Perivoli Schools Trust began in Namibia in 2012 by sponsoring a nursery school at the Okonjima Conservancy which is still running very successfully. It then sought to branch out into neighbouring rural communities by refurbishing existing nursery schools and providing toys. However, we were unable to find teachers in the rural communities who understood the importance of play and the toys disappeared, so we realised that a new approach was required.

We learned the hard way that well-meaning NGO’s that spend their resources on buildings and infrastructure are invariably wasting time and money. That’s why we switched our focus to providing much-needed training.

Our mission is to transform the prospects of children aged two to six in poor communities across Sub-Saharan Africa by showing nursery school teachers how to stimulate their young charges by using every day waste materials as teaching aids.

The problem

The education system across much of Sub-Saharan Africa is failing. Only about 70% of children attend primary school, and up to a third of those drop out of school before the age of eleven, typically after being forced to repeat years.

It’s a sad fact that less than 5% of children that begin primary school pass the final year exams at age 18. Young women are often the worst affected as many become pregnant and then struggle to stay in school.

The reason

The high drop-out rate is caused by children arriving at primary school without having been properly prepared for school. It’s also affected by the widespread breakdown in family structures on account of death and disease (particularly HIV/AIDS), alcoholism, absenteeism and transient employment.

Many children are brought up by a sibling, a single working parent or a grandparent, who don’t always have the skills or resources to provide hands-on care. In addition, the concept of play is poorly understood, and the practice of mothers carrying children around in shawls on their backs can aggravate the problem as this is said to inhibit a child’s development.

The majority of nursery school teachers struggle to get the best from the children. Whilst they mean well, teachers typically have a limited understanding of how to organise a class room or the case for including play activities and so children are left to their own devices without oversight or stimulation.

Some teachers adopt old fashioned methods, shouting at the children, expecting too much of them in blackboard-centric classrooms or requiring them to sing a limited number of songs in rotation. This approach inhibits their development. We have no doubt that there is a better way of doing things.