How do you reach about 10 million children all across the country, include remote, rural villages, efficiently, reliably and at very low cost? At Twaweza we started by asking what already reaches 10 million children, and is valued and treasured by them, so that we could explore the possibilities of piggybacking onto that thing. We found the answer was ‘exercise books’, simple, relatively inexpensive notebooks that are sold everywhere, and that most pupils own at least a few. Adapting an idea that was developed at HakiElimu, Twaweza sought to use the normally blank inside cover pages to provide tools for children and their parents to boost learning.
In 2010 Twaweza entered into a partnership with Tanzania Printing Services, one of the largest printers of exercise books in Tanzania, to print and distribute messages on at least 40 million exercise books. The books do not pile up or get lost, for they are sold through the printers’ extremely efficient distribution network in Tanzania.
Each exercise book (in Tanzania they are popularly known as daftari) featured a cartoon character on the front cover inviting readers to turn the page and attempt a test. This is the same Uwezo Test—previously administered by Uwezo to test basic literacy and numeracy among children. After doing the test the reader is encouraged to share it with friends. Inside the back cover of each exercise book there is a list of things that students, teachers, parents can do to improve learning.
“We hope that giving more parents, children and teachers opportunity to look at the test will invite them to measure abilities and discuss what do to at school and home to improve learning,” said, Twaweza Tanzania Programme Manager, Joseph Ngwegwe. In the meantime the learning, monitoring and evaluation unit at Twaweza is keen to assess the extent to which the approach increases understanding and encourages citizen action.
In any case, the marginal unit costs involved in undertaking this partnership are very small, for the approach piggybacks onto a system that works. Twaweza compensates the printer less than USD 0.001 per notebook, or more than one thousand notebooks will carry the information and reach citizens for less than one dollar.
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