The TaRL Teacher Training Group. Credit: Meerkat Learning
The Namibian government made a UN commitment to establish a national remediation program for every child who desperately needs it. Meerkat Learning is working towards ensuring that Namibia lives up to this commitment by delivering life-changing literacy and numeracy remediation at a national scale. Meerkat Learning’s vision is that every school in the country will have free and effective TaRL classes by 2030.
In 2020, the TaRL program in Namibia started as a self-funded and voluntary community-based organisation. The program’s co-founders — Angelica Towne Amporo, Country Director; Ricella Mburuu, Lead Trainer & Government-Led Program Coordinator; Star Rousa Njosee Katjariwa, Model Schools Program Coordinator; and Atjihe Patience Kambindu, Office & Administration Coordinator — all experienced the foundational learning crisis firsthand through the struggles of their own children, friends, and families.
Over the past few years, the founding team has been supported by TaRL Africa, Youth Impact and a new organisation called Meerkat Learning with funding, training and technical assistance to establish a TaRL program.
Despite being classified as a middle-income country, Namibia has struggled to undo the legacy of economic and educational inequality from apartheid. Namibia has lower basic maths and literacy proficiency levels compared to Kenya and Tanzania (SACMEQ, 2013). The 2023 high school pass rate was a dismal 20 percent. In early 2023, there was an assessment of the basic literacy and numeracy levels of public primary school students in the capital region of Namibia. The Meerkat Learning team found that under 10 percent of the 6,000 children assessed could solve simple multiplication and division problems. According to the TaRL assessment, the majority of Namibian students in grades 3-5 are below grade level in numeracy.
Fortunately, we know that TaRL can change these low learning levels in weeks, not years. In the first term of 2023, we witnessed an increase in the percentage of students who could perform addition from 16 percent at baseline to 57 percent at endline.
Given Namibia also has the 8th highest youth unemployment rate in the world, the Meerkat Learning team’s strategy to leverage Namibian youth as volunteers in the TaRL intervention. Youth mobilisation has been important to the intervention – Three of four co-founders of the program were students at the University of Namibia in 2020 when the program began with a handful of children in a garage. Just three years later, the TaRL program in Namibia has now reached the milestone of impacting 10,000 children!
The amazing speed of the TaRL program scale-up in Namibia is driven by three factors:
- The passion and commitment of Namibian youth and communities to improve education outcomes;
- The Namibian Ministry of Education’s support for TaRL both financially and technically; and
- The TaRL program’s innovative use of low-cost locally available materials and immediate measurement of results
In the two regions that have active programs (Khomas and Kharas), TaRL has been embraced by teachers, parents, and, most importantly, the network of youth leaders across the country who either implement the program directly or support teachers to do TaRL as a school-wide program.
Learners participate in a TaRL literacy game. Credit: Meerkat Learning
When Meerkat Learning started, the team measured the progress of each child targeted by the intervention. Now, the team also measures progress by the number of schools, regions and national policies impacted. The Namibian government subsidises TaRL trainings, allocates staff time, and facilitates policy development activities. The Meerkat Learning team leverages government investment so much that almost half of the program costs are covered by the Namibian Ministry of Education. The TaRL program has been fully integrated as the regional remediation strategy for the capital region. The regional government’s Senior Education Officers co-trained with Meerkart Learning staff and are jointly monitoring program quality and fidelity. After just a three-day TaRL training, the capital region achieved a 92% teacher implementation rate!
“The TaRL training helped me to uncover the root cause of mathematics difficulties that I had during my teaching years. My kids love TaRL classes and they learn through playing. I now teach according to their learning level” said Ms. Felicia Christian, a Grade 3 Teacher from Saint Andrews Primary School as she reflected on the impact of the TaRL program in Namibia.
We look forward to expanding the TaRL program in Namibia in 2024 in partnership with the Namibian Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture. Moreover, the organization will actively seek to mobilize the required resources to support the endeavour successfully.