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Fostering Fathers’ Involvement in Children's Early Development through ICT (Updated Dec 30, 2014)

The Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU), has engaged in early childhood development for over 20 years, focusing on developing and promoting innovative approaches to improve the quality of life of young children. Since 2013, MECPU has been implementing a WHO/UNICEF Care for Child Development (C4CD) package, which provides guidance to caregivers on how to optimise development of children (0-3 years) through play and communication. A key challenge has been lack of engagement of fathers. MECPU will test an innovative model through a 2 year pilot that complements existing C4CD activities and encourages greater paternal participation complemented through mobile technology and radio to disseminate C4CD messaging and tools.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
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Early childhood development plays a crucial role throughout a child’s life, impacting future income earning capacity and productivity, overall health, socio-emotional wellbeing as well as verbal and intellectual development (Calman & Tarr-Whelan, 2005).  For children, significant investment in ECD results in greater social cohesion, better academic performance, and an increased capacity to adapt to new technologies (Young, 2000, Evans, Myers & Ilfeld, 2000, Reynolds, 2001).  Ensuring healthy child development, therefore, is an investment in a country's future workforce and capacity to thrive economically and as a society (World Bank, n/a). Yet in Uganda, while great steps have been made since the introduction of the National ECD Policy in 2007, too many children fail to receive the best start in life (World Bank, 2012).
 
For more than twenty years, the Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU) has been working with partners to promote community-based, high-impact innovations to enhance early childhood development.  The programme works with 97 communities – in both Central Uganda and the West Nile sub-region, enhancing their capacity to optimize child development from birth. MECPU has reached over 14,000 children and trained and supported over 5,500 ECD teachers and 3,000 community members. 
 
Improving awareness amongst parents and caregivers on how to enhance their children’s early development during the 0-3 year age period is is a key approach of MECPU.  In recent years, the organisation has piloted the WHO-UNICEF Care for Child Development package in partnership with the local health system aimed at supporting development during these important early years.  Yet, MECPU has observed that fathers are under-represented and often absent from awareness activities carried out by Village Health Teams that target caregivers in the communities – resulting in a lack of exposure to key messaging on optimising their children’s cognitive, socio-emotional and physical development.  The involvement of fathers is crucial as studies show that children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes. A number of studies suggest that fathers who are involved, nurturing, and playful with their young children results in higher IQs, as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities (Pruett, 2000).
 
Studies on paternal child-care in Uganda suggest that in addition to embedded traditional gender roles, the leading negative influences on father’s involvement in child rearing is confidence and motivation (Nkwake 2009). Evidence indicates that interventions targeted at fathers yield results in behavioural change, such as positive discipline, more time spent with infants, and transformed attitude regarding traditional gender roles (Fatherhood Institute 2012; Kocak 2004; UNFPA 2011).

MECPU’s idea is an interactive campaign designed to disseminate key child development messages and promote the importance of father’s involvement in children’s lives using mobile and radio technology.  This campaign tackles the issue of low involvement of fathers in the raising of children in MECPU’s coverage areas.  This campaign addresses the problem as MECPU will use the technology to reach fathers through interactive mobile technologies, using mass SMS to spread Care for Child Development (C4CD)-modeled messages, surveys, quizzes and bulletins about the importance of supporting young children.  Fathers will also be sent interactive play and communication activities, such as stories and games, which they can carry out with their children.  Additionally, in order to monitor and ensure fathers’ active engagement in the activities, MECPU will partner with local radio shows to launch an interactive program covering key C4CD themes and encourage fathers to call in to speak about their experience with raising children, share best practices and provide their feedback on C4CD ideas.  The radio show would also be used as an opportunity to bring in local experts to elaborate further on C4CD interventions and present fun and innovative ideas to promote children’s early development. The radio program will easily reach a broad number of communities and parents, and serve as an awareness-raising initiative to get more parents engaged in their children’s development. (Updated December 30, 2014)

To increase reach to fathers, and address gaps in confidence and motivation, MECPU will develop and implement a targeted interactive model designed to disseminate key child development messages and promote the importance of father’s involvement directly to 4,300 fathers in Central Uganda using mobile and radio technology. It is expected that an additional 17,000 caregivers and family members will also benefit.  Mobile saturation in Uganda has reached almost 100% and radio listenership is high, so the potential to scale the intervention is great.  MECPU will partner with local mobile network operators, mobile application developers and local radio companies to develop and test the interactive platforms.

Fathers will also be sent interactive play and communication activities, such as stories and games, which they can carry out with their children.  Over the years, MECPU has collected many local-language oral stories that are culturally relevant, and age-appropriate.  As part of our initiative of engaging fathers, MECPU will identify a minimum of 10 oral stories, which will be recorded with local actors and storytellers and sent to the fathers via mobile technology. Fathers will be encouraged to sit down with their children and listen to the stories, engaging with their children’s learning and cognitive stimulation. 
 
