people, which is to be able to successfully manage the affairs of the nation. To transform the nation, I believe a change of mindset is required; all human development begins in the mind, the foundation of each individual.

For me, the independence of Ghana involves the professionalisation and empowerment of the nation’s teachers, in both public and private schools, because every nation’s development pivots around the standard of its education. Every nation that has quality teachers can provide quality education to the young, helping to facilitate positive change and development. 

In the words of the late Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon in the fight against poverty.” To me, the independence of Ghana necessitates a conscious investment in the early years because what happens with young ones lasts a lifetime.

For us at Foundation First, the independence of Ghana reminds us of the blood and toil of our forefathers, with the gold on our flag representing our wealth, and the green representing our passion to maintain and nurture the natural beauty of Ghana’s flora and fauna. But above all, Ghana’s independence means championing the rights of children and putting them first because they are the future leaders of the nation.

Esther Akpene Sallah – National Service Personnel

Ghana’s Independence Day helps keep the nation’s memories alive in the minds of children and helps them value the future, freedom and peace. Independence Day shares the message of living in unity with community, society, family and friends.

For children, the cultural aspect of the nation is celebrated through activities and programmes in schools. Patriotic songs, which are known to many children, are heard over the radio and on television and are played frequently during this period.

For teachers, Ghana’s Independence Day celebrations are a time to introduce young learners to, or remind them about, Ghana’s history through storytelling and cultural activities, as well as sharing patriotic songs.

It also provides an opportunity for teachers to continue developing their own knowledge about the significance and importance of Ghana’s independence.

Rutherford Mottey – Photographer and Videographer

For many early childhood educators, Independence Day signifies a day of patriotism because, on this day, we can help to educate young learners about the importance of Ghana’s history and the significance of its future.

When young learners are educated about their culture and environment, they are encouraged to respect and care for the world around them. 

Independence Day offers the opportunity to encourage young learners to think about their part in nation-building, as we are all vital to the building of a nation. It also offers an opportunity to tell the history of the struggle for independence and how it became a possibility. Our independence means freedom for learners to express themselves and to use that freedom to improve, learn and experience everyday living. 

Emmanuel Brou – MEL Manager

The significance of Ghana’s independence to me is how this momentous event helps us to empower our young learners and

transform their mindsets, by sharing with them stories of the positive impact and sacrifices of our freedom fighters.

Bringing determination and positivity to educators and young learners, Independence Day exhibits the power of nationalism and unity amongst teachers and young learners. It helps teachers to educate young learners about the country’s social, political and economic development in the world and it also encourages them to know more about our rich cultural heritage.

Harriet Delali Deku – Marketing Support Manager

As an early childhood educator, I believe that, after Ghana gained independence, education – especially early childhood education – began to change.

As an early childhood educator, I believe that, after Ghana gained independence, education – especially early childhood education – began to change. The arrival of Europeans in the 15th century brought a lot of change to our education. The traditions and values of the community were taught to children and kept alive through informal education, with the goal of introducing young people into society and keeping the culture alive. In modern-day education, I can now appreciate the importance and benefits of what Ghana’s independence has to offer to young children in terms of maintaining the tradition of cultural preservation.

Sabina Awortwe – Programme and Partnership Manager

Independence involves being able to act or change in a way that fulfils one’s purpose without being constrained by another. Ghana’s independence has given me the freedom and opportunity to champion the importance of early childhood education. Independence also involves the freedom for young Ghanaian children to acquire knowledge and develop confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline and a spirit of patriotism. Independence means helping all young children have a head start in education and bright futures ahead of them.

Ammishadah Elsifie – Programme Support Officer

Early childhood educators are, in a way, the building blocks of learning. They positively contribute to the preservation and development of culture, knowledge, values, attitudes and skills. They help to lay the foundation for education and spark a passion for learning.

Through discovery learning, engagement is encouraged and a love of learning is built. This I believe demonstrates that, without effective early childhood education, children’s futures are at a disadvantage and thus striving for independence would be rendered futile.

As research suggests that early childhood educators can significantly impact the futures of the young children for whom they are responsible, the dreams of our freedom fighters are well cared for in their hands. Independence Day means a lot to early childhood educators because they play a vital role in building up our nation and it is through their vision and leadership that the next generation will thrive.

