Harnessing talents to improve early education

For every child, the right start

Henry Derben
Print-rich kindergarten class environment at Ashongman M.A Basic '1'
UNICEF/UN712354/DERBEN

01 March 2019

In a highly decorated kindergarten classroom at the Ashongman M/A Basic ‘1’, a public school in Ga East of the Greater Accra region of Ghana, the walls are showered with posters of numbers, alphabets, geometric shapes, fruits and animals, as tens of young pupils recite the alphabets out loud.

The kindergarten level of this school is heralded as a beacon of early childhood education in the public educational system for its quality teaching methods, communal creation of teaching and learning materials and rising enrollment rate. Within two years, the kindergarten enrollment has risen from 27 males and 34 females in 2016/17 to 72 males and 62 females in 2018/19 academic year.

At the forefront of this remarkable improvement is headteacher Francisca Bello, who proactively directs and supports the teaching staff to give their full commitment and supervises their work on a daily basis to ensure consistency. Under her leadership, the kindergarten classrooms are now print-rich with ‘talking walls’ - the colourful visual aids that serve as teaching and learning materials (TLMs) created by artistic talents in the senior class of the school.

“As a public school, we needed a cost -effective way of developing teaching and learning materials. Together with teachers in the early childhood unit, and the municipal early childhood coordinator, we identified the curriculum themes, needing TLMs,” Francisca said. “We solicited the help of our junior high students with talent in art especially in the skill of drawing and painting to create these TLMs from scratch using available local materials materials.”

Headteacher Francisca Bello, actively promotes early learning and stimulation in her school.
UNICEF/UN763333/DERBEN
Headteacher Francisca Bello, actively promotes early learning and stimulation in her school.

With the support of the Early Childhood Development Coordinator for Ga East, Priscilla Andzie-Walters, the team used A4 sheets, cardboards, crayons and colour paints for the wall drawings. “During my inspection of kindergarten classrooms, I noticed that some of the ready-made TLMs in schools are not tailored to what is in the curriculum,” Andzie Walters explained. “Creating it at the school level is a way of introducing design thinking to the students and tutors who helped in the TLMs development.”

Final year junior high student, Benjamin Nyarko, is one of the artistic talents who drew and painted the colourful objects on the walls. Growing up, he has always been an avid artist therefore did not hesitate to mobilize his friends who also loved to draw to join efforts and develop the TLMs for the walls.

“My dream is to be a visual artist and this was a stepping stone and an opportunity for me to show what I can do. It was an inspiring moment for me,” Nyarko said.

Kindergarten teachers engage and teach pupils using interactivity concepts, such as role playing, play corners-where children learn using the buying-selling exchange concept, walk in your shoes and sing-along among others. The talking walls play a direct role in the interactivity learning and each kindergarten class is assigned three teachers to effectively support teaching and monitor the children.

According to Andzie-Walters, the success story of Ashongman M/A Basic ‘1’ has led to many calls from other heads of schools to garner her support in order to transform their early childhood education for the better. “Increasing the quality of education revolve around talented and committed leaders with the passion to build a positive and enabling culture where students and teachers understand the value of learning and teaching.”

With over 6,917 students having completed their education at the school, its role and influence in the Ga East municipality cannot be overstated. In light of this, UNICEF has been providing periodic workshops on leadership, KG In-Service teacher training, inclusive education, assessment tools and support on how to develop TLMs, using local materials.

The accomplishments of the school caught the eye of the member of parliament for the constituency, Adwoa Safo, who constructed and handed over a new kindergarten block to expand access and reach to more children.

Back in the kindergarten classroom, drawing work assigned to the KG children are also posted on the walls to motivate and celebrate their little wins and accomplishments.
With the TLMs on the walls and print-rich environment, the children can visualize, feel and see what they study. They are excited to read the materials on the wall and express themselves freely based on what they see,” said Ivy Akpalu, a kindergarten teacher added.