The Program

The Madrasa Early Childhood Programme (MECP) is an early childhood organization that assists poor and underprivileged communities to establish, develop, and manage high quality preschools. MECP offers professional development and training courses to new and practicing preschool teachers and provides technical support to preschools, civil society, government, and private organisations. Initially piloted in Mombasa, Kenya, in the mid-1980s, early success and growing interest across East Africa led to MECP being established in Zanzibar in 1990 and Uganda in 1993. Over the last 30 years, more than 8,000 teachers have graduated from MECP professional development courses and 174,300 children completed their pre-primary education in MECP supported community pre-schools. These schools use the MECP curriculum, a holistic curriculum based on universal ethics and values tailored to differing local cultural contexts. As such, while MECP components are largely the same across all three countries, the content of courses offered differs reflecting country specific education polices and guidelines. Evaluations have demonstrated the positive impact MECP has had on access and quality of pre-primary education and on the educational outcomes of boys and girls.

Components of MECP - Zanzibar (MECP-Z) include:

  • A two-year Certificate in Early Childhood Education (ECE) to student teachers who meet set criteria as recognised by the Government.
  • A six-month professional development course for para-professional teachers to enable them to acquire the necessary skills and certification to become government-recognised pre-primary teachers.
  • A six-month in-service ECE course, developed in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MOEVT) and based on gaps identified in a needs assessment, targeting government-recognised pre-primary and primary teachers deployed to teach newly established pre-primary classes in public schools.
  • Tailored short courses for pre-primary teachers on various professional topics, including low-cost materials development, as well as leadership and management training for school leaders and School Management Committees.
  • MECP-Z trainers routinely visiting preschools to coach and mentor student teachers and support them to address challenges and identify training needs.
Challenges
  • Pre-primary education has received more attention in recent years, but this is still far below that of primary, particularly with respect to resources, leaving preschools with few dedicated teachers, very large class sizes, and limited teaching and learning materials.
  • Although global evidence shows the importance of using age-appropriate teaching and learning methodologies, pre-primary teachers are under increasing pressure to deliver Standard I (first year of primary education) academic content using more traditional approaches.
  • The challenge with working with government schools and teachers is that some of these teachers are transferred out of the programme schools after completing a professional development course with MECP. This means the teachers no longer receive on-going support or reach the children in target schools. 
Success Factors
  • MECP-Z has supported communities to establish and sustain 81 community-managed preschools that deliver high quality pre-primary education to their children. The teachers have undergone the holistic two-year professional development courses with both contact time and in-school mentor support. These teachers have been able to understand the importance of learning through play and how to implement age-appropriate teaching and learning methodologies in the classroom using low-cost materials. Because of this, children who attended MECP-Z supported community preschools are better prepared to start primary education as indicated by preliminary findings of an ongoing evaluation. When compared with government schools, children in MECP-Z have better free play opportunities and score better in the areas of language and literacy.
  • By partnering with the MOEVT, MECP-Z has been able to extend its impact and influence dramatically. MECP-Z has developed and delivered in-service courses to over 400 teachers, supports 268 schools, chairs the Zanzibar ECE working group, and has been central to the design of the new ECE diploma curriculum.
  • In 2013, MECP-Z became officially registered as a Teacher Training Centre by the Zanzibar Vocational Authority and now delivers government-recognised professional development courses. This has been part of a wider process that has increased the motivation of teaching at the pre-primary level, often considered a demotion, and the drive to improve learning in the classroom.