Eyome Abusah – Programme Support Officer

The significance of Ghana’s independence to me as an early childhood educator is really amazing! Ghana attaining independence has given us the opportunity to expand and diversify our methods and enhance teaching and learning from the preschool level upwards.

Teaching needs to be dynamic; if Ghana were still colonised, we may have been restricted to teaching strategies that would not reflect the educational needs of our children. Independence has given us the opportunity to decide for ourselves, as a nation, which teaching strategies will benefit our children most.

For example, the recent introduction of a standards-based curriculum, which is child- and activity-based, helps Ghanaian children to be critical thinkers and innovative, fitting into society with ease. Similarly, the introduction of teaching standards has given early childhood educators the opportunity to build on their existing expertise, equipping them with the modern skills needed to dynamically impart knowledge to our children.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Across the globe today, women are celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This day belongs to all women everywhere and is a chance to identify and honour women’s achievements, as well as help bring equality and positive change.

Gender-equitable education systems can help build prosperity for countries and close the skill gaps that continue to preserve pay gaps. Communication, negotiation, self-management and critical thinking are all life skills that through quality early educational development, can succeed in empowering both girls and boys for their futures.

Sadly, girls are still underrepresented in some subjects and many do not complete their education. Limited accessibility due to remote locations and poverty, to name a few, can cause difficulties for young girls going and staying in school. As we continue to pursue gender parity in education systems, the importance of quality early childhood education becomes more apparent. To encourage girls to stay in school and prosper we must first spark the passion for learning and encourage engagement from a young age where children are more receptive and responsive. Building a foundation without any gender norms and barriers in the education system is crucial as well as ensuring access to quality education.

As with all educational systems, strong foundations begin with the teachers themselves. Over the years Foundation First has helped to encourage and mentor teachers, focusing on teacher training and professional development, which then helps to provide them with the skills and knowledge to implement quality preschool education. Strong female mentorship goes a long way and for us to help engage girls in education we must first engage the teachers.

To celebrate International Women’s Day we interviewed Mrs Caroline Idun-Tawiah, the Headmistress of Good Shepherd Anglican Basic School. An advocate for the professionalisation of ECE teachers, she has participated in Foundation First’s workshops and is a great supporter of our work.

As a strong, passionate role model for young women and encompassing the bright hopes for future education in Ghana, we asked Mrs Caroline some questions to help celebrate International Women’s Day.

What does being a modern woman mean to you?
Who has inspired you?
What achievements are you proud of?
How does having quality pre-school education help support women’s careers for the future?
What are your hopes for the future
What advice would you give to young women thinking about their careers?
Who is a special woman in your life?

Foundation First goes to Liberia!

(from left to right) Programme & Partnership Manager Sabina Awortwe, CEO Godwin Agbavor and Support Officers Ruth Abakah & Bibi Kolevi
From Ghana to Liberia

Over the years Foundation First has worked closely with Edify Ghana, helping our sustainable projects and effective workshops reach their partner schools. Due to all our success with other schools, we were given the opportunity, by recommendation from Edify Ghana, to scale up our project to Liberia.

Working with Edify Liberia partner schools, we have been able to expand internationally and connect with more schools and teachers. Sabina Awortwe, who works and trains as a teacher, has been with Foundation First from the beginning and was part of the team that travelled to Liberia. She returned with positive feedback and an enthusiastic vision for our continued work in Liberia. Sharing her experience and observations demonstrates the potential of Foundation First’s reach and impact.

FF team members Sabina Awortwe & Godwin Agbavor with staff from the Well Hairston Institute
Sabina’s Observations

When visiting classrooms for the first time we observe how we can best provide support. It has been estimated that globally, 43% of children under five years old are not achieving their full potential (UNESCO Early childhood development). More than 90% of the 30 classrooms we visited during our trip to Liberia needed help to encourage early years growth and development in the classroom (Innovation for Poverty Action classroom fidelity checklist, 2019).

Our well-experienced team offers support by demonstrating methods for positive classroom behaviour management – placing learners into groups, using alternative seating arrangements, and creating exciting print-rich environments which can make all the difference to a young child’s engagement. 