Background
Through its work in rural and urban communities in Central and North-western Uganda, MECPU has identified a number of challenges parents experience in supporting the development of children, aged 0-3. In particular many parents lack knowledge of the importance on interacting and providing for their children beyond the basic needs (food, clothing, shelter etc).  MECPU has identified that in some of their program regions, only 1 out of every 10 parents read to their children, as they are either illiterate themselves or are unaware of how best to read to a child who cannot speak.  Particularly in rural areas, parents and caregivers (often women and mothers) are heavily burdened with the domestic duties of cooking, collecting water, preparing gardens while simultaneously caring for children.  As a result, parents/caregivers feel that they do not have the time to spend playing and communicating with their young children.  Additionally, parents often feel they are unable to play and communicate with their children due to a lack of physical space in their homes and lack of affordable toys.  Finally, there is still the large challenge in the engagement of fathers in child rearing, as it is still traditionally seen as a women’s role.

MECPU’s Implementation of C4CD
Beyond the provision of basic needs, quality care for young children means keeping children safe from harm, and providing them love, attention, and opportunities to learn. However, families often need assistance to focus on the most important activities for the development of young children. MECPU takes a systems approach to providing this support by engaging and training local government health workers who then disseminate the C4CD messages and provide ongoing support to caregivers.
 
The C4CD intervention being implemented by MECPU is based on basic childcare principles: much of what children learn, they learn when they are very young; children need consistent loving attention from at least one person; and children learn through playing and exploring their environment.  The reason for the C4CD intervention’s international success stems from the fact that it is low cost, it can be tailored to many different schedules and C4CD involves play and communication activities that caregivers naturally perform. For example:
  • C4CD’s play materials are generally homemade and inexpensive, ecologically friendly, easily accessible, and encourage creative thinking from its creators and users – everyday household items like plastic containers, cups and metallic plates are used to initiate play, simulate “grown-up” activities like cooking and construction and encourage increased interaction between parent and child.
  • Rather than creating new structures, C4CD ensures sustainability through enhancing the skillsets of existing community-level actors, such as Village Health Teams, Community Resource Teams and formal health providers.

The Challenge of Fathers’ Engagement
Studies show that children who grow up with involved fathers often perform better, exhibit pro-social behaviour and are more comfortable exploring the world around them (Parke, 1996). Studies indicate that fathers exposed to multi-media learning materials demonstrated high retention scores, were able to convey the role of father’s in children’s lives, and in a related study, were more likely to use positive strategies to resolve problem behaviour with their children (Al-Hassan 2009).  Given the relatively low involvement of fathers in the raising of children in MECPU’s coverage areas, the project seeks to test whether the use of mobile technology (SMS) alongside local radio programs can be used as a catalyst to motivate fathers towards C4CD messaging and activities with their young children. Through using widely-available technologies, MECPU will complement and bridge the existing face-to-face interactions from C4CD-trained personnel to provide reminders, tools and activities to increase the frequency and scope of key messaging, encouraging fathers through regular interaction to be a daily part of the solution. MECPU will also draw upon the VHTs to aid fathers in establishing peer-support programmes to help men recognize the importance of engaging in their children’s lives in addition to participating in C4CD-training activities. By encouraging the frequency of interaction with C4CD and increasing the likelihood of father-child activities, positive behaviours will be cascaded to other family members, such as older male siblings, making healthy child-rearing a household responsibility that extends beyond mothers. Finally, engaging men as fathers fosters generational change. Evidence suggests that fathers’ positive involvement with their children increases the likelihood that their sons will be more gender-equitable and more nurturing as fathers and that their daughters will have more flexible views about gender as well (Russell and Rodojevic 1992; Levine 1993) 

References
 
Al-Hassan, S. (2009). Evaluation for the Better Parenting Programme: A Study conducted for UNICEF. Jordan: UNICEF.
 
Apollo Nkwake (2009) Maternal employment and fatherhood: what influences paternal involvement in child-care work in Uganda?, Gender & Development, 17:2, 255-267.
 
Calman, L. J. & Tarr-Whelan, L. (2005). Early childhood education for all a wise investment. Recommendations arising from “The Economic Impacts of Child Care and Early Education: Financing Solutions for the Future” a conference sponsored by Legal Momentum‟s Family Initiative and the MIT Workplace Center
 
Evans, J. L., Myers, R. G., Ilfeld, E. M. (2000). Early Childhood counts: a programming guide on early childhood care and development. WBI Learning Resource series: World Bank. Washington D.C.
 
Levine, J.A. 1993. “Involving fathers in Head Start: A framework for public policy and program development.” Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services 74(1):4-19
 
McAllister, F. & Burgess. A. (2012). Fatherhood: Parenting Programmes and Policy – A Critical Review of Best Practice. Fatherhood Institute.
 
