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OKOA Centre of Excellence in Early Childhood Development - 'OKOA Centre'

A proposal to establish services based ECD Center of Excellence in Tanzania to help build the capacity of care takers and teachers in community nurseries and pre-schools to address un-met Early Childhood Care and Development needs of parents and children more effectively.

Photo of John V. Kimario

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The aim is to build the capacity of care takers and teachers in community nurseries and pre-schools to provide better ECD services in low income communities of Tanzania . We envision a model working powerhouse and real-times, peoples and places services platform. A joint initiative to address problem of  un-met needs in identification, design, implementation, networking, information, resources mobilization and  sharing to unleash synergies which can be used to put into work best practices and/or strategies that have great potential to revitalize and hybridize stalled past efforts and innovate new course(s) for community specific ECD needs with impact.

The centre will gradually leverage resources and expertise, through stages. These will be used to identify, design, implement a support system at target communities addressing un-met needs in ECD. 

The extent of un-met ECD needs  in the vast country of Tanzania, (with more than 44 million people),  since independence in 1961, leaves a huge vacuum that needs efforts of many actors to bridge and fill.

The experience of Plan Tanzania on ECD operationalization puts it as follows for 2011:

” …the education cycle starts with Early Childhood, Care and Development (ECCD) level… “but in practice, and with exception of private sector, which invest in ECCD, government has neither in the past formally recognized it in the formal education structure nor invested in it…( Plan International, Tanzania CSP, FY11- FY15 (January, 2011).
Moreover, Plan Tanzania asserts further that …”There  are few public ECCD programs which are also under-developed, under-resourced and are not part of the formal Tanzanian education structure and there is no formal curriculum and no control of what is being taught and learnt in these programs. Efficient ECD programs are mostly operated privately, largely in urban areas with limited access by rural communities, urban poor and marginalized children. In short, access and participation in ECD and pre-primary education is extremely low.  The fact that there is a major gap in the provision of ECD and pre-primary education indicates that the right to education may not be fully realized even assuming that the government invests adequately at all levels of the education system. ((Plan Tanzania, January 2011).  

The Minister of Education, Hon.Dr. Shukuru J. Kawambwa (MP) has also mentioned this gap in his speech, at a seminar addressing issues of 'Big Results Now' in the education sector in 2013:

As such, Tanzania experiences low registration of children in pre-schools and the problems of increasing rate of illiteracy among the adult population to about 31% in 2010. (
It is a prime time now in Tanzania to implement a strategic ECD intervention because:

i.The policy environment on the side of the  government and private stakeholders in education in Tanzania have put it on key national agenda; and,

ii.The international community, in this case OpenIEO, UK aid, UNESCO, UNICEF, INGOs and social forums have all set foot on this critical agenda. All these should work to facilitate synergies to improve on ECD through OKOA ECD centre of Excellence among other interventions.

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

i. The design is for rural and sub-urban low income nursery and pre-school teachers and parents. Families spend their hard earned income in paying fees to poorly equipped private and community/public nursery schools and pre-schools with limited expertise in ECD. Most of the units are run by care takers who have limited ECD knowledge.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

1. Using expert exploration and immersion in target communities, the idea starts with what exists on the ground -The Stamford Education Centre, Located in suburban areas of Temeke Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Next stage is to establish Links with Morogoro based Units for children with disabilities and special ECD needs, and Rural based Msingisi Government owned Primary school's pre-school class. Baseline documents will be developed profiling un-met needs in the a)private Community pre-school's Uwazi Community catchment area; b)Morogoro Kilakala Unit for deaf children's un-met ECD needs profile; and c)Msingisi Government Primary School's Pre-school un-met ECD needs profile. 2.Change its focus from a local area Community focused Education Centre, with Stamford Community Pre-school unit, to a standard OKOA Centre of Excellence in ECD services in Tanzania. It will be running it's own model nursery and pre-school whilst extending support throughout Tanzania and beyond as a Centre of Excellence. 3.Plan ahead. Build broad-based partnerships and networks for the Centre.

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

i.Feedback from platform OpenIDEO Community ii.Expert advice and resources for baseline profiling at three communities iii.Volunteers involvements at any stage of interest

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am ready and interested in testing this idea and making it real in my community.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dominic Bond

John - I applaud your idea and vision. In Ghana the Sabre Trust (who I work for) is implementing a similar Early Childhood Centre of Excellence approach, which combines high quality learning environments with transformational teacher training, all in the context of the Ghana Education Service Operational Plan to Scale Up Quality Kindergarten Education.

We have found the teacher training to be the most impactful component, but when backed up by high quality learning environments, used as a focal point for teacher training, we believe that the impact is even stronger.

To date in Ghana we have built 4 model kindergarten schools (in collaboration with global engineers Arup and trained 200 government teachers. Our next two construction projects will build on-campus model schools (Centres of Excellence) at two of the Colleges of Education responsible for training new kindergarten teachers.

A network of model practice classrooms (model in terms of teaching practice, not necessarily infrastructure) around the college creates a nucleus of good practice, and provides high quality practical placements for the student teachers.

Below are links to some resources which you might find helpful:

Photo of John V. Kimario

Thanks Dominic. There is much to share between Ghana and Tanzania. I am gradually learning that Ghana has done much more when it comes to formal integration of ECD curriculum and related operational tools/policies. I am excited to see that the colleges of teacher education have accepted it as nucleus of good practice.

Please let me know if the colleges are privately run or by government . The reason being that the private sector in some cases are far ahead of government departments. in such a case MAJORITY of products from government stream are left out of KEY INNOVATIONS AND RELATED MOTIVATION. What is the experience there? Thanks. I keep reading your case.

Photo of Dominic Bond

Hi John - thanks for your reply. I agree - it sounds like there is lots to share between Ghana and Tanzania, and between many other countries as well no doubt!

We are only working with government colleges in Ghana - there are 38 Government Colleges of Education, of which 7 are currently accredited to deliver the Early Childhood Diploma to train kindergarten teachers.

We are fortunate to work with two of these colleges at present, and their management teams, lecturers and students are proving to be very willing to embrace innovative new approaches to pre-service training.

Photo of John V. Kimario

Hi again Dominic. You 've used a very correct standpoint...'we are fortunate to work with a government college...' or any of such affiliation...the experience with many independent social sector interventions, are NOT STRICTLY "LIKED" and INTEGRATED FIRMLY INTO GOVERNMENT /LOCAL GOVERNMENT CYCLES ...My friend we all know that such projects /programs HAVE SPECIFIC TIME LIMITS. Stand alone projects and agreements for funding..end and on their own..

If an intervention wins the Public/private mix i pledge may have greater chances of being "there". This is also true in our education cycles. It means - it can still be pushed up the ladder into say, a national curriculum...

Bravo Dominic and team, Its NOT easy to fight a way through INTO main government stream, be there, be accepted and LIVE TO BE A TRUE PART OF....

Is your training package embracing any kind of Montessori methodology?
and how do you then address the private ECD services sector in this initiative?

By the way: In Tanzania we've the initiative "BIG RESULTS NOW" which brings on board the education sector as well and these ECCD issues are on Key agenda.
It is a wide positive nod for a good proposal to come in through OpenIDEO/Amplify platform and facility that can help low income communities enjoy the benefits of positive policy environment with many key lessons and best practices from across the world in favor of ECD. Thanks Dominic. Stay blessed.

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