Additionally, the use of outdoor space as an alternate learning environment provides real physiological, social, and academic benefits which help learners to engage better. A key study in California about the effects of outdoor areas as a learning environment for young children revealed that outdoor learning areas raised academic test scores by 27% (California Department of Education, 2015).

Teaching & Learning Methodology

It is undeniable that teachers play a critical role in the teaching and learning process for young children. With positive interactions, teachers can create environments that are more encouraging to learning and meet the developmental, emotional, and educational needs of the children.

During our visit, all the teachers were committed and passionate about their jobs. They were enthusiastic, with a desire to empower their students and give young learners the strongest start to education. 

Supporting teachers with professional practice and skills, and sharing the importance of professional knowledge, values and attitudes help us to better equip them to deliver quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) pedagogy in their classrooms.

Model pre-school classroom set-up demonstration
Foundation First’s work

Liberia has a structured curriculum for the ECD level which is organised in themes. However, teachers require additional knowledge and a deeper understanding of how to deliver the various aspects of the required curriculum. We provide a solution by breaking the themes into teachable units that directly address the encouragement of early years’ growth and development.

In Ghana and now Liberia, one of Foundation First’s core principles has always been helping those who need it most. With our accredited teacher support and development programme, we can deliver what preschools need to make a change and help those who need it the most.

Soon to come and in collaboration with Edify Liberia, we will be planning our next visit to help provide in-classroom support services, as part of our successful classroom management training program. Our journey with Liberia has just begun and our hope of reaching further communities to help bring quality pre-school education to every classroom is another step closer.

Feedback from teachers in Liberia

Meet a teacher and trainee master trainer for Foundation First

Anita the teacher

Anita is a kindergarten teacher at Sarkis Foundation School in Takoradi, where she has been teaching for the last three years. She is a dedicated teacher whose goal is to become a master trainer for Foundation First. To get there, she aims to do a good deal of learning and practising and she’s glad that she has the opportunity to be mentored by our most experienced master trainers, such as Bibi Kolevi

Anita in her classroom

Anita the reflective practitioner

At the end of April 2021, Anita accompanied Bibi and other members of the Foundation First (FF) teacher development and support team when they delivered a workshop in Akyem Oda, in the Eastern Region of Ghana, for staff of Edify Ghana partner schools. Anita’s observations and participation at the workshop have since led her to develop and change some of her own teaching practices. For example, she has been working recently on improving her classroom questioning techniques and providing a greater range of activities to help the children in her class to think critically.

Anita the trainee master trainer

Not only the April workshop, but also a recent workshop delivered by FF’s master trainers for master trainees has helped Anita move forward in her journey towards becoming an FF master trainer. This workshop explored important topics, such as the foundations of best practices in early childhood learning and Ghana’s national teaching standards, and it gave the trainees an opportunity to practise delivering training in a safe and supportive environment. Anita told us she greatly benefited from the workshop and she suggested that the master trainers start periodically coaching and testing her and her fellow trainees on all Foundation First’s early years content.

Anita (in the centre) amongst FF master trainers and trainees at the FF training and coaching workshop

BEST OF LUCK ON YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT JOURNEY ANITA!

JICA visit Foundation First Headquarters in Takoradi

We were delighted to welcome Tuuli Gaamuo Fidelis (Programme Officer, JICA) and Wada Yoshinari (Volunteer Coordinator, JICA) to our office this month. 

The purpose of the visit was for us to expand our knowledge about the contribution that JICA volunteers, known as Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs), have for more than forty years been making to various sectors in Ghana, including education, and for us to share Foundation First’s strategy, approach, progress and challenges. We also talked with Wada and Fidelis about the possibility of us hosting a JOCV computer instructor to help us with developing a database, online teacher training programmes, and updating our website.

Group photo of, from left, Fidelis, Araba, Sabina, Godwin, Brou, Stephens, Dela & Wada

Seven members of the Foundation First team were able to brief Fidelis and Wada about different aspects of our work, especially in relation to how we work with teachers and the wider community. Our two volunteers, Stephens and Dela, talked positively about their experiences of volunteering with us. They praised our induction process, the way we plan our programmes and activities, and our team work. They spoke of how our team work leads to effectiveness in what we do and enables everyone to learn from each other.