Parke, R.D. (1996). Fatherhood. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Press. 
 
Pruett, K. (2000). Father-need. New York, NY: Bradway Books.
 
Reynolds, A. J. (2001). Age 21 Cost – Benefits analysis of the title 1 Chicago child parent centre program. Chicago Longitudinal survey. Chicago: Chicago Education Department.
 
Russell, G. and M. Radojevic. 1992. “The changing role of fathers? Current understanding and future directions for research and practice.” Infant Mental Health Journal 13(4):296-311
 
UNFPA (2011). L’École des Maris au Niger, des chiffres et des homes UNFPA: Niamey, Niger Novembre 2011.
 
Women’s World Banking. (2012). WWB Focus Note: Solutions for Financial Inclusion – Serving Rural Women.
 
World Bank. (2012). Systems Approach for Better Education Results: Uganda Early Childhood Development.
 
World Bank. (n.a). Why Invest in Early Child Development (ECD). http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTCY/EXTEC /0,,contentMDK:20207747~menuPK:527098~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:344939,00.html
 
Young, M.E. (2000) From early childhood development to human development. Proceedings of the World Bank Conference Investing in Our Children’s Future. Washington, D.C.
 

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

Fathers from Central Ugandan communities, in which MECPU is currently implementing C4CD activities, will be targeted. The intervention will also reach other caregivers such as mothers and older siblings. The project will ultimately benefit over 6,500 children aged 0-3 in Central Uganda.

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

1) Identify a sample community we are working in. 2) Identify/Partner with the local telecommunication company. 3) Use Village Health Teams and key influential community members to identify fathers to sign up for C4CD messages though SMS 4) Use a local radio station and test it for one week to get parents feedback.

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

In order to make this idea real MECP will partner with a local telecommunications company, a mobile applications developer and radio stations in the regions in which we operate. Using radio and SMS technology is the best way to engage fathers in our communities, but accessing those channels would require building these new partnerships for implementation and cost sharing. Additionally, in order to strengthen this project, MECPU would greatly benefit from others experiences in designing simple and user friendly mobile platforms (updated December 30, 2014). This project would also be strengthened with technical support from the IDEO community on testing and measuring the platform using a human-centred approach (Updated January 1, 2015)

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.

82 comments

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Comment
Photo of Irene Blas
Team

The idea of getting parents involved in their children's development is a key matter. However using media could be a little bit complicated for some of the communities. In those first five years of live, how good is to relate a baby with an electronic device? People is still a little bit reactive to that. But appart from this I believe your idea is quite interesting and could also be useful in some developped countries, changing, or not, some of the advise you give. There are quite a lot of books for new parents and this method adapted to developped countries could de also very useful for these parents!
Great idea!

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congratulations on making it to the Zero to Five Challenge Refinement List, MECPU! We are thrilled to see how you are engaging with the OpenIDEO community and excited about all of the collaboration happening around your idea. We also really like how your idea focuses on fathers – who do indeed play an important role in the development of their children. You’ve done a good job of finding the supporting research and now we’d love to have a clearer understanding of what you plan to do. For example, are you planning to send messages and recordings that are accessible using feature phones? What would these recordings and radio programs be about? An interesting thing you mention at the beginning of your submission is that you’d like your idea to address gaps in father’s confidence and motivation. How will you do this? How can you incorporate feedback from fathers to ensure that your idea engages them? We’d love to see you test some of your assumptions about what underlies father’s behaviour and understand how you plan to use that information to engage them. Consider filling out a User Experience Map to show us how fathers will find out about your program, receive messages and engage with their children/C4CDs/VHTs: http://ideo.pn/0to5-map. Check out more tips for Refinement http://ideo.pn/0to5-tips-refine.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi MECPU! Friendly reminder to take a look at our tips for Refinement about how to structure your responses to questions about your idea so that our entire community can clearly tell how you've been updating your idea!http://ideo.pn/0to5-tips-refine

Photo of Richard Zulu
Team

I would like to add my voice to Chioma, do not forget to take time off and look through the feedback offered. User experience mapping and prototyping

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Thank you Richard and Chioma! We have posted our User Experience map today, take a look!

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Wow, great job of the user experience map, thank you!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Hi Chioma, thanks for your help with MECPUs submission. We were wondering if it was at all possible to get some feedback as to why are idea was not selected and ways in which we could strengthen it further. This has been a really great and enjoyable experience and hope to participate in another challenge in the future. Thanks in advance.

Photo of Kağan Rüstem
Team

Its great that you have identified the radio and mobiles as a means of communication that is very wide spread. Have you looked into the cost of radio advertisement as the primary dissemination method and would it be prohibitive?

Photo of Jessica Burg
Team

This is fantastic!
Thank you for highlighting such an important piece of the child rearing puzzle! Including fathers in the earliest parts of life is beneficial to so many, the children, mothers, fathers, and the community!

