The dawn of a new development era

Fifteen years ago, the most powerful people in the world sat down and made an unprecedented commitment to ending global poverty. Heads of the world’s leading industrial powers distilled a wildly ambitious plan into eight catchy goals to enter the new century: the Millennium Development Goals were born.


This year marks the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the launch of their successors, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So how did we do and what remains to be done?



The MDGs have driven monumental progress across the global issues of extreme poverty and hunger; education; gender equality; child mortality; maternal health; HIV/AIDS and other diseases; environmental sustainability and establishing a “global partnership for development”. Born out of the United Nations’ Millennium Declaration, the MDGs for the first time set hard targets and timelines for all countries to contribute to the changes we all wanted to see. Achievements include:


  • the number of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved
  • 91% of people aged 15-24 are now literate
  • developing regions have met the target to eliminate gender disparity in schools
  • the global under-five mortality rate has dropped by more than half
  • maternal mortality worldwide has declined by 45%
  • 7.6 million deaths from AIDS were averted between 1995 and 2013
  • 91% of the global population is using an improved drinking water source
  • official development assistance from developed countries increased 66% between 2000 and 2014


But it is no surprise that such an ambitious agenda has experienced challenges, shortfalls and navigated many steep learning curves. As the final UN report on the goals declares, “the work is not complete and it must continue in the new development era.” For all their progress, key shortcomings of the MDGs are cited as: an inadequate commitment to reaching the poorest and most excluded; a lack of recognition of the impact of conflict and violence on development; not enough focus on effective and accountable governance; not ensuring inclusive growth and failing to adequately integrate economic, social and environmental development agendas for genuinely sustainable development. In methodology, opportunities to improve with the SDGs include better and wider consultation across all stakeholders (not least the significantly expanded SDG panel to include heads of developing states); locally-specific targets and solutions over one-size-fits-all approaches; and far better systems for collecting relevant, accurate and timely data to monitor such vast and complex change. Data capture is a major challenge in development work – often outdated and unreliable, particularly from developing countries where the information it can provide is most critical. This was a key learning from the MDGs, which struggled with largely incomplete, inconsistent and unreliable data, explaining why there aren’t simple answers to how they have performed.


Looking forward, the SDGs, adopted by the UN at the Sustainable Development Summit on Friday, mark the dawn of a new development era for 2015-2030. These new goals claim to build on these lessons, with SMART targets that track progress at more relevant levels, and more reliably, with investments in the infrastructure needed for better data collection. It is acknowledged that in forging a multilateral operation, the MDGs focused too heavily on global goals over the individual needs of different countries. For example, while the global target of halving extreme poverty has been met, this was largely thanks to huge economic growth in India and China pushing the poorest people in those highly populous countries over the $1.25 a day extreme poverty level, while overshadowing those states –the majority of which are in Sub Saharan Africa – that have significantly underperformed.


One of the most obvious differences between the MDGs and SDGs is the number of targets. The MDGs consisted of 8 top line goals, under which 18 targets were set. In contrast, the SDGs include 17 goals comprising an eye-watering 179 targets. Begging the question of whether the MDGs’ relative simplicity made for a more accessible and engaging programme. Project Everyone, an initiative of film director and Comic Relief founder, Richard Curtis, is determined to make them more well-known than ever, with a mission to communicate the SDG goals to 7 billion people (roughly the global population) in 7 days, marking the huge advances in communications technology and distribution since the MDGs were launched. Indeed the MDG report boasts mobile phone subscriptions have increased tenfold in the last 15 years and internet penetration is up from 6% to 43% worldwide.


There is no doubt that the SDGs are more comprehensive, better informed and have a more widely consulted strategy than the MDGs, while the original pioneering 8 goals have laid invaluable foundations for a global anti-poverty strategy which should continue now until the job is done. As Hans Rosling’s findings, which we shared last week suggest, ending extreme poverty is no longer a pipe dream but a very achievable reality within the next 15 years. As issues like environmental sustainability, migration and food security become threats which increasingly surpass national borders to become global crises, our world leaders should be more invested than ever and as Project Everyone hopes to achieve, this should be a project we all keep a very close eye on.


For the full list of SDGs, click here:



The School of Night Rabbits exceeds expectations in 2015


The School of Night Rabbits, which supports children living and working on the streets of Bolgatanga, has successfully reached out and supported more vulnerable children this year following expansion. The school now runs night classes three times a week compared to twice in order to provide more street children with the basic numeracy and literacy skills they need to return to fulltime education. With the increased classes the programme was able to enrol more children offering them basic education, knowledge of their rights, counselling and healthcare, working towards resettling the children with their families and preparing them to re-join formal schooling.


