Play-based learning materials breathe life into learning sessions in Karamoja
"The children love these materials. They enjoy the pictures, and the colorful materials encourage them to discuss and engage with each other. The children can relate to the Sesame characters," Amos, a teacher.
In Karamoja sub-region bordering northwest Kenya and South Sudan, you will find one of the most engaging under-a-tree classrooms. Led by Amos Lodite, a dedicated 26-year-old teacher, who is passionate about educating young children, the classes, characterized by singing and dancing, are quite popular with children under six years.
In 2019, Lodite and other two caregivers completed a one-year training on the Community Childcare Programme (CCCP) at Moroto Core Primary Teachers College in Uganda, thanks to funding from UNICEF.
Equipped with the CCCP certification, which enables caregivers to facilitate learning interactions at Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers, Amos provides quality education to the children at Karita Primary School ECD Center in the semi-arid northeastern Ugandan district of Amudat. However, he faces numerous challenges, with limited resources being one of the most significant hurdles. Due to this constraint, Amos struggles to provide the 89 children under his care with the necessary learning materials.
However, this does not deter him from finding innovative solutions to ensure that the children under his care develop literacy and numeracy skills, school readiness, self-confidence, socialization, communication, and problem-solving abilities. He improvises with plastic bottles, bottle caps, and sticks collected from the community to ensure children have recreation tools for learning and playing.
Learning through play
In October 2022, Amos discovered the Sesame Workshop materials during a one-on-one orientation for ECD caregivers done by trained district ECD trainers with support from UNICEF. He immediately knew the materials would supplement his efforts therefore, he started incorporating them into his teaching.
Consisting of books, flip charts, games, and other interactive resources, the Sesame Workshop materials facilitate learning through play. The vibrant characters and engaging content capture the children's attention, encouraging them to eagerly participate in the learning sessions.
"The children love these materials. They enjoy the pictures, and the colorful materials encourage them to discuss and engage with each other. The children can relate to the Sesame Street characters," Amos remarks with a smile.
Not only do the Sesame Workshop help Amos teach the children, but they also bring joy and excitement to the learning process. The children adore games and activities, displaying an eagerness to learn more.
Among the thousands of learners benefiting from the Sesame Workshop materials in the Karamoja region, five-year-old Night Lilian, and Abigail Nasimiyu have found great enjoyment and learning opportunities. Abigail's favorite character is Elmo, as she loves how he plays with his parents, just like she plays with her mother at home. Lilian, on the other hand, particularly enjoys the dance and music sessions. She admits with a shy smile, "I love the games and I enjoy playing and dancing."
Despite Amos' success with the Sesame Workshop materials, he faces the challenge of being the sole caregiver at the center.
"Initially, we were three trained individuals—two men and one lady but the other two left due to a lack of financial support."
The school administration has partially resolved this issue by providing Amos with a monthly stipend of 50,000 Uganda Shillings - an equivalent of US$13. Access to a play area for his pupils and good sanitation facilities at the main primary school that he and the children benefit from also motivate him to continue volunteering at the ECD Center.
“I am making sure that I use the little that I have faithfully”
Despite the heavy workload, Amos remains devoted to his work. He firmly believes that every child deserves a quality education and is determined to do everything within his means to provide it.
"I have faith in the Bible, which says, 'If you can be trusted with little, God will trust you with a lot. So, I am making sure that I use the little that I have faithfully," says Amos.
Through his dedication and hard work, Amos positively impacts the lives of the children in his care. His passion for teaching and commitment to the children under his care serve as an inspiration to all who know him.
Rosemary Alweny, a UNICEF Early Childhood Development Officer, emphasizes the importance of play-based learning in supplementing the current learning framework.
"ECD Caregivers in Karamoja face challenges in accessing learning materials. The Sesame Workshop materials are meant to complement and make learning a fun activity for both the child and caregiver," she says.
In 2022, UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports, with support from the donor Education Cannot Wait, printed and distributed over 20,200 Sesame Workshop materials consisting of flipcharts, posters, and booklets to 295 ECD centres in Karamoja. Apart from teaching children basic educational skills, the materials reinforce positive behavioural practices such as handwashing with soap, nutrition, safety, security and home care by parents. UNICEF also supported the orientation of caregivers on how to utilize the Sesame Workshop materials. To date, the materials have benefited 141,221 children in Karamoja.