Hands to Hearts, Int. provided trainings to mothers and fathers with our ECD curriculum a couple year ago. We would love to reach out and see if there are any ways we can collaborate!

Photo of Ssekalala Shafique
Team

Surely we can collaborate. My experience is that in ECD no one can go it alone. We need to collaborate and share experiences.

Photo of Jessica Burg
Team

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/06/fathers-rights-is-the-new-feminism.html

This article was published yesterday about the increased role fathers are taking in caregiving. I thought it might of interest to you.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Thank you Jessica for the lovely message!

As Shafique has expressed we believe that ECD is not an effort in isolation but rather in solidarity.

We would love to take a look at the work Hands to Hearts, Inc. does in ECD.

All the best in the New Year,
MECPU Team.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hello MECPU! We've been having early childhood experts take a look at the ideas in Refinement and want to share some of their feedback with you: Consider conducting several focus groups with fathers to identify how they receive their information, what knowledge about child development and interacting with their children within the family system is requested from them. Then, you can do a human centered design with the data you receive from the end users.

Photo of Ssekalala Shafique
Team

Thanks Chioma. Surely we shall conduct the focus group discussions.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Chioma,

Thank you very much for the feedback. We really appreciate it!

We at MECPU very much believe in human - specifically parent and child - centered design and community needs assessments factor heavily into our programming design. We find your questions quite useful and will definitely use them to identify the needs of fathers, but also assess initial responses to the ICT component as well.

We value your input and look forward to any additional observations, guidance or questions you can provide us going forward.

Sincerely,
MECPU Team.

Photo of Julian Marembo
Team

I love the idea of father involvement in childhood development. Are there support systems for fathers like counseling sessions? Because in Uganda there are challenges with alcoholism, unemployment and domestic violence, all of which prevent fathers from having time to interact with their children. It would be nice if they had a helping hand in overcoming these difficulties.

Photo of Japhet Aloyce Kalegeya
Team

I impresed with your idea please consinder to cooprate your idea in other countries which have the high of malnutrion

Photo of Ssekalala Shafique
Team

Thanks we shall share with all countries interested.

Photo of christine bereas
Team

What a fantastic idea! Encouraging fathers to get more involved in their children's lives will have amazing benefits for children!

Photo of Sophia Sunderji
Team

This is wonderful. I especially enjoy the sustainability aspect of this project - using recycled materials for engaging children and working with existing local actors rather than creating short-term contract positions. Great work!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Christine and Sophia,

We thank you both for your wonderful comments. We have been sharing the feedback and comments with the whole office today and it is encouraging not only to the current project but for our day-to-day activities.

Sophia, yes, we take sustainability very seriously and also feel their is added value in creating learning products "with" our communities, which creates ownership - whether it is in the ECD community of practice or the communities we are doing C4CD in. Thank you for the kind words!

Photo of Hong Xin Hu
Team

I am very thankful for your project's highlight of the central and critical role that fathers, as head of the families, play in their families. In addition to reaching out to fathers on an individual basis, have you considered forming small network groups for fathers interested in stepping up to your call for more involvement? This could help boost motivation, confidence and accountablity, as well as relieve some pressure off the wives from having to urge their husbands to be involved.

Photo of Njuki Ibra
Team

this is a very brilliant idea

Photo of Jesse Hunt
Team

I really love what your doing here. I am developing a project called the Fatherhood Manifesto Project and with it I am trying to reach people at an artistic level using art installations to make communities more aware of fathers. Let me know how I can help you.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Jesse,

Thank you for your lovely comments and for your eagerness to help. We look forward to your feedback in the "refinement round".

That sounds really interesting! The perspectives of artists are very unique, fresh and interesting. Could you send us a link to your work so we can see? We didn't see anything on your profile. We think it's amazing that people are getting behind fathers so they can contribute to a holistic household.

All the best with your project,
Team MECPU.

Photo of Daniel Martinez da Cruz
Team

I just think more and more about the fathers involvement and I think at how many times we (including myself) forget the fathers and think about the mothers when focusing on young children! Its great to see you trying to get them involved and i think its a great idea to collaborate with our idea and use in our process!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for your comments - we've enjoyed discussing your idea with you as well.

As we enter the next round, we will look forward to exchanging more feedback.

Your experience in the storybook medium will be valuable, and we can arrange an opportunity to speak with some members of our project team who work with care-givers (ECD centres, parents) in developing their own materials.

Kindest regards,
MECPU.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

P.S. We have noted our mention in your own project and we are excited and honored that we were able to provide motivation to your own wonderful idea.

We are really appreciating the forum for collaboration and creativity provided by IDEO!

