In close collaboration with the Ghana Education Service (GES), the Sabre Charitable Trust endeavors to achieve a learning-friendly environment for four- and five-year-old children from marginalized communities in rural Ghana. Its activities fit into the government of Ghana's strategic Operational Plan to improve early childhood education. The Sabre Charitable Trust's Brighter Futures Programme operates through two arms: building better schools and transformational teacher training.
To solve the lack of school facilities in remote rural areas in Central and Western Ghana, the Brighter Futures Programme has developed an innovative model to construct sustainable kindergarten complexes with the technical support of Arup, a global engineering firm. Located in strategic areas, these schools aim to provide children with the best learning environment. Building better schools is based on four guiding principles:
- Designing for education: The complexes have been designed to encourage children's learning. For instance, classrooms can be split into different learning centers and are connected to an outdoor learning area.
- Performance-based design: Using high-quality engineering, the sustainable kindergarten complexes are built to protect children and teachers from tough weather and conditions and withstand earthquakes. The design also has strong sustainability credentials; for example the schools' roofs are designed to improve rainwater harvesting.
- Buildability: Each complex is built by trained community-based laborers, using local construction tools.
- Community participation: Brighter Futures held consultation sessions with the local community, teachers, and government representatives throughout the school design process.
The kindergarten complexes are also used as Centers of Excellence to host kindergarten teacher training activities.
Transformational Teacher Training (TTT) is the second arm through which Brighter Futures aims to improve early childhood education in rural Ghana. Faithful to Sabre Trust's collaboration and need-based approach, the trained participants are teachers on the government payroll and student teachers coming through the Colleges of Education. The program delivers a "Train the Trainers" support to College of Education lecturers and competent kindergarten teachers who are then in charge of training other participants — i.e. head teachers, teachers, student teachers, and GES officers.
The training program includes four main areas:
- Planning: The scheme of work links Ghana's kindergarten curriculum objectives to specific activities (i.e. phonics, facilitated play, outdoor learning).
- Resources: The program supports teachers in making their own classroom resources from low-cost and recycled materials.
- Engaging parents: It also aims to raise parental awareness through kindergarten-specific Parent-Teacher Association meetings, open days, and termly pupil progress reports.
- Assessment: TTT uses kindergarten-specific tools to support an integrated approach to learning, assess pupils on a formative (ongoing) basis, and monitor and evaluate teacher performance.
The World Bank has recognized TTT as a promising early childhood education practice in Africa. In addition, the Brighter Futures Programme has received recognition from agencies such as UNICEF and the UK's Department for International Development.
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CEI approaches in action
Since 2008, beneficiaries of the Sabre Trust's Brighter Futures Programme also include:
- 13 Ghanaian early childhood education experts who have received training to support the implementation of the government's plan to scale up quality kindergarten education across the country
- 44 head teachers and Ghana Education Service officers who have been attuned to the importance of activity-based and child-centered learning for child development at early stages
- 73 community laborers who have been trained in eco-friendly construction technologies and acquired new livelihood skills
The Sabre Charitable Trust has set clear plans to take the work to scale over the next five years in the Central and Western Regions of Ghana. In particular, the TTT program will be replicated in Western Ghana starting in September 2015, in partnership with GES and Holy Child College of Education. Sabre will build at least three schools a year in rural communities and retrofit elements of the school design to improve existing classrooms. At the national level, Sabre will work with the Ghana Education Service to support the expansion of pre-service kindergarten teacher training to at least 19 Colleges of Education by 2019.
Monitoring & Evaluation
- Improvement in top-grade achievement by student-teachers on the TTT: 153%
- Percentage of student-teachers scoring an A-grade in their practical assessments: 68%
- Attendance at a newly opened sustainable kindergarten school: 85%
- Increase in enrollment on the opening of a new sustainable kindergarten school: 270%