Reading with understanding, reasoning with numbers

The Accelerated Learning Program 2018 – 2022

The Problem

For 6 years, between 2010 and 2015 the Uwezo findings were released in Kenya with a regular tempo, trumpeting the message that while many children are in school, they are not learning much. This disadvantage, however, was more pronounced in Arid and Semi-Arid (ASAL) counties of Kenya first, because children are an integral part of the pastoral community and secondly, the poverty levels are high thus impacting on school participation.

About the Program

Zizi Afrique through an accelerated time-bound learning program rolled out the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) approach. TaRL is proven to improve basic numeracy and literacy skills for children farthest behind.
The overall goal of ALP is to improve foundational competencies in reading and math for children lagging behind in grades 3-5. The program has rolled out interventions across 3 counties in Kenya; Turkana, Bungoma and Tana River. The intended impact is that all children, irrespective of region, gender or background;

  • Can read with understanding
  • Can reason with numbers

The program is being implemented jointly with Safaricom Foundation and is inspired by the need to enhance literacy and numeracy skills of all children irrespective of region, gender, or background.

Scope of the program

The program is being implemented in 120 primary schools across 3 counties – Turkana, Bungoma, and Tana River.  Overall, the program has equipped approximately 7,200 learners with basic skills in reading and math.

The program has adapted Combined Activities for Maximized Learning (CAMAL) approach, where:

  • Children are assessed to determine their reading levels;
  • Grouped by level rather than grade;
  • Learning camp that combines doing, speaking, reading and writing around each learning activity, fun activities are used.
  • Parental engagement is sought.
  • Through short intensive bursts of intervention, learners are expected to read with comprehension and reason with numbers within 30-50 days.

Progress of individual child is continuously tracked and the information used to regroup and intervene at the new levels. Such evidence-based decision making during the learning process allows for individualized learning for each child.

The evidence generated on learning is used to drive policy conversations for improved practice.

Key Accomplishments of the Program

To highlight but a few accomplishments:
• 9,699 learners were assessed in the community during the COVID-19 closures and learning sessions held for 4,526
learners in designated community spaces.
• 1,660 solar-powered radios were distributed to the neediest households and 23 weekly radio sessions aired in
partnership with community radio stations.
• 3,882 learners received weekly, levelled SMS content in literacy and numeracy; and,
• A literacy and numeracy levelled workbook was introduced as a home learning resource. Three series of workbooks (1 to 3) have since been packaged and 17,690 copies distributed to the learners for use while at home.

Impact of the Program

The programme:
• Impacted on 36,660 learners: 25,271 of these directly, in Bungoma, Turkana and Tana River counties and 11,389
indirectly, through 25 partners in seven counties.
• Resulted in 84 percent and 74 percent of learners improving by at least one competency level (over a 30-day period) in the literacy intervention, pre- and post-COVID respectively. The programme had estimated that 85 percent of learners would improve to at least one higher competency level within 10 days of the intervention.
• Successfully retooled 265 teacher assistants over the period and inducted 182 head teachers leading to successful
partnerships with 269 schools, 150 of these directly through Zizi Afrique.
• Successfully packaged a compendium of learning resources including levelled story booklets in English, Kiswahili and
Ng’aturkana, paragraph booklets, picture cards for oral skill development, levelled workbooks as well as assorted charts for literacy and numeracy concepts.
• Engaged policymakers at county and national levels through advisory groups. The engagement was conducted through policy forums organised for evidence sharing, programme launches hosted by the county advisory groups, as well as institutional engagements, such as the induction of the KICD team to ALP, and the experiential immersion of tutors and principals from teacher training colleges held in Egoji in late February 2022.


While delivering a similar programme in the future, a few recommendations emerge:
i. Paying close attention to the language of instruction issues. It was evident that learners who were lagging behind were
struggling with the language of instruction. Hence, the decision was made to step back and leverage the language
competencies they had acquired from their homes, for facilitating the transition to L2 (Kiswahili) and L3 (English).
ii. Animating a community of actors invested in adapting targeted approaches to various contexts as a pathway for scale.
This also allows cross-context learning, leading to richer and stronger intervention programmes.
iii. Bridging Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) capacities of teachers on foundational literacy and numeracy
instruction. Even though teachers have an admirable understanding of the course content, there were challenges in
delivering effective lessons for proper understanding of the basics of literacy and numeracy. Translating the content into
lesson experiences proved challenging. As such, the programme recommends a heightened focus on strengthening PCK
among teachers as this will translate to more effective lessons.
iv. Interrogating place value as a foundational concept in numeracy. While assessing operations, most learners struggled
with the concept of regrouping due to limited proficiency in place value as a concept. Furthermore, evidence from
implementation shows much slower progress in mastering this concept as well as in applying it while working out
operations that involve regrouping. The programme recommends further exploration of strategies for effective
instruction of place value.
v. The critical role of government and established structures in sustaining FLN gains. The programme achieved constant
engagement with county and national government through the national and county advisory groups. Further, policy
and stakeholder forums organised to either launch the programme at the counties or share evidence at the national
level provided a thriving ground for systemic uptake of ALP principles. Institutions such as KICD were inducted, principals
and tutors from Teacher Training Colleges (TTCs) oriented on the approaches to accelerated learning, and evidence
shared in national, regional, and global conferences, such as the Education Evidence for Action (EE4A) People’s
Action for Learning (PAL) network conference, among others. Leveraging systemic structures will yield greater impact
and sustainability.

Download full ALP Report here.