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: www.letsreadghana.com)

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

The launch of the World Education Forum 2015

 

This morning the World Education Forum 2015 launched in Incheon, Korea, the forum will focus on rights, equity, inclusion, quality and lifelong learning in education. With the world’s eyes on Education we wanted to show why this subject is at the forefront of our work.

 

AfriKids recognise that in giving a child access to education we can dramatically change the quality of their childhood and make a fundamental difference to their futures.

 

In the Upper East Region 37% of people live in households in which no one has completed 5 years of schooling, compared to just 4% in Greater Accra (Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative’s Multidimensional Poverty Index 2013). Whilst the Ghanaian government supports Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education the UER continues to lag behind national averages due to barriers at every level; individual, community and government. AfriKids work to address the gulf between government educational policy and the reality of the educational system and we must therefore address education at multiple levels.

 

We strive to provide the most vulnerable children with access to education through projects such as our School of Night Rabbits, which supports children living and working on the streets of Bolgatanga. The goal is to give children living on the streets the chance to access quality education for free on their own terms, whilst also being provided with emotional support and where necessary a place to sleep. We also work with existing schools aiming to improve their systems and quality of education via projects such as Let’s Read. This program focusses on making a significant improvement in literacy at ten primary schools across the region, by providing teachers with phonics training and support.

 

AfriKids understands that it is important to address community attitudes as well as providing quality education. We therefore work at a community level to build communities’ capacity to provide for their children’s education. Our new Opening the Doors to Schools programme plans to increase the enrolment level at 60 schools by working with parents, child rights club patrons, head teachers , women’s groups and traditional leaders.

 

In tackling education at multiple levels we believe that AfriKids has the best opportunity to create sustainable change in northern Ghana.

 

Transforming lives through education is at the heart of AfriKids’ mission to find out more, or to talk about how your school or office can get involved, please contact the team on E: info@afrikids.org T: +44 (0) 207 269 0740

Meet Mary, an unsung hero in The Talensi Nabdam Area Programme

 

Mary Kolog volunteers for the Talensi Nabdam Area Programme (TNAP); she promotes children’s right to education amongst families in her community. She also provides one-to-one support to families to help ensure their children can enrol and stay in school. A respected local advocate of child rights, people like Mary have a huge impact in advancing child rights in northern Ghana.

 

Mary lives in the district of Talensi Nabdam – an area in which many people make a living employed in hazardous gold mining.   AfriKids’ work in this district has had a huge impact on the lives of local people, particularly children who live here.

 

  • In 2007, AfriKids began working with 650 identified child miners
  • In 2013, a further 189 children were supported to leave mining

Before AfriKids started working here the district had no state provisions as transitional mining communities were not recognised by the government.  By  lobbying the government for services, setting up child rights clubs and building community capacity, vital educational infrastructure now exists in Talensi Nabdam.  As at 2014, over  19,000 children, families and schools had benefitted from TNAP area programme.

 

Women like Mary play a vital part in helping the poorest of families understand how they can save a small amount of money regularly, she supports families to do this and  helps parents understand the importance of educating their children.

 

Global Development Course to be held at AfriKids’ office

 

AfriKids is proud to be hosting the Global Development Course at our London offices next month. The course, run by Ethical Events, has been attended by several of our staff and comes highly recommended for anyone working in, studying or just interested in international development. The intensive 2 week course covers a huge range of subjects including sustainable development, human security, health, education, finance in development and much more, presented by a range of expert speakers including university lecturers and industry professionals.

 

For more details, please see their website: http://www.sleepwalkingintoglobalfamine.org/global-development-course or contact the course administrator, Marja, at marjav@freeuk.com