Photo of Lee Stopher
Team

Really nice idea MECPU,

It is common for the mothers to be the prime focus of ECD. Spinning this on its head, involving the fathers in the early development process could be the key to the progression of the child, in terms of education and home life. In addition, the fathers will develop a stronger bond with their children to help strengthen the family unit and community.

Could you also look at how fathers in Uganda could share their ideas and experiences over the mobile and radio platform with other fathers? This could help develop relationships within the community to tackle this problem internally and in time spread to other communities on a larger scale.

I look forward to where this project leads.

Please check out our project 'Story Stones' aimed at providing the freedom for children to express themselves and push their imagination through the beauty of story telling.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Lee,

Thank you for your comments!

Fathers will be a driver of the later part of the intervention - with fathers of multiple generations (for example) featuring on the radio sharing best practices, activities that their children enjoyed, or tips to new fathers. Community interventions - as you identify - are best strengthened through encouraging peer mentor-ship and identifying local champions.

Your project "Story Stones" is very innovative and ideas which stimulate children through story-telling, accessible materials and imagination are near and dear to our hearts.

All the best to you and Story Stones!\

All the best,
MECPU Team.

Photo of Ariadne Helen Quintino
Team

This idea is great! It's a different approach, and it has a great potential. Working specifically with parents is a really important initiative. I have a curiosity, have you talked to fathers from the community you've been work with? If so, how was it? What kind of feedback you got from them? It's really cool provide knowledge by different media, so your idea can reach even those who doesn't have a high level of literate. Congratulations for the idea!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Quintino,

Thank you for your lovely comment and for your question!

While the primary point of contact is mothers, due to traditional childcare roles in the household and our most likely point of contact at our Early Childhood Centres, we have find that when interacting with fathers there is an intrinsic desire for the well-being of their family. Gender roles, confidence in child-rearing and a lack of knowledge on "acceptable" activities to spend with their young child get in the way. Our design is based on the idea of overcoming these, through building confidence, re-imagining the gender identities in the household and providing simple to use mutually enjoyable activities. Men in our communities tend to own mobiles and consume a lot of radio air-shows (music, sports) and so this will add another layer (on top of face-to-face) that they can be reached, and encouraged.

All the best to you,
MECPU Team.

Photo of MeiLi Siaw
Team

Love that MECPU is focusing on increasing fathers' involvement in early child-rearing! When my group asked about the gender breakdown among parents who regularly attend the low-income community playgroup we researched, only one out of 8 regulars is a father - and even that was a pleasant surprise to us!

Would really love to see your idea take off and make the impact you desire, and was wondering if having spokespersons or famous public figures endorse it and telling their own stories of fatherhood might give things a boost.

Are there well-known Ugandan or international father figures that are well-regarded by men in Uganda, i.e. someone they would be proud to emulate? Barack Obama is one (perhaps simplistic) example I can think of, but a powerful one because he dotes on his daughters and is seen spending time with his family despite being one of the most busy and influential men on the planet.

Photo of Hoda Mroue
Team

Great initiative! Just wondering, how will you monitor changes in the father's caregiving role? Who will be doing the monitoring?

Photo of Candy Lora
Team

Dear Hoda,
I think it is clear that this will be seen through the involvement of fathers in centre activities like making play materials both indoor and out door, supporting centre programs like attending meetings, participating in fund raising events even more so paying their children's tuition in time,and many other activities that need the parents to participant in. this has been so much entirely left in the hands of the mothers. in short, an impact will definitely show the changes.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Hoda,

Thank you for your comment!

That is a great question and we thank you for raising it. Our MECPU team has existing monitoring systems in place through a partnership between the MECPU staff, the ECD centre community and the VHT-teams. Through joint-monitoring, we can see the results in the children’s health, cognitive abilities, and the types of activities they are exposed to at home. The VHTs, in particular, offer a valuable glimpse inside the household. It was partially through the eyes of our monitoring teams that this idea gained fruition, and we will use the same sets of eyes to gather our data, and shape the project.

With the introduction of ICT to the MECPU tool-set, we have another opportunity to monitor, via responses from the users themselves, plus regular feedback from VHTs and other community health professionals, etc. We are in partnership with an APP and SMS-systems developer in E. Africa for one of our other projects and looking for innovative ways of using the basic mobile as an additional monitoring tool.

If you – or any of the IDEO community – have any suggestions, we are always be open for your input.

Photo of Douglas Wilson
Team

This is a wonderful project! Hoda Mroue brings up the important issue of program assessment, which you address. Since I was unfamiliar with program assessment strategies for the MECPU ICT initiative, I dug up a WHO/UNICEF evaluation framework document, Care for Child Development. Is this what you are using as the project’s evaluation/implementation guide?

http://www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/files/7._Framework_for_ME.pdf
Question: Did fathers contribute their thoughts and ideas to the project design? You may find the book User Design by Carr-Chellman of value, especially Chapter 7:
http://books.google.com/books/about/User_Design.html?id=196kivz8kHsC

Last, here's a link to a video on Farmers for Lifelong Learning, an ICT mobile learning project from Commonwealth of Learning that seems to be getting good results:
http://vimeo.com/10392040

All the best!

