Prof. Coastas Meghir, a Yale University professor of Economics, Prof. Helen Baker Henningham, a Bangor University professor of Psychology and a visiting professor at the University of West Indies, visited KU-WEE Hub from 29th May to 2nd June 2023 to kick-start research activities for the Tharaka Nithi County Randomized Control Trial (RCT) project.  They were also accompanied by Ms. Deanna Ford, the Managing Director Economic Growth Centre and MacMillan Centre at Yale University, Ms. Emma Lambert – Porter, a Senior Research Manager at the Economic Growth Centre and MacMillan Centre at Yale University, together with Taja Francis and Marsha Robinson who are post-doctorate candidates at the University of West Indies  Prof. Coastas is the Yale University Principal Investigator (PI) while Prof. Helen is a child Specialist from Bangor University in the RCT project.

The visiting team poses for a photo with the Governor of Tharaka Nithi county, Hon. Muthomi Njuki (center) and stakeholders from KU-WEE Hub and the county.

The five-day visit started with a half-day workshop for all the implementing partners, including the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), Tharaka Nithi County Government (TNCG) led by the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) in charge of Education, Ms. Dorothy Naivasha and Eng. Kimathi Njeru, the Chief Officer of Agriculture who also serves as a KU-WEE Hub Advisory Board member. The KU researchers included Dr. Teresa Mwoma from the Department of Early Childhood; Dr. Samson Oteyo, Department of Psychology; Dr. Esther Gachara, Department of Psychology; Dr. Eunice Mvungu, Department of Psychology; and Dr. Hudson Ouko, Department of Early Childhood.

Members were taken through the RCT project design, which attempts to evaluate an innovative approach for childcare provision in rural Kenya that emphasizes child development and economic involvement for women in a cost-effective manner. The project will examine the impact of allowing children to attend preschool from the age of 3 versus the current early childhood development programming in Kenya which focuses on children ages 4 and above. The intervention will provide a new and improved playgroup curriculum that will be tailored to the Kenyan environment and will include coaching for child caretakers. The intervention attempts to improve child development and school readiness for children aged 3 and 4 at the outset and to increase participation in income generating activities among parents of 3-year-olds.

Members were informed that the playgroup curriculum that will be introduced to the schools was developed by a team of child specialists drawn from Kenyatta University, Chuka University, and Tharaka Nithi County Government using a participatory approach and validated at a stakeholder forum held in October 2022 in TNC. The improved curriculum targets five (5) skills that include: language, listening, mathematic activities, psychomotor and creative activities, and environmental skills. Building on to the curriculum, the researchers are expected to develop teaching and learning resources as well as develop learning rubrics and learner monitoring tools.

To assess child development in the county, members were informed that the KU researchers with the guidance of Prof. Helen had identified several assessment tools that include; i.) International Development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA) is a rigorous global tool that measures children’s early learning and development and provides ECD programmes with clear evidence on the status of children from 3.5 to 6 years. The team has applied for a memorandum of understanding with the vendor for access; ii.) Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a brief behavioral screening questionnaire about 2-17-year-olds. Inquiries have been made on the access process but no response yet; iii.) DABERON provides a standardized assessment of school readiness in children ages 4 through 6, including those with learning or behavior problems who are functioning at the early elementary level. Inquiries on its purchase and access have also been made; iv.) Parental Stress Scale (PSS) is an 18-item questionnaire assessing parents’ feelings about their parenting role, exploring both positive aspects and negative aspects of parenthood. This is an open access tool.; and v.) The Teacher Instructional Practices and Processes System (TIPPS) is an observation tool that aims to understand the quality of the classroom environment. Prof. Helen will assist in securing a copy of the assessment tool.

Media briefing after the courtesy call with the Governor, Hon Muthomi Njuki




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