The children involved in the programme have expressed how much it has helped them, including knowing their rights, encouraging them to return to school and taking pride in themselves discouraging them from returning to the streets. 12 year old Roland said he has “gone back to school full time and does not hope to drop out again”. Whilst Aduko, a 13 year old boy, said he saw nothing wrong with sleeping on the streets until he became part of the school. According to him, he used to wear “tattered clothing” but through the capacity building talks that are organised, he has become “more decent” in his dress taking pride in his appearance. He explained how it was the counselling and social bonding activities that he most enjoyed and valued reflecting how the all-round nature of the support offered by the programme provides maximum benefit to each individual child.


We are extremely happy with the progress of all those at the School of Night Rabbits and their strong commitment to return to school next year. Following 10 months of literacy and numeracy classes we expect all 131 children to graduate in September and remain in school to study hard to continue improving their academic performance. In continuing their education the children will be far better prepared to create their own livelihoods in the future and secure a life off the streets.


Well done Night Rabbits!


For more information on the School of Night Rabbits or to support the programme please follow this link or contact the team:


CBE graduates 2,441 previously out-of-school children in three districts


The Ghana Complimentary Basic Education (CBE) is holding graduations for over 2000 learners across the Bongo, Talensi and Nabdam districts in the Upper East Region of Ghana. The CBE programme is a nationwide initiative that supports children between 8 and 14 years old who have never attended school to access education. Children are provided with a stepping stone phase of literacy classes taught in their mother tongue and held in their local communities. The programme is initiated by the Government of Ghana and delivered through various regional development partners including AfriKids.


At the graduation event, held in the Sapooro Community in the Bongo District, on 3rd July many people attending commented on the increasing number of school-age children who were out of school, or have never been to school at all, and praised AfriKids Ghana for bringing the CBE programme to the district.


The Bongo District Chief Executive, speaking through a representative, noted that the district had seen many development achievements in water provision and physical infrastructure etc. However, none has had the same impact on the people’s lives as the CBE intervention, which targeted out-of-school children in order to give them knowledge that would prepare them for entering or re-entering regular, mainstream education.


Cletus Anaaya, the manager of AfriKids’ Bolgatanga Area Programme, spoke on behalf of the Country Director of AfriKids Ghana and acknowledged the remarkable collaboration between the Bongo District Assembly and other development partners working together under the programme. He stressed that the collaboration has paid off enabling the classes to run effectively for 9 months, adding that this had resulted in the successful graduation of so many children and the celebration ceremony.


Following the success of the CBE in the area, AfriKids has been selected to expand its work under the programme in order to support a further 10,000 children over the next two years.


TAM Dream Team Conquer London to Paris

Stephanie Barkway is Development & Marketing Manager at TAM Ethical.  Since she started a few months ago she’s launched a fundraising plan that kicked off with a London to Paris cycle ride.   Stephanie tells us all about it here.


TAM Ethical’s newly formed team of cyclists embarked on a 300-mile mission to raise funds for one of our ten You Give We Give charity partners – one of which is the wonderful AfriKids – a child rights charity working in northern Ghana.


The incredibly brave cyclists successfully completed the London to Paris bike ride and arrived home in one piece, albeit a little sore in parts! Fundraising for the first You Give We Give event is now closed and I am thrilled to report that the team raised just slightly shy of £7,500. We are delighted to be donating almost £750 to AfriKids and look forward to learning what can be achieved in northern Ghana.


The journey in photos…


Day one – London to Dieppe


Day two – Dieppe to Beauvais


Day three – Beauvais to Paris


No mean feat

Riding all the way from London to Paris was no walk in the park for our amateur cyclists – especially on their bottoms! For all, this was the longest ride they’ve ever tackled and for some, this was the first time they’ve ever sat on a road bike.

The entire trip went without a hitch and despite being faced with the strongest of head winds and met with the steepest of hills, the team kept on pedalling.  No difficult encounter could deter the dedicated team in completing the exhausting mission with constant smiles on their faces. They enjoyed every second of the 300 mile venture with comments of, ‘So where are we cycling to next year?’

Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘Clearly they weren’t pedalling hard enough!’ but actually, for those of you with any experience of being part of a cycling club or team, to be able to ride so effortlessly with a group of people you have never once ridden with before, is an achievement in itself. Unfamiliar French roads were navigated with ease, friends from all walks of life were made and a lot of fun was had, making the cause that little bit more special.


The final push

An overwhelming sense of relief was felt by all as the Eiffel Tower came into view – you could see the ear-to-ear grins from a mile away. Not only had the team just completed a demanding physical challenge – one of the biggest challenges to date for some of our cyclists – but it was all on behalf of ten incredibly inspiring charities.


The next step

As we donate nearly £750 to AfriKids we know this money will make a difference.   One programme that inspires us at TAM Ethical is the AfriKids Young Entrepreneurs Programme where:-

  • £373 is enough to provide for materials and cover training fees for one year enabling one of AfriKids’ young entrepreneurs Ester, to train as a dressmaker.


  • £773 is enough to provide six children who have grown up in one of their residential care homes with food and toiletries for a year enabling them to complete Senior High School education.