Photo of Terhas Ghebretecle
Team

I really appreciate how well researched this idea is; however my question has to do with single parent households or where other caretakers are the primary guardians for the children (i.e. grandmothers, siblings, relatives etc.) What about these families that do not have a father (deceased or simply not present)?

Photo of Ssekalala Shafique
Team

Thanks for the observation of homes with no father. But along the path of child development there is always a male figure we can carefully target those. Be it medical Doctors, male teachers, household helpers and all these become the target. For sure many people today have mobile phones and something as simple as a caller tune can do. Radio skirts may do for those who do not have mobile phones and the advantage is that there are many local FM radios today in Uganda. For now we shall not require a Smartphone.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Terhas,

Thank you for your question and to our team-member, Mr. Ssekalala, for his detailed response.

Many households have access to other male figures, who will be exposed to our coverage areas.

For families without any male figures directly in the household, they will continue receiving support from our VHT-led C4CD activities. Our ICT component will strengthen and complement an existing system, not replace it.

All the best,
MECPU Team

Photo of Anthony Schmiedeler
Team

Makes me think maybe a "big brother" program could go along with the media outreach... Paternal volunteers

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Anthony,

That is an interesting idea! Definitely something to discuss with the team and the community as the idea moves forward.

As mentioned in our idea, there is much research in the benefits of nurturing father figures in childrens' lives. An alternative - where older male siblings are not available - could very well be members from the broader community.

All the best,
MECPU Team.

Photo of Jane Lucas
Team

This is a wonderful idea to involve fathers in using the WHO/UNICEF intervention on Care for Child Development with their children. As far as I know, this is the first attempt to target fathers specifically for the evidence-based play and communication recommendations. I am looking forward to seeing how this works in Uganda. This project could be very helpful in Uganda and could contribute to global knowledge on how to invest in child development interventions. I do hope there is a positive response to this proposal.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Janel,

What a wonderful comment! You've provided much encouragement to the team on this Wednesday morning.

We look forward to the opportunity to exchange best practices and knowledge regarding this idea - we feel that with our early childhood partners and community resource centres we can make a difference in the childrens' futures through a more holistic home.

We are glad to hear that this idea is getting support from all corners.

Sincere regards,
MECPU Team.

Photo of Evi Koczorowski
Team

What a great idea! Fathers to get involved in children lives! Always!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Evi,

Thank you very much for your enthusiastic comment! At MECPU we very much agree in the importance of father and male figures participating in child raising.

All the best,
MECPU Team.

Photo of Mas-ad Omar
Team

Great idea MECPU colleagues, indeed the father's role is a needed intervention!

All the best,
Mas-ad

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Mas-ad,

Thank you very much for your comment and we are happy to hear from one of our colleagues.

We look forward to collaboration and sharing of best practices in the future!

All the best,
MECPU Team.

Photo of Diini Omar
Team

Engaged in early childhood development through the Fathers’ Involvement is very good programme However, (MECPU), madrasa is it possible to go to other countries in east Africa.

Many thanks
(MECPU) Madrasa
Great work

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Diini,

Thank you for the compliment and the question!

Madrasa has programs in Kenya and Zanzibar with a strong history of collaboration and regularly exchanging best practices.

All the best,
MECPU Team.

Photo of Sam Graham
Team

Very interesting! Is it possible for all households to have some sort of mobile phone?
Very good idea though.
keep up the good work!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Sam,

Thank you for your compliments and for the question.

Mobile coverage across households is extensive in Uganda, with most, if not all households, having access to a mobile phone or SIM. FM radio coverage is even broader and is quite widely accessible.

The ICT component will not work in isolation - it will complement and strengthen the existing C4CD programming, with our community-level teams ensuring that people are aware of the multiple ways that messages are being dispersed.

Sincere Regards,
MECPU Team

Photo of Amanda Sullivan
Team

Great initiative! Do you already have a developer in mind for the creation of the mobile apps? Have you been in contact with any telecom companies?

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Amanda,

Thanks for your compliment and for the great questions.

Through one of our existing projects, we are already integrating ICT into our education programming and have been working with an ICT4D app / SMS-platform -developer to develop easy-to-use SMS. We have sat down with a telecom to discuss next steps going forward and the response has been positive.

Sincere regards,
MECPU Team

Photo of Jennifer Foulds
Team

Great idea!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you very much for your encouragement!

Regards,
MECPU Team

Photo of Elizabeth Reina
Team

Mobile saturation may have reached close to 100% in Uganda, but that doesn't mean everyone has a cell phone that can support a program like this... does it require a smartphone? How will you reach populations who haven't yet accessed this technology? Does this project assume that a certain level of technological competence on the part of Ugandan fathers? How can it be simplified? Will messages come in texts, apps, notifications, etc.? Just some of my concerns...