Brou, left, receiving from Fidelis a calendar and JICA Ghana newsletter 

At the end of their visit, Wada and Fidelis told us that one thing that had appealed to them from the moment of entering our office were our prominently positioned posters declaring: “I am a learner, you are a learner, we are ALL learners”. During their stay, they had been able to see our team spirit shining through – and Fidelis said he was even tempted to apply to volunteer with us!

Final blog on our partnership work in Koforidua and Greater Accra

As part of a blog series about our kindergarten teacher support and development work in Koforidua and Greater Accra in partnership with Edify Ghana, this blog talks about our final visits to the schools involved.

Read the other blogs in the series here:

The challenge of transforming classrooms in the COVID–19 era

Foundation First Team Members Apply Their Unique Skills for the Benefit of Teachers and Children

Follow-up visits 

Five to six weeks after the successful delivery of our workshops in mid February 2021, a joint Foundation First / Ghana Edify team visited the schools that had participated in the workshops. The visits were aimed mainly at discovering the impact of the workshops by observing subsequent changes in the schools’ kindergarten classrooms. The observers did also engage in coaching teachers in areas they were uncertain about or struggling with.

Our master trainer, Ruth (right), coaching a kindergarten teacher

What the visits revealed

We discovered that the workshops had considerable impact because all the classrooms visited had improved in a number of ways. Naturally, some classrooms had improved more than others and we also discovered that teachers’ use of some teaching and learning approaches had improved more than others.

We were pleased to see that children engaging in self-registration was the approach where the greatest improvement was found between our pre- and post-workshop visits. Similarly, teachers putting children into groups, using story maps and having classroom rules displayed visibly were all very significant and encouraging improvements.

Children creating name cards to be used with self-registration charts

Some of the approaches where the least progress had been made did not greatly concern us because the lack of progress was a reflection of the fact that many teachers had been using the approaches before the workshops. One of these was praising children for positive behaviour because, although more teachers were doing this more often after the workshops, it had been in evidence before. Similarly, daily story sharing was occurring a bit more after the workshops, more classrooms were inviting places for children to spend their time in, and there were more forms of printed material (e.g. charts, labels, maps etc.) for children to interact with than previously.

Child using a weather tally chart

Looking forward

While the results were encouraging and revealed that many teachers had successfully adopted new teaching and learning approaches as a result of the workshops, we feel that further support and encouragement will be needed to enable them to improve even more. This will enable a full transformation of their classrooms and will be to the full benefit of the children in their care.

Foundation First Team Members Apply Their Unique Skills for the Benefit of Teachers and Children

While delivering two classroom management-focused workshops for Edify partner schools in late February, the five-person Foundation First team were struck by the huge impact the workshops were having on the participants. Upon reflection, they realised that a major contributor to this was that each of them was delivering sessions in the areas where they particularly excel. This high impact shouldn’t actually surprise us because, as we all know, excellent workshop delivery leads to thorough understanding and enthusiastic take-up on the part of participants. 

The areas in which the team displayed their expertise 

1. Starting with Araba Brakah-Amoah, she excelled in these workshops in modelling how to carry out story sharing effectively. She did this through applying a combination of technical and affective skills, such as varying her voice and throwing herself into the storyline. Teachers were spellbound and are now anxious to have the same effect on the children they teach.

Araba, in story sharing garb, discovering the counting abilities of her “audience”

2. Bibi Kolevi’s expertise lay in linking teaching and learning resources to specific parts of Ghana’s 2019 kindergarten curriculum, which teachers are still becoming accustomed to. She made sure teachers knew precisely how to make resources, how to use them, when to use them, and how they match the government’s daily plan for kindergarten education. 

Bibi (centre) sharing her curriculum expertise with a group of participants

3. Ruth Abakah was our specialist in matching classroom wall displays to the curriculum. She helped teachers to see the specific value and use of each display and how it enriches the learning environment. This means that now the teachers have put their new displays on their classroom walls, the children are both enjoying them and learning from them.

