Little Ripples in Tanzania
While the influx of Burundian refugees into Tanzania slowed significantly in early 2018, a large school-age population (145,052) existed across the camps. Though a structured education system operated in the camps, a high number of refugee children (44%) remained out of school in early 2018. During this period, there was a critical lack of services and an accumulation of risk particularly for refugee children ages three to five. The number of child-friendly spaces and pre-primary classrooms across the camps was insufficient to accommodate all young learners and many learning spaces were located far from newer camp zones, making the walking distance too great for young children. Additionally, there was a lack of value placed on the importance of early childhood care and development (ECCD) by parents and caregivers, resulting in low registration and participation.
To address this critical gap in support for Burundian refugee children ages three to five, iACT teamed up with Plan International (Plan) to bring the Little Ripples program to the Nduta and Mtendeli refugee camps. Plan had been supporting the refugee response since 2015 and had an existing ECCD program running in child friendly spaces; however, a new innovative approach was needed to boost participation and improve quality.
Little Ripples is an early childhood education program that empowers refugees and communities affected by humanitarian crises to deliver child-centered, quality, and comprehensive pre-primary education that supports the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of children ages three to five. Little Ripples is designed to be refugee- and community-led in order to build long-term capacity and address the unique needs of children and communities affected by trauma, violence, displacement, and uncertainty.
Little Ripples was co-created with refugee communities and developed in collaboration with experts in early childhood development, trauma recovery, pre-primary education, and mindfulness; ensuring that the program includes best-practices for refugee children and those who have experienced trauma and hardship. While the curriculum focuses on teaching literacy and numeracy and can be used alongside any academic pre-primary curriculum, it is grounded in play-based education, trauma-recovery approaches, restorative practices, and incorporates social-emotional learning, empathy development, positive behavior management, peacebuilding, and mindfulness.
In April 2018, iACT sent two trainers to Tanzania to train Plan’s ECCD teachers in the Little Ripples pedagogy. These teachers were Burundian refugees themselves with varying levels of teaching experience. The training lasted for one week in each camp and covered content in the areas of: child development, classroom organization, play-based learning, positive discipline, emotional literacy, and how to create a daily routine. Additionally, the training incorporated practical mindfulness techniques that teachers could use with their students. There were also discussions on the unique needs of young learners affected by trauma and how mindfulness and other techniques could help children build coping mechanisms related to emotional intelligence, self-regulation, and trauma-recovery.
In the months following the Little Ripples training, regular attendance in Plan’s ECCD program increased by 64%. Additionally, upon piloting an end-of-year academic assessment, approximately 90% of all Little Ripples students passed. Through focus group discussions, Little Ripples teachers and parents reported seeing positive changes in their students and children since participating in the program, both in and outside of the classroom, including: better retention of academic content, happier dispositions, and increased confidence and comfort when participating in lessons and interacting with others. Little Ripples students themselves also reported feeling calmer and more relaxed in lessons and enjoy the mindfulness exercises; parents even reported seeing their children using mindfulness activities outside of the classroom.
iACT and Plan will continue their partnership throughout 2019 to keep the Little Ripples program running to ensure that Burundian refugee children in Tanzania exercise their right to to safe, fun, and quality education. iACT is also currently running the Little Ripples program in Chad and Cameroon for Darfuri and Central African refugee communities and hopes to expand the Little Ripples program to new locations this year. iACT will continue documenting and measuring impact of the Little Ripples program in order to advocate for increased support and funding of ECCD in emergencies, as well as the importance of refugee-led approaches that empower communities, uphold dignity, and create sustainable humanitarian solutions.
iACT is an international organization whose mission is to aid, empower, and extend hope to those affected by mass atrocities. iACT was established in 2009 in response to the Darfur crisis and since then has grown into a team of experts providing humanitarian action that disrupts the traditional, top-down aid and service model and is grounded in refugee-led solutions from ideation to implementation.
Plan International is a development and humanitarian organization that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. They strive for a just world, working together with children, young people, their supporters and partners.