Strengthened Partnerships to Reduce the Foundational Learning Gaps in Kenya by James Mburu

“We are happy to have had a very good experience, especially implementing an educational program for the first time. Zizi Afrique Foundation (ZAF) has contributed to the growth of our Community-Based Organizations (CBO),” recounted Maurice and Janet, our implementing partners from Tana River and Bungoma counties during our last review meeting in May 2022.

From 2018 to 2022, Zizi Afrique Foundation implemented the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) in Bungoma, Turkana, and Tana River Counties of Kenya. According to Uwezo 2015, these three counties were ranked among the bottom 10, recording the poorest performance in learners’ ability to perform basic literacy and numeracy tasks.

The implementation of the program was done in collaboration with county partners: Maridhiano CBO in Tana River, Community Research in Environment and Development Initiatives (CREADIS) in Bungoma, and the Diocese of Lodwar in Turkana. Through a survey conducted by Zizi Afrique, majority of the partner staff members reported that through the ALP implementation, the partner organizations developed strengthened networks with the Ministry of Education (MoE) in their respective counties.

As the first phase of the ALP implementation came to an end in April 2022, the program had directly reached 25,271 learners in 150 schools within the three counties. The learning sessions were facilitated by 265 Teacher Assistants (TAs) who were retooled on leveled-based instructions delivery. The program focused on four key pillars during the implementation; assessment of learners to determine their learning levels, grouping of the learners based on their learning levels, goal setting for each group, and fun-based learning activities.

“The program contributed to the creative part of me as a program officer. This has helped to identify the weaknesses and strengths among the TAs and helped me to fully guide and mentor them,” one program officer reported. During the implementation, the county-based partners engaged program officers who were fully mandated in the daily monitoring activities and ongoing mentorship support to the TAs.

In May 2022, Zizi Afrique Foundation inducted 47 regular teachers from all the schools in the Municipality zone in Bungoma county. The training which was convened by the Curriculum Support Officer (CSO) Mr. Masika, attracted both public and private schools.

“I want all my teachers to be trained on assessments and handling level-based activities,” he said while making the request. The efforts to organize such kind of training through the Kenya Primary Schools Headteachers Association (KEPSHA) are great efforts to sustain the program.

“I’m grateful for the support I have received from Zizi Afrique Foundation while conducting the literacy sessions in Eldoret. Through your support, we now have received a grant to scale up our interventions,” Simon Wamu, the Chief Executive Officer, Education Empowerment in Rural and Urban Initiatives (EERUI) narrated. Throughout the implementation period, Zizi Afrique has inducted and walked the journey with 25 civil societies in Kenya under the umbrella of the Regional Education Learning Initiative (RELI). Through these partners, 11,389 learners have been directly impacted in 169 schools.

Recently in July 2022, when we visited Komarock primary school in Nairobi County, one of the partner schools of PACEMaker International organization, the school was pleased to have the volunteers supporting the teachers and conducting Pace club remedial sessions for the learners lacking foundational learning skills. “We are pleased to have young people around. They are strong and energetic. They have really helped us in the school and in performing other regular activities,” Mr. Maina, the headteacher, shared with us.

Through these partnerships, we have impacted 36,660 learners directly in 269 schools in Kenya. In addition, Zizi Afrique is a member organization of the People’s Action for Learning (PAL) Network where members from three continents are brought together. Across eight countries where similar interventions are carried out, 164,694 learners were directly impacted in 2,342 schools and communities.

Foundational competencies are essential for lifelong learning, yet before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 617 million children were lagging on these vital skills. Further, learning poverty has increased by a third in low and middle-income countries, estimating 70 percent of learners being unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10. Remediation has been proved to work in most of these countries where the learners who lag behind are enrolled in one to two hours catch-up sessions with a primary focus on boosting the foundational literacy and numeracy skills. By the end of 30 days, most of the learners are observed to have progressed to higher levels with a significant number attaining proficiency levels.

Civil societies have proven to catalyze learning in various countries through remediation. However, the efforts by civil societies are minimal in terms of their reach. Ensuring a buy-in by the ministries of education in various countries and states will be the biggest win for improved foundational learning which will enhance the transformation of the education status in low and middle-income countries. Ensuring individualized focus on learning unlike focusing on the syllabus coverage is best in recovering the learning gains lost during the COVID-19 closure period.


James Mburu is a Program Officer at Zizi Afrique Foundation, For feedback, send an email to

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