I know this kind of thing has worked in health interventions before (with varying costs, I might add). Regardless, it's a great idea, looking forward to learning more about the details!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for your comment and your interest!

The approach will rely on basic mobile phones and use some of our organization’s expertise in working with mobile platforms in rural areas. We are encouraged by the reach of health sensitization campaigns (HIV, malaria) through simple mobile SMS technology and by the spreading uptake of m-services, such as mobile money (1 in 5 households currently have a mobile money user; FITS Uganda 2013).

Additional training as needed can be supplemented by the VHTs and through our radio programming.

It should also be noted that the ICT component will not work in isolation. It will complement our existing VHT and community-level programming and provide another layer of additional tools, reminders and short strategies.

Sincere regards from the MECPU team!

Photo of Elizabeth Reina
Team

Thanks for the clarification!

Photo of Anthony Schmiedeler
Team

Could there be some indirect messaging involved? Billboards? Paper ads? it's not that innovative but it's lessens the reliance on technology

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Anthony,

Thank you for your comment and interest in our idea.

This might be a good idea for certain areas. Some of the areas that we work in, billboards are not that realistic and they are quite expensive.

One of our biggest drivers is sustainability. Mobile coverage is is extensive in Uganda, with nearly every household having access to a device, and even 66% of financially-excluded people owning one (FITS Uganda, 2013). We are currently working with some telecom companies to seek partnership for sister projects and that would also ensure the extended life of any ICT project.

Additionally, we feel that daily interaction via reminders (plus radio play), will have more effect than static sensitization campaigns. This way the messages find the target beneficiaries, rather than the beneficiaries having to find the message.

We are however open to your ideas -- are you aware of successful paper-based campaigns that have resulted in a notable impact?

Regards,
MECPU Team

Photo of Refinnej Smle
Team

I’m very interested in this project as I’m currently placed in Uganda and work in the field of gender and education. I’m intrigued by many of the comprehensive components that are outlined in the above description. Engaging men and boys in active learning by harnessing the role of a father will have strong impacts on development, relationships, and education. This will, no doubt, have positive holistic outcomes in terms of
learning environments within family and community structures. A major strength I can see from this project would be the peer-related learning that will occur among fathers. Not only will this create a positive embodiment
of masculinity, it will challenge socio-cultural norms that perpetuate negative behaviors. For example, by promoting positive masculinities through peer-learning among men and positive role modeling by fathers to sons, potentially negative learned behaviors, gender-based violence in particular, might be prevented. My question is: will learning activities,
materials and discussions (i.e. radio shows) engage men and boys as social
justice allies to challenge gender inequalities? In what way? Finally, how will women and girls be included in this process to ensure that targeted learning to men and boys is also inclusive of women? Thanks and good luck!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Refinnej,

Thank you for your comment. Excellent to hear from a Ugandan-placed gender specialist!

Our materials – while based in the local context and culture – will be used to highlight content that shines a light on positive gender relationships and will challenge social norms which contribute to inequality. One of our multi-national sister-projects is currently working on gender-mainstreaming primary curriculum materials and activities and we will borrow from their expertise.

Women and girls will be involved in one of two ways. First of all, they interact with MECPU and our village volunteers regularly and benefit the most from the house-visits. Second of all, the aim of the ICT project is not to isolate fathers, but rather to make child-rearing a holistic, family-based exercise which pushes back against gender-roles. This will benefit both male and female family members.

We would like to hear more about your experience with gender and education in Uganda. Someone from MECPU will contact you so we can exchange e-mail information. Thank you!

Photo of Refinnej Smle
Team

Excellent! Thank you so much for your detailed response - it sounds like you have thoroughly thought out and considered the gender implications within your proposed project, which is great to see. Look forward to hearing from you. All the best!

Photo of Jypar Tashmamatova
Team

I'm very interested in this project. Currently I have been working on disseminating Care for Child Development and Reading for Children messages. Of course, we have the same issue, fathers' involvement in child care. I like your innovative approach, TV and radio can cover almost 100%, and give good results. As for mobile technology, are going to send messages in SMS texts or apps?

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Jypar,

Thank you for your interest and your comment. It is nice to hear from another C4CD and RfC implementer. May we ask which country are you currently implementing in?

Our messaging will be sent via SMS to phones. The messages will be short reminders or quick activities that can be completed with the child. The ICT component will not be standalone, but rather complement the existing community outreach programme led by VHTs. We feel that this will be another platform to provide messaging, sensitization and reminders on, build confidence and provide regular motivation.

All the best to our C4CD international colleagues!

Photo of Ellie G
Team

Wow! What a great initiative. Do you expect there to be any hesitation on the part of the fathers to participate in a program like this? If so what will you plan on doing to combat that?

