Key players in childhood education came together for the first time in West Africa to speak about innovations and new strategies in early stage learning. The conference brought to light some of the challenges facing infantile development in the region and proposed solutions to these problems.

The event was hosted in Dakar by Karima Grant of ImagiNation Afrika, a learning and innovation hub for children, and Wambui Munge of Results for Development. Practitioners, NGO’s, entrepreneurs, donors, and representatives of the Ministry of Education of Senegal were in attendance. Though the goal of the workshop was to highlight the strategies proposed in the early learning toolkit, much of the conference was devoted to identifying country-specific issues found in child learning and understanding how some proposed strategies could be seen as controversial depending on the traditions of that country.

Speaker, Wambui Munge of Results for Development on the Early Learning Toolkit

Speaker, Wambui Munge of Results for Development on the Early Learning Toolkit

One proposed tool emphasized throughout the workshop, was #play2learn. Speakers and group leaders were emphatic on the evidence-based proven benefit of using play to teach primary and pre-primary children in schools. But many attendees argued that in their country, school is a serious place where play is rarely encouraged.

Children's books written in the national languages of Senegal

Children’s books written in the national languages of Senegal

Organizers and developers of the toolkit stressed the importance of hosting workshops like the one held in Dakar so they can meet those responsible for implementing these tactics and also get feedback on any country-specific exceptions facing child learning.

“I am really glad that we are getting the questions we’re getting because it helps us look for how to supply the answers. It’s impossible to go to every country in the developing world to find out what specifically is going on with them, but these regional workshops really help us get a better understanding,” –Wambui Munge.

The workshop also highlighted the importance of mother tongue instruction for retention and understanding in education for every child of any background.

Organizers and attendees alike worked to find ways these strategies could be implemented in local schools. At the end of the day participants were asked to come together to propose solutions to the important problems raised over the course of the day.

Round table discussion with practitioners

Round table discussion with practitioners

Solutions:

  1. Use native languages in school longer, before the hard switch to official language
  2. Create a pre-primary education system (in Senegal)
  3. Promote learning through games and interactive activity
  4. Sensitize parents to interaction with their children at a young age
  5. Give great care to who teaches the children. Make adjustments for quality education.

The toolkit is now available in French and English for parents and teachers. ImagiNation Afrika and partners will continue to host workshops with the aim of bringing together players in early childhood learning.