Over 30 years of development and refinement, the Madrasa Early Childhood Program (MECP) developed into several key components, including:
Phased Approach to Community Preschool Start-up and Development: This begins with a formal agreement with interested communities to set-up, manage and operate their own community preschools. Selected preschools undergo a phased process of support by MECP. The initial cycle (2-3 years) is the most intensive and includes (i) mobilization and sensitization of the community, (ii) establishment of the community preschool, creation and capacity building of key support structures including a local School Management committee (SMC) and Community Resource Team (CRT), and (iii) professional development and in-classroom mentoring of locally identified/hired teachers which includes ensuring teachers understand how to develop/maintain low-cost, effective teaching and learning materials. Pre-schools are mentored for an additional 2 years after graduating from the MECP cycle although the interaction is significantly lower (a handful of visits per year rather than 2-3 each month which occurs in the initial phase). MECP-K also supports preschools with small grants to undertake renovations and establish community and classroom libraries.
Providing technical support: This is a cross-cutting component in which MECP-K provides technical training and mentoring to new and existing pre-school support structures. MECP-K offers capacity building training to various local stakeholders to ensure smooth transition of children from home to pre-primary to primary level of schooling. MECP-K also provides community trainings on reading for children and other areas related to healthy child development.
Professional Development of preprimary teachers: MECP-K emphasizes the Professional Development of preschool teachers through tailor made training and support. MECP provides 1815 hours of pre-service teachers training in an in-service mode (both classroom and field based learning) to certify pre-primary teachers in Early Childhood Development (ECD). MECP-K also provides tailored refresher courses for in-service pre-primary teachers. Overall, MECP-K puts significant emphasis on coaching and mentoring of teachers to continuously improve teaching practices in lesson delivery.
Consultancy services: MECP-K offers a variety of consultation services to government, civil society and private organizations to share knowledge, best practice and experience in the field. Services are specific to community and organizational needs in relation to the provision of ECD services. These services are a form of income generation for MECP-K.
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CEI approaches in action
Tuition fees for training courses are Kshs. 825/= per day per person.
Consultation fees are Kshs. 1500/= per day per person.
Community preschools are independent and all factors relating to the preschool (e.g. fees, teacher salary, and provision of feeding program, among others) are determined by individual communities.
MECP collaboratively works with local leaders (e.g. area chiefs, leaders of local Muslim communities and Government officials) to identify underprivileged communities within the larger area in Coast Region, Kenya. The local leaders provide entry points for MECP-K programme staff.
763 School Management Committee Members trained and overseeing their local preschool operations
579 Teachers trained in specific MECP training course
Early primary transition support to 455 primary schools
630 Preschools operated of which 80 MECP and 550 outreach
The Madrasa Early Childhood Development Program (MECP) was established initially as a pilot project by the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in Mombasa in the mid-1980s. Early success and growing interest within the region, led to the establishment of the Madrasa Training and Resource Centers in Kenya (1989), Zanzibar (1990) and Uganda (1993), each of which promotes quality community-based, culturally relevant and pluralistic early childhood development with underprivileged Muslim communities and those among whom they live. Each centre has a National Governance body and they are jointly overseen by a Regional Committee that provides strategic guidance and direction. (A detailed history of the program’s evolution is available on http://www.akdn.org/publications/2008_madrasa.pdf).
Across the three countries and over time, the Resource Centers have established over 200 community-owned and managed preschools benefiting over 80,000 children. Moreover, the MECP, Kenya has helped in the establishment of 80 community owned preschools and has strengthened 550 other preschools through its outreach and scaling up efforts benefitting over 46,508 children.
