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Empowering marginalised parents to provide home-based playful learning

We've developed a radio programme to change the mindsets and practices of rural parents empowering them to provide learning and care.

Photo of Alison Naftalin
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I am a.....

  • Organization

Tell us about your idea

As governments in the global south seek to provide distance learning, they will have to find creative ways to ensure that children in off-grid resource-poor rural communities have equitable access to education. 

Governments are generally recognising that radio is going to be the most appropriate medium for rural communities.  But efforts are mainly focused on English language content delivered directly to children.  We believe more attention needs to be given to parents.

Parents are the gatekeepers to distance learning technologies/media.  If parents are non-supportive or block children from accessing the household radio then students will not be able to access these fully (or at all). For younger children, parents will likely need to play an active role in facilitating or supervising the distance learning. It is therefore important that radio is transmitted in a local language spoken by parents - not just English/French. 

But there is a further opportunity here too, that is at risk of being missed...

Parents - not just teachers- have a critical role to play in providing learning opportunities for their children, particularly younger children.  If parents are targeted through focused distance learning efforts now, they can help children to learn during this crisis, can support WASH and psycho-social objectives, and importantly this engagement will provide a solid foundation for supporting children's return to school & subsequent learning and development.      

Our "normal" programme involves training illiterate and marginalised parents to provide better early childhood care and development, using local materials. We have adapted our content for local language radio. Our radio programme uses behaviour change techniques to overcome  mindset barriers that are prevalent in rural communities, so that parents realise that despite poverty and limited education, they can take simple cost-free actions to support their children's learning and development.  

We are currently 5 episodes in to our programme.  We are broadcasting in both Ghana and Uganda in 7 languages.  We are using a train the trainers model - and are training local government officials to host the radio shows.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Over 250m children under 5 globally fail to achieve their developmental potential due to inadequate early childhood care and education. The traditional response to this crisis focuses on the provision of formal early learning and on building a professional ECD workforce. But this approach is failing to deliver a quality early learning system or successful outcomes. In pre-Covid times, approximately 75% of a child's time was spent at home. During Covid it is far higher. Therefore, far more effort needs to be placed on ensuring that parents are able to provide quality learning and care opportunities in the home. Too often parents in rural communities are bypassed, as it is believed that they are unable to care for their children due to lack of resources or lack of knowledge. But this is not true. Parents can and must be placed at the forefront of education efforts.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I am the founder/CEO of Lively Minds. We have worked in Ghana and Uganda for 12 years to get rural pre-schoolers school-ready. We do this by training marginalised parents to run educational Play Groups and to provide better care and education at home. Once Covid-19 hit, we realised that we needed to find a remote way to keep supporting parents to provide education and care for their children during the crisis. We adapted our regular content in to radio scripts. We also developed a train the trainers model - training local government officials to host the shows in a variety of local languages (currently 7).  Each episode transfers important parenting ideas and concepts, and simple educational games that can be put in to practice using only locally available cost-free materials. As such, the programme can be easily scaled to reach the hardest-to-reach communities anywhere in the world. We are keen to share our content and our concept widely to maximise impact.

What region are you located in?

  • Western Africa

Where are you located?

Our offices are based in Northern Ghana (Tamale & Bolga) and Eastern Uganda (Jinja).


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Alison.
Thanks for sharing the inspiring work that LivelyMinds is doing in Ghana and Uganda! Is the program measuring impact in some way?
Regarding the pivot to radio shows, how long is each show? Are you considering extending the reach of your program via broadcasts to a population wider than you were serving with your in person programming? Are there populations that speak the languages that you are broadcasting in elsewhere, in urban areas, or across borders, that might benefit too?

Good luck to the team as you develop the project!

Photo of Alison Naftalin

Bettina Fliegel thanks. Our episode is in 3 parts. A 20min parenting show; a 20min show where we teach a game to play; and a live phone-in.
We are currently broadcasting in 7 languages so that we can have a wide reach. We focus on rural communities as that is our area of expertise - but it is broadcast in urban centres too.
For now we are using phone-ins to evaluate. But we are planning to do some telephone surveys too.