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IHELP Principal Investigators Increase Awareness of Home Based Early Learning Initiatives in Marginalized Communities to Boost Pre-Primary Learning

A delegation from Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe during a courtesy call to the Vice Chancellor-Kyambogo University.

On 20th to 25th February 2023, the three Principal Investigators of the Inclusive Home-based Early Learning Project (IHELP), held a five-day conference on ‘Sustaining Home-based Early Learning Initiatives in Marginalized Communities’ with the main goal of increasing access to early childhood education for rural and marginalized children. This is a hybrid project steered by Prof. Godfrey Ejuu- Uganda, Dr. Rose Opiyo- Kenya, and Dr. Samson Mhiza- Zimbabwe.

The Inclusive Home-based Early Learning Project (IHELP) is an action research model that was developed by Kyambogo University in collaboration with Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (Kenya), the University of Zimbabwe, and Sense International. The IHELP project recommends the adoption of play-based learning which can be achieved through literacy games and activities, social-emotional games, numeracy games, physical development games, health, and hygiene games as well as science games. These various games help in nurturing diverse skills in children including; active listening, communication, teamwork, turn-taking, critical thinking, gross motor, visual perception, and eye-hand coordination.


From left: Dr. Rose Opiyo, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Planning, Research and Innovations- Prof. Charles Mutai and Prof. Kennedy Bota during the conference.

The conference was graced by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Planning, Research, and Innovations- Prof. Charles Mutai who noted that Early Childhood Education lays a good foundation for children. Further, Prof. Mutai asked the management of Kyambogo University to advance the collaboration between Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) and Kyambogo University to cover other areas like research, science, and special needs education

“I applaud you Kyambogo University for organizing a conference of such magnitude. Let us extend this partnership to have more collaborations in proposal writing, staff, and students exchange programs, and joint supervision,” added Prof. Mutai.

His sentiments were reiterated by Prof. Kennedy Bota who represented the Director, Research and Postgraduate support at the conference.       `

Speaking during a courtesy call when the partnering institutions visited his office, the Vice Chancellor- Kyambogo University, Prof. Eli Katunguka applauded the researchers saying that research requires outputs through publication in reputable journals. He assured further collaborations between the institutions. Prof. Katunguka noted that the IHELP project has provided a good foundation for providing quality pre-primary education to all children.

Addressing participants at the conference, Prof. Godfrey Ejuu pointed out that IHELP research is a model that will certainly upscale early childhood learning and responsive caregiving.

“When children are prepared early, for learning, they get exposed to vital skills that are key in their development as they transition to adulthood. In the centers, lessons are shared between teachers and parents. Teachers bring in the school-based learning for cognitive development in literacy and numeracy, while parents focus on socio-emotional learning, health, wellbeing, life skills, and culture,” said Prof. Ejuu.

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From left: Prof. Godfrey Ejuu, Dr. Samson Mhiza and Mr. Edwin Jack during visitation in one of the centers.

Similarly, Kenya’s IHELP Principal Investigator, Dr. Rose Opiyo, stated that the project focuses more on building children by using play-oriented approaches to learning. She added that for the sustainability of the project, they are keen to adopt programs instituted by communities to ensure the continuity of the project.

“The aim of this conference is to enable cross-learning between Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, share best practices, address various challenges faced in our centers, validate research findings, bring in stakeholders such as Sense International to create awareness of the project and resource mobilization,” said Dr. Opiyo.

Notably, the Co-Investigator of the project, Dr. Samson Mhiza from Zimbabwe shared that his country is working towards the sustainability of the project by providing seed capital to parents for income-generating activities.

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Caregivers making mats for the children.

The conference climax was marked by the visitation of the Ugandan IHELP centers during the last two days to have a practical learning session on the best practices. It also offered an opportunity for the stakeholders invited to the conference to identify areas of need that require their support.

The international conference brought together key stakeholders from Sense International and the University of Oslo-Norway, experts from diverse fields, early childhood teachers, community members, administrators, and caregivers. The IHELP team from Kenya comprised Ms. Joanne Nabwire and Ms. Doreen Kathure who presented on Child Safety & Hygiene as well as Nutrition respectively.

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Ms. Joanne Nabwire, and Ms. Doreen Kathure following presentations at the conference.

Indeed, the IHELP project is one to watch out for in bridging the gap between children under four years and pre-primary education. It utilizes the strength of communities to mobilize and provide service on a voluntary basis. Additionally, the centers are established within communities to make early learning accessible to all children including those with special needs. It targets the many children in marginalized areas who go without early learning which compromises their skill development and future prospects.

By Linet Owuor

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