Scheme Transforming Education Across Sub-Saharan Africa Marks Ten Years Of Success – As Huge Targets Set For Next Decade

The Perivoli Schools Trust, which shows teachers the power of play by making educational games out of waste materials, plans to help millions of children over next ten years

Organisation defies Covid adversity to continue with its ambitious mission – receiving praise from top Government officials in the process

A training scheme for nursery schoolteachers helping to transform education across Sub-Saharan Africa is marking its ten-year anniversary. 

The Perivoli Schools Trust is an organisation with the goal of improving the potential of African children to make the most of their education. Its focus is on nursery schools and showing teachers the importance of play and how to make educational games out of waste materials. 

It started in Namibia in 2012 and has since interacted with over 15,500 nursery school teachers in Namibia, Malawi, Zambia and Uganda. Its target is to reach 200,000 over the next 10 years.

In terms of the number of children helped, the figure stands at an estimated 600,000. That could become as many as 12 million over the next 10 years. 

The Trust is supported by The Perivoli Foundation – a UK charity established in 2019 with a focus on Africa.

In addition to nursery school education, the Foundation seeks to fund climate change mitigation strategies in an African context, and backs a pioneering new approach to policy development centred at the University of Bristol.

James Alexandroff, programme director of the Perivoli Schools Trust and Settlor and Trustee of the Perivoli Foundation, said: “One of the reasons education has traditionally struggled in this part of the world is that in the crucial formative years, children do not always have the opportunity to take part in play activities that stimulate their development.

“Nursery school teachers face huge challenges due to a lack of training and resource, and the importance of play is not fully understood.

“Our programme meets this challenge head on. It is low cost, highly scalable and seems to have a significant positive impact. The extent of the impact is being assessed by a joint research project being undertaken by the Universities of Bristol and Namibia.

“We are now looking to extend the project into Botswana and Mozambique. We know our target for the next decade is ambitious, but with our fantastic trainers across the continent, we truly believe we can achieve it.”

During the last two years, the success has been achieved even in the face of further adversity brought about by Covid, with participation having actually increased.

Maya Kafuwa, joint CEO of the organisation, located in Malawi, said: “The pandemic has been a big challenge for the countries we operate in, but despite some fear and nervousness, nursery school teacher participation has been fantastic.

“Teachers have demonstrated their passion for the programme through practicing and sharing knowledge. It has been a time of challenges, but we have seen a lot of progress and have gone a long way to achieving our goals.”

The programme works by showing teachers how to use things like yoghurt cartons, bottle tops, loo rolls, pieces of cardboard, discarded garments and tin cans to make stimulating activities from toy shops to matching puzzles, counting games and dressing up corners. The Perivoli Schools Trust employs Perivoli Trainers, who deliver 16 training modules to up to 25 nursery teachers at a time.

The aim is to address high dropout rates that children face once they reach state-funded primary school.

The population of many African countries is doubling every eight years, with the size of the continent set to grow from 17% of the world’s population to more than 40% by the end of the century. Such growth will only increase the importance of the work done by the trust and its team across the continent.

The programme’s success has not gone unnoticed by those at the highest level of Government, with the programme receiving praise from a number of top-level officials.

At a graduation ceremony in Malawi in August last year, Isaac Katapola, Principal Secretary at the country’s Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, emphasised the need for training schemes like this.

Commending on the good work it has done and pledging his support, he said: “My ministry does not look at this function as a mere celebration but a step that is taking Malawi into the right direction.

“It is my commitment to support this good cause.”

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