Ruth cheerily describing the use of the nearby wall displays

4. Sabina Awortwe was our expert in linking the ideas of educational philosophers on how young children learn to the classroom practices that Foundation First promotes. Sabina was also highly skilled in linking the values, attitudes, professional knowledge and professional practice that the government expects teachers to have with Ghana’s national curriculum.

Sabina (right) explaining how to play a board game

5. And last but not least, Dr Godwin Agbavor specialised in convincing teachers that they, along with all of us, have a lot to learn from neuroscience about how to create nurturing environments for young children. As the Foundation First team leader, Godwin also specialised in nurturing and supporting the rest of the team, thereby enabling them to individually and collectively deliver excellent teacher education workshops.

Godwin convincing participants of the importance of neuroscience

 The results

At the end of the two workshops, teachers were able to clearly outline their learning and how they were going to put it into practice. 

Our thank yous

Thank you from the rest of the Foundation First team to Araba, Bibi, Ruth, Sabina and Godwin for delivering these successful workshops.

Thank you too to the Edify Ghana team, especially Dorcas Aidoo and Florentine Ansah Asare, for the tremendous support you provided, thereby significantly contributing to the success. 

And thank you to Edify’s partner schools in Greater Accra and Koforidua for so wholeheartedly taking part in the workshops and for having already shared with the Edify Ghana team and with us plenty of evidence as to how you have put new ideas into practice.

The challenge of transforming classrooms in the COVID–19 era

A joint Foundation First and Edify team discover the extent of the current challenge of transforming classrooms during our recent baselining of Edify partner schools

As Ghana’s schools reopened after almost ten months of closure, Foundation First and Edify staff visited thirty schools to baseline their current performance. The data gathered will guide our training for the schools and help us provide them with bespoke assistance that is responsive to each school’s unique requirements. 

Here are the key findings on how COVID-19 has adversely affected these schools: 

  1. Most of them have had to combine Kindergarten (KG) 1 and KG 2 children in one classroom, which is far from ideal
  2. Re-enrolment of children has been slow-paced since they reopened 
  3. In many schools, the previous KG teachers have not returned since their reopening, and so new teachers have been hired/are being hired
  4. Most of these new teachers are senior school certificate holders, but they lack teaching qualifications

As Literacy Education Specialist, Adwoa Nyantekyiwaa, one of our Edify colleagues, put it, “The baseline activity offered us a wonderful opportunity to know the needs of the partner schools with regards to the kind of teacher support and development that should be given to the KG teachers.” Adwoa and the rest of the baselining team concluded that all schools visited are in dire need of our training and coaching support. The need is greater in the twenty schools we visited in Koforidua in the Eastern Region of Ghana than in the ten schools we visited in Greater Accra.

Foundation First’s role in supporting Edify Ghana 

This is the fourth time that we have joined forces with the Edify Ghana team to deliver their classroom management training (CMT) programme. The programme aims to transform the classroom management practices of kindergarten teachers and enable them to adopt activity-based methods of teaching in order to improve pupil learning. Having completed the baselining, we will be delivering the CMT for these schools later this month (February). After that, in mid March, we and our Edify partners will visit the schools to monitor and coach the teachers.

We are revising our plans for this round of training to take into account that, due to the effects of COVID–19, the results of the baseline differed markedly from the results of previous baselines. Edify’s COVID–19 Recovery Plan focuses on three aspects: their partner schools’ financial stability, the health and safety of their students and staff, and their pupils’ learning. In delivering this latest CMT programme, we will be supporting Edify Ghana with the second and third aspects of their Recovery Plan.

Next steps 

We are looking forward to Thursday 11 February when the training begins and we are confident that the schools are too. Bawa John, Headteacher of Christ Reminders Academy, told us, “My expectation about the upcoming training is that the participants will gain more knowledge about how to manage their classrooms effectively, especially during this Covid–19 era.”


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Back in schools and back to training

Our CEO, Dr Godwin Kojo Agbavor, reflects on recent visits to schools in Sekondi-Takoradi and highlights the forthcoming delivery of training in the Eastern Region and in Greater Accra, in partnership with Edify Ghana. 

