The Early Learning Enhancement Project (ELEP) aimed to improve the early learning outcomes for pupils in target primary schools in Western Uganda on the shores of Lake Albert. ELEP built on Link's existing work and four years of progress in Buliisa and three years in Hoima covering a total of 56 government primary schools. The Early Learning Enhancement Project further enhanced and advanced the educational performance of 4,795 early learning pupils (Buliisa: 2,528 and Hoima: 2,267).
Funder: Trust Africa
Total Funding: $58,146
The project focused on the schools nearest the oil bearing areas which are along the shores of Lake Albert. These are areas which have traditionally been marginalised and prior to Link Uganda’s interventions the schools in these communities had received very little external attention.
Another challenge revolves around the economic life of the fishing and nomadic herding communities in this project area. Not only do families move with their cattle or around Lake Albert after the diminishing fish stocks, taking their children in and out of school, but also many families expect the older children – beyond P3 – to play a full economic role and see no value in education once the child can earn a living fishing or herding. The girls are often left looking after younger siblings, as their mothers seek an income away from home. In addition, girls are treated as ‘resources’ in Alur, Bahema and Lugungu communities to be married off as soon as possible.
As a result learning outcomes are very poor and few children complete primary school.
The hypothesis that drove the intervention was that early grade teachers who work in schools which have short term intensive classroom support provided along with school management support would see a more rapid increase in literacy levels of their learners compared to those teachers who have no such school-based support.
Core goals were:
- To increase and improve equitable access to quality education for early learners.
- To improve quality and relevance of primary education for early learners to become globally competitive and active participants in local economy and in society.
- To increase effectiveness and efficiency in delivery of literacy and numeracy education for early learners
Supporting objectives included specifically enhancing and advancing:
- Pupil attendance, enrolment and retention rates.
- Pupil performance on public examinations.
- Quality of early grade literacy and math teachers' classroom practice.
- Quality of early grade learner outcomes in literacy and math. Quality of school management.
- Supervision and support of education by district authorities
The approach was multi-dimensional and while having standard elements – such as SPR and the literacy training – was reactive to school realities. As a result no two schools experienced the project in exactly the same way. This was seen as a strength as it allowed Link Uganda to shape the intervention to the specific needs of each project school. The broad project activities were:
- School Performance Review (SPR)
- Training of School Management Committees and Parent-Teacher Associations in Enhanced Community Participation in Education
- Training of Lower Primary Literacy Teachers
- Training of Lower Primary Mathematics Teachers
- Training of School Management Teams in School Management Skills
Increasing and Improving Equitable Access to Quality Education for Early Learners: Overall 15 out of the 16 project schools in both districts indicated good practice scoring ‘Achieved’ and ‘Fully Achieved’ against a number of indicators e.g. the Teaching and Learning processes and supervision, Community Relations, and School Governance.
Improving Quality and Relevance of Primary Education for Early Learners to become Globally Competitive and Active Participants in the Local Economy and in Society: There is clear evidence that the project intervention which supported early grade teachers in their classrooms with an understanding of how children learn to read, impacted substantially on learner literacy levels as assessed by Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) in 5 targeted project schools. The improvements by P1 and P3 learners in the ELEP project appear to exceed those of neighbouring schools.
Increasing Effectiveness and Efficiency in Delivery of Literacy and Numeracy Education for Early Learners: The EGRA results showed a significant improvement in the early learners’ literacy competence levels for the 5 project schools. There is clear evidence that targeted early grade teacher intervention with follow up support at an average of 22 hours spent with each teacher and a simple message and support structure has been effective and can impact substantially on learner literacy levels. The classroom observations indicate that changes required in the classroom are relatively simple e.g. teaching letter sounds, clusters of letter sounds, sentences and paragraphs in a linear fashion supported by grouping learners and using instructional materials.
Improving Community Support for Education: The local communities and parents have increasingly embraced their roles/responsibilities to their respective schools as demonstrated by provision of midday meals to learners and teachers, follow up on pupil and teacher attendance, school construction activities and parental contribution to school improvement activities.