Lively Minds tackles two major barriers to Early Childhood Care & Education in rural Uganda: lack of pre-primary provision; and poor home-based care and stimulation. Their solution is to train and empower parents to provide educational and fun Play Centers for pre-school children using local resources. In this way, Lively Minds seeks to provide a sustainable and replicable behaviour-change program that unlocks the potential of uneducated parents and encourages self-sufficiency, creativity, and volunteerism.
Lively Minds targets deprived rural communities where there are no government primary schools or pre-schools. They train 30 mothers within each community - who are predominantly uneducated and are often marginalized. Once trained, these mothers run educational Play Centers for all children aged 3-6 in the community. The Centers take place in any local building and are free of charge. The mothers teach using games made from cheap local materials and using interactive discovery-based methods. Teaching is in small groups (1:4 child-parent ratio). Children learn through play participating in five different skill-sets to enhance cognitive and socio-emotional development. Health and hygiene activities are incorporated.
As this is a behavior change program, the communities are given a two-year support package to reinforce new behaviors and to provide further capacity-building opportunities. This includes regular monitoring and monthly parenting and 'second chance learning' workshops for the mothers. These workshops incentivize the mothers and improve their home-based play and care, confidence, and well-being.
Click here to see full program profile
CEI approaches in action
The program is based in Eastern Uganda and targets deprived rural communities with the most need. The program builds the capacitities of uneducated, unemployed women, who are generally marginalized in their communities, so that they can provide better care for their young children.
Over the past 6 years, 36 community-run Play Centers have been set up. Lively Minds have trained over 1,080 Mothers who teach 160 children per community per year.
This project was started in 2008. It was meant to run in just two villages. But neighboring communities, recognizing the impact of the program, requested Play Centres in their village too. Lively Minds was therefore established in 2008, so that the project could be replicated more widely.
Lively Minds Uganda currently opens 10 new Play Centers each year. They are exploring ways to replicate on a wider scale. At present, LIvely Minds staff implement all aspects of the program. In order to scale-up, Lively Minds are testing ways to train others (e.g teachers, health workers, other NGOs) to deliver components or all of the program under supervision; in other words, piloting a "training of trainers" approach.
Monitoring & Evaluation
- Cognitive assessments (adapted from standardized surveys) are conducted on children at baseline, and 3 & 6 month intervals. These measure semantic knowledge (sorting, matching, numbers, colors) comprehension of instruction, social information processing.
- A strengths & difficulties questionnaire is administered to parents to measure child behavior
- Volunteer mothers provide information on incidence of disease at baseline, 3 & 6 months
- Demographic/household information is collected at baseline
- Adapted wellbeing/self-esteem assessments are conducted at baseline, 3 & 6 months
- Parenting questionnaires are administered to measure understanding of parenting techniques and rates of household play/stimulation
3) Focus groups are carried out with mothers
Monitoring shows that the Centers are operating well year on year. Cognitive tests on 124 beneficiary children (average age 4) across 14 communities showed a mean baseline score of just 49% correct answers. After 6 months 83% of mothers reported providing more stimulating activities and play at home compared to baseline. After 6 months, children's cognitive test scores increased by 90% and the incidence of diarrhoea as reported by mothers decreased by 30%. Mothers report great improvement in their children's abilities and also increases in their self-confidence, peer support, and improved relationships with their children.