On Monday 18th January, nursery, kindergarten and primary schools in Ghana reopened after an almost ten-month break. Our core team in Ghana (Sabina, Brou and myself) were anxious to get back into classrooms as soon as possible, but we waited a couple of days for staff and children to settle back into some sort of routine. Then, on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st January we visited the schools where our master trainers are practising teachers.

As our pool of master trainers now consists of lower primary teachers as well as our original pre-school teachers, we were able to see something of what is currently going on at all levels of schooling from nursery up to the third year of primary (i.e. in classrooms catering for children between the ages of two and nine). We saw firsthand how experiences are varying, as some of our master trainers teach in government schools while others teach in low-fee-paying private schools, and some teach in rural settings while others teach in urban settings. Our assessment is that all schools are striving, but that government and rural schools are in particular need of support to return to normal operations. 

We were pleased to discover that most previously enrolled children had returned to school (unlike, sadly, some of their older siblings, due to such things as pregnancy, travel or having prematurely become wage-earners through learning a trade during lockdown) and most children seemed happy to be back and learning with their teachers again. We also discovered that the schools had made a good effort to provide a safe environment. For example, veronica buckets were placed at various positions to encourage regular handwashing and some teachers were constantly reminding children to wash their hands. Apparently, the government had provided sufficient sanitisers and liquid soap to enable frequent hand washing. Teachers and many children in some of the schools were wearing face masks, but in other schools few children were wearing them. We were told this was because the government hadn’t provided them. We could see that, for the most part, children had been sensitised about the COVID protocols they were expected to follow and that (except for the youngest ones) they had some awareness of how to avoid contracting COVID and why they should do so.

Despite some positives, it was clear that the schools are facing many challenges as a result of being closed for so long. Generally speaking, children had forgotten much of the content of their previous learning as well as how best to go about the actual process of learning. At KG level, for instance, we were told that children who were previously able to write their names had now forgotten how to do so and that those who had been used to picking up and reading story books by themselves had forgotten about such things. However, the good news is that, in just three to four days, some of the teachers had started to see improvements. They did mention, however, that they needed to be extra patient with the children to achieve such improvements and we fear that many teachers may not have the same level of patience.

Unsurprisingly, we observed that both teachers and children (especially younger children) were having difficulty observing social distancing. This has got us thinking about how best we can help teachers with this issue. One thing we’ve realised is that social distancing complements the government’s insistence that outdoor learning is a critical part of the curriculum, especially at preschool level. We will also be helped in our promotion of outdoor learning by the fact that fresh air reduces transmission of COVID.

Some teachers told us that some of their teaching and learning resources were in a sorry state or had gone missing, so needed replacing. Unfortunately for one school, thieves had broken in and helped themselves to furniture, giving the head teacher and one of our master trainers a headache and lots of extra work. 

Something that Sabina, Brou and I were particularly conscious of was how teachers were still struggling to get their classrooms back to normal – or to a new normal. We couldn’t help reflecting that, faced with a similar scenario in the future, it would be better if the government stipulated that school staff should spend a week setting up their schools before the children returned. Some teachers told us that, for some time to come, they will have to put in a good deal of extra time at the end of the school day to make new resources. Our concern is for all those teachers that we have yet to work with – and the children in their care – who are not as committed as these teachers.

We met with the head teachers at the schools to find out how they are adjusting to the reopening of their schools and to reaffirm our relationship with them. They were very welcoming, were happy to talk to us, and wanted updates on Foundation First’s plans for 2021. We are delighted and grateful that they value the work of Foundation First and we appreciate the major part that their teachers, who are also our master trainers, play in our success. 

Next steps 

It was highly beneficial for us to discover some of the challenges the schools are facing, especially as in early February we are delivering classroom management training with our partner, Edify, in selected Edify schools in the Eastern Region of Ghana and in Greater Accra. In fact, six of us are spending this last week of January in one or the other of these two locations with our Edify partners to conduct a baseline analysis and needs analysis at the schools whose staff we will be delivering the training to in February. Our findings from our recent school visits helped prepare us for this baseline stage and will help us in preparing for the training stage in February.