Photo of Ssekalala Shafique
Team

For sure I anticipate some hesitation as many fathers think they are only bread winners and keep themselves busy not taking care of the children. However cost benefit analysis can be used to convince the fathers. Let them see how much they loose out if not involved in children growth and development.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Ellie,

Thank you for your comment and excellent question.

As Mr. Ssekalala has stated, there will possibly be hesitation on the part of fathers, given the traditional gender roles at play in the household.
However, just as with campaigns directed at sending children to schools which present the holistic benefits for the household, we anticipate that similar messaging will work in this approach. Healthy children with better educational outcomes will be better prepared to contribute to the household and play a useful role in their community.

Additionally, research in paternal care in Uganda demonstrates that beyond the traditional gender roles, a large issue is confidence and motivation (Nkwake 2009). By providing tools, tips, strategies and targeted programming, these two factors can be addressed.

Photo of Kim Possible
Team

Great initiative! Do all the households in your areas of implementation have mobile phones? Radios?

Photo of Ssekalala Shafique
Team

For sure many people have radios and Mobile phones.

Photo of Sidney Nesbitt
Team

Excellent idea! Innovative approaches to ECD improvement will make bigger changes to developing economies that the traditional approaches of focussing only on infrastructure, job creation and growing the economy. By 2030 the current 3 year olds will be joining the East African workforce.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Sidney,

Thank you for your kind words and excellent point!

The Madrasa programme is based in the well-researched concept that the events of the early years (proper care, health, nutrition and education) provide the foundation for the child’s success in school, employment and life.

As you say, this will be the future of the Ugandan work-force, so investing in their first three years has great importance for the future of the country including concerns such as “growing the economy," educational pursuits and gender roles.

All the best from the MECPU team!

Photo of Jacqueline Carey
Team

Awesomeness!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Jacqueline,

Thank you for your enthusiasm! The MECPU team is feeling motivated from the support we have been receiving both on- and off-line for this concept.

Photo of Candy Lora
Team

Am so excited to participate in this campaign, with the impact that Madrasa has imparted in various communities in the past years, if this opportunity is given, the whole process of a holistic ECD centres will be achieved with the full support from the fathers as the key stakeholders in promoting ECD. As in our culture, fathers are heads of the family, if a child sees her/his father actively involved in the centre programs, this will act as a motivation for a child to strive for better future.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Candy,

We are very excited that the whole ECD family get to participate in this campaign. We are feeling the enthusiasm and support from every corner of the programme and are feeling very motivated.

Thank you for adding your voice! As you said, the father has a unique ability to act as a role-model within the Ugandan household, and we hope that this initiative will provide yet another tool for us to work with that. This will have a positive outcome in the ECD community, a more holistic approach to child-rearing and provide more open and flexible views on gender roles.

Photo of Afzal Habib
Team

Really excited to see Madrasa Programme on the OpenIDEO Platform! Your organization in addition to AKF have been key drivers in improving ECD in the region... Role Models!

This is a wonderful idea with a lot of potential for impact by engaging fathers & other male caregivers.

Take a look at "TotoHealth" on this OpenIDEO platform as they are already running a successful SMS based ECD information service in Nairobi... might be helpful as you look to roll out something similar in Uganda.

Best of luck!

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Afzal - great to see you making so many connections on the platform! Thank you!

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Dear Afzal,

Thank you for your lovely comment! We are humbled to be called role models and appreciate your support of our idea.

We took a look at TotoHealth and we are quite impressed with the platform, particularly the foothold they have gained since June of this year. Thank you for directing us to them. It is really inspiring to see the innovation around mobile technology. In the past few years, we have seen it being used for health, education and financial inclusion interventions – and often at low expense.

We are very pleased to see several ICT-themed ideas and will be keeping our eyes open to see what learning opportunities emerge as the months unfold.

Sincere thank you from the MECPU team.

Photo of Kristen Foster
Team

Will fathers be encouraged to have a role in the construction of the play materials? Who constructs the materials now? Mothers? VHTs? MECPU team members?

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)
Team

Hi Kristen, thanks for the great question.

As MECPU is already carrying out C4CD activities, fathers are strongly encouraged to play a role in the construction of the play materials. Currently, MECPU works with and trains CRTs and VHTs on material development, who then take what they learned to members of the community, local health centres and even conduct specific home visits to families they feel are in greatest need of support.

Given that the materials are created from locally sourced and everyday objects it is really simple to do. The challenge however, is that not enough fathers are currently being reached and trained by the CRTs and VHTs on how to make the materials and use them with their children.

This is where the ICT becomes key to reaching more fathers with directed C4CD messaging so they can best engage with their young children. Not only will we reach new fathers, but we will reinforce the messages to fathers that are already engaged and encourage them to act as role models for others.