First Steps targets families with children under 3 years old to improve parenting practices and access to emergent literacy materials. The program is implemented in the western province district of Ngororero in Rwanda. Parenting sessions are conducted at the village level once per week over 17 weeks. The program aims to improve early childhood development outcomes through parenting support and places additional emphasis on building foundational skills for literacy at home. Radio programming is facilitated by a community family volunteer who holds parenting education sessions. First Steps supplies participating families with a number of resources o practice what they have learned during the sessions. Each family receives a children’s book, a guide on creating books using locally available supplies, and a set of illustrated activity leaflets that depict positive parenting practices and messaging. The program has additionally established a small book bank, providing at least 40 books for each group of 60 families. To meet the demand for books and resources, First Steps collaborates with local publishers and produces emergent literacy materials, which include age appropriate children’s books in the local language Kinyarwanda. Bookseller entrepreneurs are also engaged to create operating book stalls on local market.
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CEI approaches in action
The project was launched in April 2015 and collected baseline data through August 2015 (baseline report available). A midline assessment was carried out in April 2016 (assessment report also available). In the first cohort of the project (September 2015 to March 2016), 1080 families were trained, reaching 1080 children.
The second cohort of the project (May - September 2016) will train 540 families, reaching 540 children aged 6 to 24 months old. In the third cohort (September to December 2016), another 540 families and 540 children will be reached. A Value for Money (VfM) analysis of the project will be conducted in September 2016 to inform the nationwide scaling up of the project starting in 2017. The program envisions national expansion with Rwandan government’s initiative Umugoroba w’Ababyeyi (Parents’ Evening).
If proven to be effective in influencing parental behavior and practices, the modality will be adapted for use in parenting sessions for parents with older children. Likewise, to meet the demand for reading materials for these age groups, community engagement activities will follow a similar approach in cooperating with local book seller entrepreneurs.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) system helps to measure and demonstrate impact by including mechanisms, processes, and data of the program. The MEAL strategy emphasizes the collection and use of data to support decision-making, accountability, and continuous improvement. The system ensures that programmes are not only monitored and evaluated, but stakeholder opinions are also actively heard and incorporated. Quality of activities is assessed against minimum standards and findings are shared with relevant stakeholders to provide explicit feedback into program decision-making, therefore integrating accountability and learning into the M&E system.
A randomised controlled trial (RCT) is being carried out to find the most cost-effective and scalable model of providing holistic parenting education nationwide.