I want to acknowledge here our fantastic and hard working partner schools and master trainers for opening up and sharing their challenges with us. Our first day of school visits began at the naval-base cluster of schools in Takoradi, where our master trainers Esther Boateman and Ami Shaidda teach. We moved onto the Queen Elizabeth II Early Childhood Learning Centre, where our colleague Araba Brakoa-Amoah teaches, and finally we went to Amenano District Kindergarten School, where our veteran master trainers Ruth Abakah and Bibi Kolevi teach. On our second day of visits, we went to Precious ELAN Preparatory School, where our colleague Rita Frimpong teaches, and Sarkis Foundation School, where Anita Aidoo teaches. FF will be doing all that we can to support these education champions in the coming months. 

Implications of the new ‘Smart Buys’ report

Last week, the FCDO–World Bank released the ‘Smart Buys’ report. To us (Godwin and Julia), as two educational development practitioners with decades of experience behind us, the report is preaching to the choir. It outlines the results of an analysis by a panel of global education experts into the evidence for the most cost-effective ways of improving learning in low- and middle-income countries. The report confirms our views and experience from Ghana and elsewhere.

This is a timely report because, if cost-effectiveness was crucial before COVID-19, it is obviously even more crucial now. At Foundation First, we welcome the report for three main reasons: 

  1. It endorses cost-effective educational interventions in early childhood education and pre-primary education in Ghana, especially as these are our raison d’etre; 
  2. It encourages us to continue following evidence-based approaches in our work; and 
  3. It gives us confidence due to the distinguished panel that created it.

What are the key conclusions of the report? And where does Foundation First fit in?

In the report, the panel has grouped educational interventions and categories of interventions into four tiers to reflect how cost-effective each of them is at improving learning and how strong the evidence for this is. The top-tier ‘great buys’ are highly cost-effective interventions, one of which matches our practice of providing information to parents on the benefits of quality early childhood and pre-primary education.

The second-tier ‘good buys’ are interventions for which there is good evidence of cost-effectiveness. Notably, just providing support to pre-primary education is considered a ‘good buy’, strongly suggesting that it should be a priority area for investment for governments and donors. Of course, this relies on organisations like Foundation First supporting preschools to make sure that children’s classroom experience enhances the stimulation and social-emotional support that the lucky ones amongst them are already experiencing in their homes and that the children attend school regularly. We know from experience that adding a basic level of support for pre-primary education can be transformational for kindergarten teachers, school leaders and government officials.

The third-tier ‘promising’ buys are interventions where evidence of their cost-effectiveness is for the most part, as yet, limited. This tier includes interventions in early childhood development i.e. the equivalent of nursery education, which is our focus, along with kindergarten education.

How does Foundation First stack up?

We are pleased to report that, while our interventions are well represented in the higher tiers in the ways that we have outlined above, none of them is represented amongst the lowest-tier ‘bad buys’. Interventions recorded as ‘bad buys’ are those for which there is strong, repeated evidence that they either have not worked or are not cost-effective. They involve initiatives such as providing generic, untargeted in-service teacher training that is divorced from the precise context in which the beneficiaries of the training are working. This would be anathema to us!

Bad buys also include initiatives such as providing items, e.g. textbooks and computer hardware, without providing accompanying measures to ensure that the intended beneficiaries of these items are enabled to use them. This would also be anathema to us!

What does this mean for us?

A major goal for us going forward is to work more closely with Ghana’s Social Welfare Department, Ghana Education Service and other partners to vigorously pursue the smartest-buy interventions in order to overcome the learning crisis in early childhood and pre-primary education in Ghana. As a trusted partner that is already practising much of what is preached in the ‘Smart Buys’ report, we hope to precipitate a wider change across the sector.

Another goal that the report spurs us on to pursue even more vigorously is our engagement with countrywide discussions around which initiatives it would be preferable to prioritise at the early childhood and preschool levels. We’re also keen to gain more and better evidence about the relative effectiveness of these initiatives in a variety of contexts in order to better deliver on future national calls for concerted action.

What do you think about the conclusions of the report and the so-called ‘smart buys’? Are you, like us, sold on the idea? Or do you have a different framework you’d recommend? Leave a comment below to join the conversation.

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