Scaling Up in East Africa: CEI Showcases Innovation across Borders

Caroline Jordan

Education programs impacting low-income communities are frequently exploring how to grow and increase their impact. But scaling up brings many important questions for implementers to answer; how to scale, when to scale, where to scale and importantly how to maintain quality. Since education has typically been a high touch endeavor, scaling or growth has always been complex to tackle. This month CEI supported two innovative education programs in Uganda who were looking to scale up in Kenya.

Mango Tree

Mango Tree is a program creating tailor made teaching and learning materials delivered to individuals, organisations, schools or projects in a comprehensive package.  These packages include participatory design, teacher training, support supervision, technical advisory, assessment and evaluation. Mango Tree's products include early childhood development kits, educational games and toys, counseling tools, literacy and numeracy curricula, life skills materials and large-format story and picture charts. These products are specially designed to encourage participatory teaching and are created with input from local educators.

East African Playgrounds (EAP)

EAP takes a unique approach to child development and youth unemployment, through a holistic outlook on play. They train teams of young adults to be highly skilled welders, builders and play workers who construct high quality, child centred playgrounds child care and education provisions. Since 2009 they have built over 70 bespoke playgrounds in Uganda which will have over 100,000 children use them during their life span.


On Tuesday, May 12th CEI hosted an event titled “Showcasing Innovation in Education”. 26 stakeholders including CEI profiled programs, school leaders, government officials, funders and educationalists participated in a morning of demonstrations and discussions as Mango Tree and East African Playgrounds presented their models to the sector. The showcase naturally carried a strong theme of ECD which has proven to be a critical field for innovation in the non-state education sector in East Africa. As always the Kenya ECD stakeholders engaged in vibrant discussion and enthusiastically welcomed the Ugandan models seeing opportunity to collaborate and improve opportunities for children in the region.

Speaking at the event, Tom Gill of EAP said, “The impact that our playgrounds have had in Uganda on schools, children's development and also on the young adults we train has been huge. We have developed a model that enables us to build safe, fun, exciting international standard playgrounds which children have helped design, that are built out of local materials by local people. This model has a wide impact and is both scalable and replicable. We are looking to scale up this project, because it really works on so many levels and because no one else is doing anything like this in East Africa.”

He added, “We are a small organisation and CEI have introduced us to some of the leading organisations in ECD and primary education. Without them it would have been hard to meet face to face with so many organisations. It is still early days to know fully the impact CEI has had on our project, but it is safe to say there are a lot of very interested, very excited organisations who now know they could have awesome playgrounds for the children they support.”

Meanwhile, Victoria Brown of Mango Tree said,  “Mango Tree is looking to expand its presence in Kenya through key partnerships with organisations and governments working to improve service delivery and quality in early childhood development and primary education in the country through the provision of relevant and appropriate materials, training, support, monitoring and evaluation services. While the education sector is our primary entry point, Mango Tree is interested in offering a range of complementary services, based on client need, in the health and agriculture sectors. Moreover, we also welcome singular projects that will help Kenyan organisations or governments tackle a specific education challenge that they or their partners face.”

“It was an absolute pleasure to visit CEI and present, meet partners and start to explore the Kenyan market. We are excited about prospects and we are reaching out to partners that we met in Nairobi and Mombasa to follow up”, she added.

Photo Credits (Top to Bottom): Caroline Jordan, Mango Tree Uganda, and East African Playgrounds

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