Learners read words with their teachers. Photo: YARID

The ‘Bridging the Gap’ programme implemented by the Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID) uses the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) approach to build refugee children’s foundational skills and helps them to access mainstream education in Uganda. 

Research shows that children in Uganda’s refugee settlements fail to master basic skills in English and Math, deepening concern about an already worsening learning crisis.

A beneficiary of the TaRL Innovation grant awarded by TaRL Africa in 2022, YARID runs the programme with support from Street Child and TaRL Africa in Uganda’s Kyaka II Refugee Settlement. YARID has reached 4461 children (2070 boys and 2391 girls) and trained 100 staff members on the TaRL approach (24 teachers, 24 assistant teachers, 26 community mentors, and 26 volunteers). 

“I first participated in the TaRL training held in Botswana in 2018. It was so hands-on. All the people were engaged in the teaching-learning activities like Bundle and Sticks and Letter Jump,” said Elvis Wanume, the Education Manager at YARID. However, it was not just the training that Wanume enjoyed. “I did 15 to 20 days of practice after the training. This was unique because in most cases, people are trained and don’t really reinforce on issues of practice.” 

Hands-on training and engaging activities have also helped teachers to learn the concepts of TaRL themselves. Teachers also have an easier time planning the sessions to better suit their student’s needs. “When they teach, it is not like a lecture. This is more interesting as they have to go through different activities,” said Wanume. 

The fun and dynamic nature of the programme has also helped to improve learners’ attendance. “The learners often conduct some of the TaRL activities in the community as well,” he said. 

Today, the Bridging the Gap programme is a six-month-long intervention that also incorporates the Language Learning from Familiar to Formal (L2F2) methodology. This dual-language methodology pioneered by experts at Pratham and TaRL Africa is used in TaRL programmes to help learners acquire foundational skills in both their mother tongue and the language of instruction in the education systems. The intervention is divided into three phases. Learners are first taught in their respective mother tongues for one and a half months. In the next one and a half months, the learners are taught in both their mother tongue and English. Finally, in the last three months, TaRL sessions only focus on building learners’ English language skills. “It is really good that children are learning from what they already know and from what is familiar, and then transitioning to something that is unfamiliar quickly,” said Wanume. 

According to Wanume, practice and continued support to implementers in the field have been very important to the programme. YARID and TaRL Africa have set up review meetings every two weeks and in-person visits to the programme “We’ve also really got support on developing and improving our tools, and learning about which areas we should focus on,” he said.

The efforts of YARID and the teachers have shown promising results. More than 600 learners have transitioned to public schools in the mainstream education system. “Learners are doing well in the programme but some are doing even better once they transition to formal schools,” said Wanume.

The success of the programme has generated interest from actors in the education system including local governments, school teachers, and other Ugandan organizations. “We have formed a coalition with different organizations and partners who are running similar programmes. It would be great if the government could integrate the TaRL approach in formal schools and in the mainstream curriculum,” said Wanume.



About the author:

Tanvi Banerjee is an Associate at Pratham’s International Collaborations team. She also supports TaRL Africa’s communications.