The School for Life (SfL) is an NGO in Northern Ghana running a ‘Literacy for Life Change’ programme. It targets out of school children, between the ages of 8 and 14, and, through an intensive nine-month programme, gives them adequate basic literacy and numeracy skills to enable them to integrate into formal primary schools.
The programme has been hugely successful, demonstrating a very cost effective way of reaching out of school children. A key strength is its flexible scheduling, offering tuition at times more suited to the needs of families and communities.
A second major strength is the commitment and qualities of the facilitators, who show a genuine empathy with children. There are major messages here for mainstream policy on teacher recruitment: SfL recruits local staff from within communities with a shared language and identity, prioritising qualities of patience and commitment over and above academic credentials. The SfL experience points to some lessons for schools in the value of engaging local volunteers to work with classroom teachers in supporting a better classroom experience for children.
Evidence from the Teaching Community Assistants Initiative (TCAI) shows the value that community volunteers can add to learning achievement. Caution however needs to be exercised to ensure this is not seen as substitution by the community, with the school further calling on the resources of the community to offset public service delivery failure.
SfL has provided strong evidence of the efficacy of establishing initial literacy in a child’s mother tongue. This is consistent with growing international evidence, as well as being consistent with Ghana’s own policy statements on language of instruction, even if this is not always clearly followed in schools.