The community preschools established with direct support of MECP have each gone through a specific and phased 2-3 year approach during their start-up and early development. At the end of this phase, successful preschools then graduate from this intensive phase of support, which primarily includes holistic training and mentoring of preschool teachers throughout the period, training and support to SMC members, and 1-3 visits per month for regular monitoring by MECP staff. Graduation is achieved after a formal participatory review of the preschool’s quality of services and functioning. Thereafter, MECP’s attention and support to individual preschools is reduced significantly (usually to 1-2 visits per year) and the preschools usually then become part of a local network of MECP graduated schools which they themselves govern and oversee. Graduated communities can request specific supports on a need basis and importantly provide an ongoing context for new pilot initiatives and additional components by MECP (e.g. integrating support for 0-3 year olds and caregivers). Towards the end of the initial start-up phase, the MECP also builds the capacity of local community resource persons who are expected to help encourage and mentor the local preschool teachers and SMCs after graduation. Both the community resource teams (2-3 persons) and the Graduated Preschool Associations evolved directly out of persistent challenges faced by many communities (especially the poorest ones) as well as lessons learned by MECP related to achieving sustainability in very low income area. In sum, a key lesson is that poorer, isolated, or otherwise disadvantaged communities require different levels of support and encouragement over time if sustainability is a priority and aim, which it always has been for MECP. Impact studies have shown children leaving the Madrasa preschools have a significant advantage over their peers in similar preschools and particularly those with no preschool experience. A follow-up impact study is being planned now to understand what has happened with the children who had been through the program – who now are secondary school age.
As the MECP evolved and became better known in each country, the Training and Resource Centers were asked to develop and provide additional training to other ECD programs (civil society, government and private providers). This eventually became formalized through MECP tailor made (and fee paying) training courses for preschool teachers and, most recently, has led to all three Centers becoming registered and accredited as ECD training institutions. In Kenya, MECP has provided professional development to over 3,501 new and old preschool teachers through tailor-made training and support. In addition, given the experience of children leaving the MECP supported preschools, MECP trainers started to work with early primary grade teachers to address the early transition process in collaboration with local government education officials/trainers. This evolved into a tailored participatory process of dialogue and capacity building related to early transition that engages different local stakeholders. As a result, transition into primary at the expected age of 6 years old has increased to 66% in 2012 from 57% in 2007 based on tracking of children who left the MECP community preschools.
In sum, MECP has been refined and evolved over its 30 years of operation. it has pioneered an approach for holistic development of the child which is fully contextualised within the cultural heritage and traditions of the communities in which it works. As such, it has garnered recognition and interest from a range of external parties, including governments, academics, ECD practitioners and civil society organisations, including beyond the East Africa Region. This has led to opportunities for growth and further sharing of its approach and lessons. AKF has drawn on MECP’s to provide technical support as AKF initiated ECD programming in Egypt, Afghanistan and Mozambique. MECP has also undertaken capacity-building of governments’ personnel and other civil society organizations on ECD in other districts/areas of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and contributed to the development of ECD policies and frameworks in all three countries. MECP has also collaborated with and provided specialized training for other international agencies ECD efforts in the region (e.g. UNICEF, Plan International, World Vision amongst others).
There are several plans that MECP-K has for the future growth of its organization:
1. MECP-K is in the process of registering with the national government as formal Early Childhood Development (ECD) training institute. This will allow MECP-K to certify ECD teachers with Government accredited training.
2. MECP-K is working within the orientation of the devolved Government system to be able to effectively reach out to new and old target communities across Kenya’s Coastal Region.
3. MECP-K is planning to establish and maintain a state of the art computer library within its premises to promote the provision of modern learning opportunities for staff, Government officials and other stakeholders in ECD. Funds have been secured for this initiative and MECP-K is aiming for the library to be functional by 2014.
4. MECP-K is looking to work with interested pre-schools or individual entrepreneurs to set up preschools that would be self-financing (their own social enterprises). MECP has had considerable success in establishing sustainable preschools in their core geographies, and could potentially offer this service across the region.
5. MECP-K is looking extend their training courses to external partners, such as NGOs, governments, or businesses that are looking to establish preschools and or child care facilities.
6. MECP-K is looking for a potential market to make available children’s books that are tailored to the local language and context development and publications, as well as other locally relevant learning materials, including children’s storybooks.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The MECP M&E strategy involves the use of several measures including a comprehensive results framework, logic model and M&E strategic plan. Where needed, these tools and documents are donor specific and are developed collaboratively in house by the MECP-K M&E officer, Program staff and donors.
In 1999, evaluations were performed by Geof Brown, Janet Brown and Suleman Sumra. In 2007, evaluations were carried out by Geof Brown, Janet Brown.
The information provided below is specific for MECP preschools:
· 90% (June 2013). Derived from the ‘workshop evaluation tool’ used during teaching training sessions.
98% (2008). A measure of how many mobilized community preschools have completed the full cycle of the MECP program.
On average, a 19% (2011-2012) increase among Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa. Derived enrolment data at the pre-school level collected bi-annually.