About the Project
This project is one of the 2017 WISE Awards finalists.
The ‘Reaching and Teaching Out-of-School Children in Ghana’ (REACH) project is implemented by Plan International, in collaboration with the Ghana Ministry of Education through the Ghana Education Service and with local communities; and in partnership with Educate a Child (EAC), with a contribution from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFiD) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This five-year project aims to enroll 90,000 boys and girls, ages eight to 16, in 34 of the most disadvantaged districts across five regions of Ghana in gender-responsive, child-friendly, inclusive and locally adapted complementary basic education (CBE) and support transition after a nine-month cycle to upper primary school grades. This project is designed and implemented to address the barriers that keep children in rural Ghana out of school such as extreme poverty, gender inequalities, lack of school infrastructure and perceived opportunity costs associated with education.
Context and Issue
REACH’s innovations in integrating child-centered community development and gender equality throughout the project are transforming the education experience and changing community perceptions of children and the role of girls and women. REACH works with stakeholders to demonstrate that marginalized children are powerful agents of change and have a lead role to play in their own development. REACH treats out of school children (OOSC) as partners and involves them in designing and refining strategies and activities to meet their needs.
The Solution and Impact
The REACH model innovatively scales up an existing national program, designed to meet the needs of rural Ghanaian communities, to even more disadvantaged regions. The national program, supported by the government since 2013, addresses a lack of schools and teachers in some communities, while offering a flexible class schedule and location that can adjust to the needs of individual communities. It successfully engages local community committees to provide daily monitoring of and support for CBE classes.
The REACH project adheres to the national CBE policy, while introducing innovations and distinguishing itself in several ways. First, REACH actively engages children in the identification and enrolment of other OOSC in their communities, and in creating a child-centered and gender responsive learning environment. For example, using data collection tools custom-designed to capture children’s perspectives, data on the satisfaction of CBE learners identified a need to highlight methods of positive discipline during the training of CBE facilitators.
The project used this information to enrich training and refine other activities to enhance the quality of results. Second, the project enhances its engagement with communities by continuously adapting sensitization and learning materials and approaches to promote gender equality and child protection. For example, inclusive and gender-friendly practices are emphasized in the CBE facilitator’s training manual, while local CBE committee training highlights their role in supporting female facilitators and addressing specific obstacles to girls’ education. Third, REACH supports the transition of CBE graduates to formal primary school by providing in-kind scholarships to cover the initial cost of school supplies. REACH also provides orientation sessions to teachers from each school receiving CBE graduates, as they otherwise may not have the capacity to integrate OOSC. CBE curriculum, materials and pedagogy are condensed, leveled, age-appropriate and provide a credible option for learners so they can be integrated in the formal education system.
The project ensures that classes reflect gender and inclusive education practices, alongside a focus on literacy, numeracy and life skills. Classes are delivered in the local language of the community (more than eight languages to date), which facilitates learning and promotes self-esteem, as well as an appreciation and respect for the community’s language and culture.
In only its second year of operation, the project has already reached over 800 communities and enrolled 29,664 children in CBE classes (44 percent girls). The project has supported the transition of 6,768 CBE graduates to formal primary school (80 percent of CBE graduates to date). More than 1,000 community-recruited facilitators have been trained on the CBE methodology, gender-responsiveness and child protection. To date, the project has also supported the establishment of new community schools, as well as the conversion of nine community schools into formal primary schools.
Plan International’s programs in Ghana are guided by a five-year strategic plan with a main focus on promoting the rights of children and young people to health, education, protection and economic security. These education programs address issues of access, retention and quality including promoting gender-sensitive and child-friendly learning environments. Plan International has a strong partnership with the Ministry of Education, who has committed to support this project as an implementing partner and co-funder.
The long-term sustainability of REACH project is supported through a government engagement and advocacy component, which is focused on improving the quality and proximity of basic education in Ghana. Plan International has already moved to build upon the project through a new partnership with EAC and the Stromme Foundation for regional programming in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger using a locally-adapted accelerated learning model, with a projected reach of 181,000 children over five years. The REACH project will enroll an additional 60,000 OOSC over the next three years in some of the most remote and hard to reach parts of the country, and will support the transition of at least 70 percent of CBE graduates (56,700 children) into formal primary school. In addition to meeting specific project targets, the project will continue to focus on increasing female enrolment and the number of female facilitators recruited, using custom tailored strategies based on an initial gender study.