We’re excited to tell you that we’ve recently found a new way to help strengthen and sustain ourselves as an organisation that is aimed at equalising the life opportunities of young children in Ghana. We’ve established a School Development Centre which will institutionalise our transformational teacher training programmes that we deliver to public and private schools across Ghana and will provide ongoing support to schools (primarily low-fee private ones) in and around the Western region of Ghana. So, what is the reason for the establishment of this School Development Centre?
As an emerging NGO, we believe strongly that we need to invest not only in the sustainability of our existing initiatives but also in the existence of our organisation because it is only when it continues to exist that our programmes will continue to exist. Research has established that successfully thriving and sustainable NGOs all over the world not only depend on funding from others, but develop their own funding streams through establishing social enterprises to sustain both themselves and their programmes. In establishing our School Development Centre, we have been particularly influenced by the West Africa Civil Society Institute’s (WACSI’s) research into The State of Civil Society Organisations’ Sustainability in Ghana: striving, surviving or thriving? (WACSI, 2015).
More about the School Development Centre
The Foundation First School Development Centre (SDC), located within Foundation First’s premises in the Western region of Ghana, will enhance the professional standards of school teachers and leaders and serve as a centre of excellence supporting school growth and sustainability. In fact, it’s already successfully delivered two blended (both online and in-person) professional development courses for groups of teachers.
The SDC will be serving as a one-stop shop providing both training for school teachers/leaders and a place for making teaching and learning materials. We will be offering a variety of practical, school-based, tailor-made training courses and services, including:
School leadership development
School growth and sustainability
Teacher professional development
Teacher recruitment, training and supply
Teacher-learner resource development and supply
Curriculum design and training
Classroom setup and training
Volunteers for education development
Our SDC training and coaching staff are the same ones who already provide transformative training to the schools we support in marginalised areas of Ghana.
Our vision for expansion
Our ambition is to set up other SDCs, with teacher resource shops attached, across all 16 regions in Ghana.
Reference: WACSI (2015) The State of Civil Society Organisations’ Sustainability in Ghana: Striving, Surviving or Thriving? Accra: Ghana.
Our volunteers from the beginning have helped propel Foundation First forwards with their enthusiasm and determination to make a change. As we began with volunteers, we continue to do so, by connecting more with people who align with all of Foundation First’s values, joining us on our journey to providing quality early years education for every child. Foundation First is very happy to welcome our latest volunteers – Solomon, Gabriel, Patience and Archibald! Each of our new volunteers was encouraged to share their hopes and inspirations with us as they start their new journey with our team in Ghana.
By providing my free time and applying my own experience for the betterment of early childhood education, I have developed a further love and appreciation for the significance of early childhood education and the children whose lives are impacted.
To support the work of Foundation First I plan to use my knowledge and expertise in research, monitoring and evaluation in early childhood education to aid in decision-making, policy implementation and the best strategies for children’s growth and development.
Ultimately, I am hopeful that with the knowledge, skills and experiences gathered from Foundation First, I will become one of the proud early childhood education ambassadors in the future.
All children need champions who will not give up on them, not necessarily for applause but so that even when their champion is not present what they have been exposed to through teaching and learning stays with them for life. I stand for the future well-being of every child and plan on serving as a voice who advocates for the success and prosperity of children through writing and publicity which are particular areas of joy for me.
Foundation First passionately support children in less privileged communities who lack quality educational structures and nurture. As the wise saying goes, “children are the voices we send to a future yet unknown, and if we can support in their upbringing, we can catch the creativity of their Maker.”
Foundation First’s work help to spearhead this mandate forwards and by being a part of this I will also be able to bring my contribution. With my knowledge and skills in education, I will be supporting the making of visual aids for children’s development and that of their teachers’ professional development as we meet with them in person through various empowerment sessions and activities. As a Volunteer Support Officer, I hope to support Foundation First to become the pivot on which early childhood education thrives.
As an individual, volunteerism has been and will always be a part of my life. It gives me great joy and delight to know that the help I offer can benefit others and bring change no matter how small.
I joined Foundation First to demonstrate and share my expertise and abilities in ICT (i.e. hardware repair, servicing and maintenance) and my passion for the growth and proper upbringing of young children, especially in the area of education, where a lot of Ghanaian children are underprivileged. So joining the volunteer team to contribute to idea planning and sharing to help shape and save the future of our young children has become my main focus.
Foundation First is already on a great path to supporting the lives of numerous early childhood educators, complementing the government’s role in the education field. Because of this, I pledge to support Foundation First across the length of the country to bring transformational change in our educational system to impact our young children positively to produce the best future leaders ever.
Growing up, I had the privilege of getting support from Jenny Reid, a missionary from the USA, through my high school and tertiary education. Children receiving quality early years education is one of the best gifts they can have for their futures. I am very glad to have joined Foundation First to add my quota and skills that I have experienced in other fields.
As a shepherd and a Sunday School teacher in my church, my desire to bring positive change to children’s well-being grew when watching children learn naturally in a stimulating and welcoming environment, which is what Foundation First is noted for.
