Helping caregivers foster learning at home in Kenya

Partners: Keep Kenya Learning, Busara
Why this sandbox?

Providing information about the benefits and quality of education to caregivers is a “great buy”, according to the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel. There are promising signs about interventions that use technology to help caregivers support children as they learn.

When the Keep Kenya Learning (KKL) campaign approached us with their idea to leverage tech tools and resources to support home learning during Covid-19 school closures, we saw a great opportunity: we could test ways of reaching learners where they are.

The key question brought to us by the KKL team was: what’s the best way to engage and support caregivers so that they effectively foster learning at home?

They came to us with a large menu of options, ranging from learning resource platforms, SMS campaigns, radio programing, bespoke apps and more, sourced from over 40 partners who were already signed up and convinced by the campaign’s mission. Their combined resources and network meant we could reach millions of caregivers, but the foundation of the model was still missing: what’s the most effective way to reach these caregivers, and when we do reach them, what are we reaching them with?

Quick facts

KKL counts on contributions from 40+ partners in Kenya, including EdTech providers, community organizations, and professional networks

KKL is testing its approach on over 300 caregivers, across three “personas” with varied income levels and geographic backgrounds

Giving caregivers the confidence to engage in learning

Caregiver engagement in education is at the center of this sandbox. Yet, KKL understood from the beginning that simply giving caregivers learning materials or devices to simulate schooling outside school isn’t enough on its own. In order to effectively support caregivers, we needed to ask more basic questions. Do parents see themselves as able to support learning at home? What happens when the caregivers themselves lack the confidence to help? How do family and social circumstances affect their ability to engage learners?

Understanding the context

In partnership with Busara, a behavioural science research firm based in Nairobi, the Keep Kenya Learning team began this sandbox with a behavioural mapping of Kenyan caregivers, surveying individuals representing 3 different “caregiver personas”. This was done in order to capture the diverse challenges faced by caregivers in different contexts, and respond accordingly. These personas were:

  • low-middle income urban

  • low income urban, and

  • low income rural

This engagement work was made easier by the well-established reach of community-based-organisations contributing to KKL. They were well positioned to contact parents and caregivers directly.

The survey included questions such as:

  • How much do you value education for your children?

  • Are you able support them in learning at home? How?

  • What (if anything) prevents you from providing support?

We learned that across urban and rural contexts and income levels, parents do value education. But many are often do not consider themselves to be well educated themselves, and often lack confidence that they can add value to their kids education. They hold back from offering support to children, for fear that their support won’t be “good enough”.

In low income communities, this lack of confidence is exacerbated by a lack of access to resources, and skepticism about the value of learning at home activities.

That said, parents and caregivers also place importance on the wider community as a potential source of support for children. Older siblings, cousins, grandparents, neighbours can be, and often are, involved in providing some support or encouragement to children while they learn.

It became clear during this early phase that it would be useful and helpful to engage with caregivers, to boost their confidence so that they felt their input would matter.

The next question was: how?

Telling caregivers: "Your voice matters"

We now knew some of the barriers to caregiver engagement, but wanted to dig deeper and learn from others. In search of more data, we conducted a rapid literature review and a facilitated learning session with caregiver engagement and behaviour change experts. From these, we learned that:

  • Trust is vital – parents and caregivers pay more attention to, and are more likely to respond to, engagement that grows from successful social ties between parents, teachers, and community to collectively support the needs of children.

  • If we want to encourage behaviour change in parents and caregivers, we need to make sure the message is simple, actionable, and easily doable. It needs to be presented in an attractive and engaging way, and come from a trusted or well-known voice.

Building on these insights, the KKL team looked for ways to give caregivers the confidence to engage. The team partnered with Scholé on an SMS curriculum that would encourage caregivers to start new, simple habits (asking questions, listening, storytelling, etc.) to engage in learning at home. With Ubongo (an education content provider) they are considering creating TV adverts showing examples of positive parenting behaviour at home. And with their community partners, the team has organized community caregiver meetings to discuss the importance of learning at home.

At each step of the way, caregivers have been consulted in developing these outputs. As the sandbox reaches its final weeks, KKL is testing its overall approach with 300+ caregivers, experimenting with different iterations to determine what outputs are most effective.

By the end of this sandbox, KKL will have developed and tested a tech-enabled model for engagement with caregivers. The hope is to turn this model into a toolkit that can be and reused by partners elsewhere in Kenya, and elsewhere around the world as long as it is adapted for local circumstances.

What we've learned

  • Caregivers support in learning is crucial, but many lack confidence in supporting learners at home
  • Important to understand the challenges faced caregivers (and bring them into the design process)
  • Tech tools can be used to model effective caregiver engagement and build simple learning at home habits

Further reading

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