USAID in Kenya: Serving as System Steward for Early Grade Learning
In 2010, Kenya faced a severe learning challenge. While nationally education received significant funding (23.7 percent of the government expenditure), the majority of funds went to salaries. Supplies for teaching and learning materials were insufficient to meet classroom needs. They were designed with a heavy focus on grammar with challenging text for early grade learners to decode. Teacher professional development was limited; the majority of teachers (80 percent) had not received in-service training since 2009. As a result, “less than 5 percent of first- and second-grade children met government literacy benchmarks.”
Laying the Foundation Through a Rigorous Pilot
In response to this challenge, USAID in Kenya worked with the Kenyan Ministry of Education to put in place the political, institutional and financial scaffolding to improve, expand and sustain early grade reading outcomes. Jointly, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) and USAID developed the Primary Math and Reading Program (PRIMR) pilot, which provided MoEST with tested and sustainable recommendations in teacher professional development, materials development, instructional support, and periodic assessment of students and schools. PRIMR was implemented in 1,300 primary schools across four (out of 47) counties considered representational of Kenya’s various educational settings.
To ensure appropriate evidence was collected, PRIMR conducted three studies—a baseline study (2011), midline study (2013), and the end line (2014)—that provided the Ministry of Education and education development partners with rigorous, evidence-based information to engage in the development of a national reading program. The literacy findings then provided the Ministry with evidence for the development of the Tusome national reading program, launched by President Kenyatta in 2015.
An Historic Partnership for Systems Strengthening
The Tusome program (2014-2019), Kiswahili for “Let’s Read,” is funded by USAID, with additional support from the UK Department for International Development during 2014-2015. Tusome is a flagship partnership between USAID and the Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MoEST) to jointly scale up and implement the program nationwide. In addition to service delivery in the form of instructional support and teaching and learning materials, Tusome has focused on ensuring sustainability by addressing gaps in the system.
To align the multiple stakeholders and promote host-country ownership, Tusome assessed the larger education ecosystem, identified key stakeholders, and established forums for ongoing political and technical conversations. The Tusome Steering Committee is chaired by the Minister of Education and includes the Principal Secretary, Director General, and other key department directors and provides governance and management oversight; the Tusome Technical >Committee focuses on pedagogical and instructional elements.
Identifying appropriate roles and responsibilities to ensure workload is aligned with job description is critical. Curriculum Support Officers (CSO) play an important role in the support of the pedagogical component. However, before Tusome, CSOs were spending an inordinate amount of time on administrative tasks, rather than providing curriculum support to teachers. In response to this problem, the pilot focused on aligning CSOs’ tasks and time allocation with the job description and expectations. Toward the end of the program,the ministry recognized the crucial contribution of the CSOs in providing instructional support to teachers. In response, they hired additional administrative staff to fill gaps and allowed CSOs to fulfill their proper role—supporting teachers in classrooms.
Learn more about the Tusome ProjectDownload the Tusome Fact Sheet
Transitioning to Full Host-Country Management
The government’s financial commitment—release of funding in a timely manner and appropriate usage—is the vital underpinning of the program.
Currently, USAID is working closely with host-country counterparts to share and track activity unit costs for budgeting purposes. Starting in 2018, the Government of Kenya has gradually taken over the funding of Tusome; the government partially funds grade one activities, including the printing and distribution of 2.25 million books and management of some Tusome classroom activities. Presently, USAID is continuing to cover the teacher professional development costs.
Tusome is scheduled to transition to Government of Kenya and Ministry of Education funding, oversight and delivery by 2020. It is a gradual process and incremental aspects of the program are being transitioned to full Government of Kenya ownership as part of the larger curriculum reform process and delivery of basic education services across the country. This ultimately demonstrates how USAID's work is helping countries leverage their own domestic resource investment while strengthening the capacity of their local organizations to address pressing challenges.