  • £366 is enough to pay for final exams and provide start-up capital for one of AfriKids young entrepreneurs – Mercy, to start her own weaving business.


Lift off for Literacy – AfriKids working with Let’s Read in Sirigu schools

Literacy levels in Ghana are low, particularly in the most rural areas including the Upper East Region. In 2013, the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), used by the Ghana Education Service, showed that more than 80% of 6 to 8 year olds in the UER were unable to recognize letter sounds. By the end of our 3 year pilot in Sirigu schools, according to data (collected by World Vision in an independent exercise) the Let’s Read schools scoring 0 were reduced to just 3% for letter sounds. In addition, on our latest visit in November 2014 we saw some of the best teaching we have ever seen in schools in Ghana.

 (For full details visit:

Let’s Read focuses on developing early reading skills through a simple programme of phonics and sight words, developed through interactive teaching methods, and supported with a small number of teaching and learning materials (TLMs), as well as leadership development for head teachers.  It is based on our many collective years working as teachers in primary schools in the UK as well as our experience of using the programme in other Ghanaian schools.

Good teaching is the key factor in effective learning. Traditional methods in Ghana tend to rely on repetition and memory, rather than developing the reading skills that enable children to read independently. Memory will only take most of us so far.


Teachers learning about phonics


In Sirigu we worked with a circuit of ten schools of differing sizes and condition.  The teachers were responsive, the circuit supervisor was supportive and the children ready to learn.  For children often used to sitting for hours each week without a teacher and sometimes with nothing to do either, anything was an improvement.  When we visited a class of children and started telling a story or singing an action song, eyes would light up and children would engage with enthusiasm, even though many times they were clearly mystified by our activities!


But changing the attitudes of teachers was hard.  It was not that they were unwilling to change but, for any group of people anywhere, change is tough.  They only knew the way they had always taught and the way they had been taught themselves.   In addition, the teachers had difficulty understanding our accents and were too polite to tell us, so it took longer than expected to get our information across.


Being teachers ourselves we were only available for short visits around holiday periods, so the Sirigu teachers had to battle on by themselves.  At each visit we went into the schools, ran some assessments and held follow-up workshops.  At the end of the first year we assessed progress – and most schools appeared to have made almost no progress at all.  Were we expecting too much?  Was it all just too hard?


Not at all!  In the second year schools started to take off, some amazingly so.  When we saw a child looking at the wall alphabet and working out that ‘u’ and ‘p’ made the word ‘up’ all by himself, we knew we were getting there.  Now we needed appropriate reading books for the children.  We could not find any so we made our own, two sets to take children through the basic phonics scheme.


Two children using a Let’s Read reading book 


Our ten schools grew to eleven as another one opened.  This little school set up in a very poor building was led by a P6 teacher who admitted that he knew nothing about teaching small children.  But he quickly grasped the concepts on which Let’s Read is based and set off at a pace.  Within a year his P1 children knew all their letter sounds and were blending them together to make simple words.   No surprise then that this school topped the assessment tables.


But they were not alone.  Once teachers could see that children were reading rather than simply relying on memory, they began to see the purpose of the changes.  “My children in P2 are reading better than those in P3,” said one teacher.  Some even began to tell others that “It is not difficult!  Anyone can do it.”


Reading of course is more than just being able to pronounce words.  We read to gain knowledge, to understand, to communicate and for pleasure.  The lack of spoken English in the schools and in the wider community generally, is a real issue for the children.  In our training we encourage teachers to use English informally throughout the day and to teach bilingually where appropriate so that children are broadening their vocabulary and also developing confidence.  It is noticeable that schools where this is happening have the best assessment levels.

“English is our ladder to success,” said one head teacher.

Discussing a picture together


Developing competency in English is an ongoing challenge if we are to have a lasting impact on these schools.   Although the EGRA results for the Let’s Read schools showed that children were doing far better in letter sounds and non words, their reading and comprehension assessments were still very low even if twice as good as in other schools.


There is no quick fix with literacy. Developing confidence in English, a focus on comprehension and the development of writing skills are ongoing targets for us all if children are to leave their primary schools with a level of functional literacy which will take them through to their secondary schools.   We hope that our laptop project will inspire and encourage children and teachers to develop their English skills.  Watch this space for more information on Let’s Read IT.


Let’s Read has now started working, in partnership with AfriKids and with a small amount of funding from the Big Lottery Fund, with an additional group of schools.  Can it work successfully again?  We are very aware of the issues discussed in Sally Vivyan’s recent blog about the dangers of scaling up too fast or too far.  Our project is small and local.  We aim to develop school-to-school support with Ghanaian teachers, circuit supervisors and recently retired head teachers eventually taking ownership of the programme so that many more children in the area become readers.


Literacy has lifted off in Sirigu, now we want to see it fly.


Enjoying books from our book boxes