In many underserved communities across Ghana, school is no more than a care centre where working adults keep their wards.

Faculty intern at Ashesi, Mawuli Adjei '17, was faced with this reality through his work on the MASO project, an initiative focused on creating employment opportunities for the youth in Ghana’s cocoa communities.

“Through our work, we saw that some of the MASO entrepreneurs were starting pre-schools that were only providing parents in their communities the solution of a space to keep their kids while they were at work, but weren't necessarily meeting the educational needs of the children,” explained Mawuli. “This is largely because the teachers and entrepreneurs in those areas don't have the adequate training, skills and curriculum to meet the children's needs.”

Currently, MASO is operational in three regions in Ghana, and the absence of quality pre-school education is a common thread in each of these areas. To help address this gap, Mawuli teamed up with fellow faculty interns, Daniel Bempah Quansah '17 and Caren Holmes,  from the College of Wooster, and first year student, Awurama Atobra '21. Their findings helped put the gaping holes into a broader perspective.

“When we visited the schools, we found out that not only were the teachers mostly untrained high school leavers, we also discovered that the existing curriculum consisted of mostly songs and repetition,” said Caren. “On the other hand, we found the teachers incredibly enthusiastic about their work and eager to expand their teaching capacity.”

These findings led to the Early Childhood Education Curriculum Development Project, an initiative that hopes to fill the gap in accessibility to quality pre-primary education in those regions, and eventually across underserved communities nationwide. With funding from the Ford Foundation, the team is developing context-appropriate curriculum based on four key areas; emotional and social competence, health and physical development, communication skills and cognition and general knowledge.

“Through findings from research and building on curriculum from pre-schools in urban areas, we're developing a context appropriate and effective early childhood education curriculum for some selected preschools in the Volta Region,” said Mawuli. “Using the language they speak, names they are familiar with, examples of items in their environment, and interactions they are likely to have, both the students and teachers are able to connect better.”

Over the past couple of months, there has been noticeable improvement in the transmission of education. Not only are the teachers teaching relevant curriculum, the children are building the necessary foundational skills needed for the next level.

“Early childhood education is critical as it forms the foundation of a child’s educational experience," explained Awurama. "So we've designed our project to focus on improving the quality of education young children in rural areas receive. Once our findings yield the kind of positive results we hope for, we'll work at expanding this model across the country.”