As an accounts clerk, I will support Foundation First’s work through budgeting, auditing accounts, record keeping and other administrative work. In the next five 5 years, I envisage Foundation First working all across Ghana and internationally, providing a strong educational foundation for young children.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Sabina Awortwe, our Partnership and Programme Manager, has written a series of thought-provoking pieces on the contemporary ECE scene in Ghana. Here is the first of these. It’s a myth-buster, outlining Sabina’s views on the damage to young children’s foundational learning caused by pervading myths and misconceptions about early childhood education.
Sabina is a preschool teacher educator with over three years’ experience of delivering Foundation First’s practical teacher development and support work and managing our partnerships and programmes. Sabina has a particular interest and expertise in educational frameworks and in the foundations of best practice early childhood education. In her role with FF, she has worked on a range of teacher education partnership initiatives with other national and international NGOs.
Some common misconceptions about early childhood education in Ghana: How Foundation First is addressing the issues
Early childhood education (ECE) is a programme for children from two to eight years old, which aims at the holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, academic and psychomotor skills that lay a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing.
In Ghana, prior to the government setting ECE as a priority in 2012 through its Programme to Scale-Up Quality Kindergarten Education in Ghana, there had been limited awareness about the unique nature of programmes for young children. However, despite the increased awareness in recent years, many myths and misconceptions about working in ECE persist.
Misconception #1: ECE is ‘day care’ and ECE professionals are ‘babysitters’
Some parents take the view that ECE professionals simply play all day and babysit children.This misconception has resulted in children failing to benefit from an educational experience that could assist their development and learning experiences for years to come. A well-trained early learning teacher has deep knowledge of how children develop physically, emotionally, socially and academically and they use this knowledge to create an engaging classroom environment and to individualise instruction for each child to ensure appropriate support at each stage in their development.
This is why Foundation First (FF) believes that effective early learning facilitators are far from babysitters and that effective ECE is far from day care. FF is helping to erase these myths/misconceptions by empowering ECE teachers with appropriate scientific and educational background knowledge and providing them with best practice curriculum-related teaching and learning experiences.
Misconception #2: Early childhood education forces children to start studying too early
Many Ghanaians think that this early stage in life is meant simply for kids to be free from learning and enjoy being young. To Foundation First, this is a complete myth. In our experience, children learn each and every day and they learn and take in more information at a younger age than they do when older. So early education is basically taking advantage of this early years period. Furthermore, research has proven that early years education helps, rather than harms, children’s academic future (Heckman, 2006; Barnett, 2011; and European Commission, 2014).
Our brain only gets built once and research has also proven that brain building is especially critical between the ages of two and seven (Sriram, 2020). That is why our FF training approach uses information from neuroscience and the foundations of early years learning to guide preschool teachers to expose young children to varied, stimulating experiences within calm, friendly environments. Our approach also emphasises the need for children to acquire executive function skills, including critical thinking, making connections, taking on challenges, and being self-directed and engaged learners.
Misconception #3: Early childhood education is a waste of government spending
FF thinks the opposite: that the government and society will benefit more from spending on early years education than on any other stage of education. Currently, many children are failing to achieve their potential in life and this can be looked at in terms of economic loss, such as human capital loss, so spending more on ECE would have economic benefits such as human capital gains (Dickens, Sawhill and Tebbs, 2006). Furthermore, investment in ECE reduces the chances of young children failing to properly develop key metacognitive skills, such as questioning and reflecting, as these skills “contribute significantly to [young children’s] learning and success” (Escolano-Perez, Herrero-Nivela and Anguera, 2019).
Furthermore, children who receive a solid foundation of quality ECE are more likely to live a healthy life (e.g. in terms of oral hygiene, hand washing, caring for their bodies, and being aware of nutritious foods), more likely to avoid negative lifestyles that can endanger their lives, more likely to continue their education when they finish high school, more likely to graduate from college, more likely to obtain highly skilled jobs that pay well, and less likely to get involved in criminal activity.
The scientific evidence is very clear as to what we should be doing in the ECE sector and how we should be doing it, as well as why doing it would lead to better outcomes and a better society for all. We, at Foundation First, will continue to promote this scientific evidence in our mission to undermine prevailing myths and misconceptions about ECE.
Barnett, W.S. (2011). Effectiveness of Early Educational Intervention. Science, 333, 975-978.
Dickens, W.T., Sawhill, I. and Tebbs, J. (2006). The Effects of Investing in Early Education on Economic Growth. Policy Brief #153 The Brookings Institution.
Escolano-Pérez, E., Herrero-Nivela, M.R. and Anguera, M.T. (2019). Preschool Metacognitive Skill Assessment in Order to Promote Educational Sensitive Response From Mixed-Methods Approach: Complementarity of Data Analysis. Frontiers in Psychology. (https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01298).
European Commission (2014). Proposal for Key Principles of a Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care. Report of the Working Group on Early Childhood Education and Care under the auspices of the European Commission, Brussels.
Heckman, J.J. (2006). Skill Formation and the Economics of Investing in Disadvantaged Children. Science, 312(5782), 1900-1902 (doi:10.1126/science.1128898).