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Priyanka Handa Ram
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Ribbon HUNDRED 2021
A sustainable playgroup model transforming childhoods & uplifting communities, giving every child the opportunity to play, learn & thrive.

Learn To Play - Ithute Go Tshameka

location_on Botswana
Learn to Play harnesses the power of play to provide high-quality and culturally-relevant early childhood education. We train and equip motivated Mamapreneurs to lead playgroups in their communities. Easily scalable & replicable in a variety of contexts, our model leads to improved school readiness & holistic wellbeing for the entire family, enabling every child to reach their potential.
Priyanka Handa Ram, Founder
We need to transform the way the world cares for, educates & protects young children. For us this is more than a job; we’re pioneering programmes that create vibrant villages on the African continent.

Priyanka Handa Ram, Founder

Overview

HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2021

Key figures

Innovation Overview

ALL
Target Group
615
Children/Users
3
Countries
2017
Established
Not-for-profit
Organisation
815
Views
Updated on July 23rd, 2021
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about the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

In Botswana, 93% of children under the age of 5 do not have access to Early Learning & fail to reach their potential in cognitive development. Poverty, poor health and nutrition, as well as the lack of early stimulation holds these children back. In 2017, Priyanka founded Learn To Play with the vision to ensure that access to high-quality early childhood education was a right and not a luxury.

How does your innovation work in practice?

Learn To Play is a social enterprise that provides high-impact, scalable & sustainable early childhood solutions for children aged 0-5 and uplifts women's economic opportunities to create Vibrant Villages.

We approach ECD at a child, caregiver & community level to provide holistic solutions for children. Our programme utilises an untapped resource as the key change-agent: Mothers. Mamapreneurs are trained to establish community playgroups & deliver parenting programmes, improving children’s education & development using natural & local materials. This means the resources & people-power are readily available & our model can be delivered, scaled & sustained at low-cost.

Through our unique model (a play & learn curriculum, our Rainbow Play training, & a specially-designed playgroup in a box), communities build the resources they need for sustainable ECD.
Our parenting support strengthens the confidence & competence of caregivers, developing positive wellbeing for the whole family.

How has it been spreading?

Since 2017, we've opened operations in 4 communities and we've seen how education & nurturing care are intrinsically linked. We've learnt how important a dedicated, child-centered play area is & how working in strong partnerships can do more for a community than any single organisation. We’ve recently been allocated a plot of land by the village leadership to build our own playgroup structure. We provide healthy snacks for each child in our playgroups and parenting programmes are being launched in all our communities to help build vibrant villages.
We're contextualising the Learn To Play programme to incorporate mindfulness & peace-building to support families and children in Dukwi, a refugee camp in northern Botswana with UNHCR.
We aim to grow to 1 new community annually in Botswana.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

We thrive on partnerships and provide trainings on our unique approach to educators, schools and organisations across the globe. Learn To Play offers different play and learn products, courses and toolkits to demonstrate how scalable and easy-to-implement our approach is. Contact priyanka@learntoplay.org if you want to play for impact in your community.

Research

HundrED Academy Review

This seems highly effective and easily scalable. Empowering mothers to become engaged in their children's education from the beginning is an important way to ensure they continue to feel invested in their educational outcomes, and it seems the mothers here receive a lot of support to do this.

- HundrED Academy Member

Establishing this innovation in disadvantaged communities where poverty is high and most children don’t have any exposure to early childhood education, is a brilliant idea. This innovation has a high potential to scale as it creates opportunities for children to learn about themselves.

- HundrED Academy Member
IMPACT & SCALABILITY
Learn to Play is empowering communities by equipping mothers with the knowledge and skills to lead early childhood education lessons and help facilitate enriching play environments. This scalable model changes mindsets on education in lower income communities and empowers women in the community.
Academy review results
Scalability
Impact
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process
Media

See this innovation in action

Yoga and mindfulness with mothers and children in an inner city park
Outdoor play with Mamas in Kavimba
Go Baby Go training and resources, contextualised and translated into Setswana for wider accessibility. 
Positive Parenting workshop in Kacgae, a San bushmen community in Botswana. 
COVID-19 Response: Home-Visits
In light of playgroups being closed, our Mamapreneurs will be doing home visits and providing each child with their own unique play pack; they will engage with the children at home and support parents through a caregiver support programme. 
COVID-19 Parenting Tips with University of Oxford and University of Cape Town
Parenting can be difficult even at the best of times; for many of us, it’s even more stressful now - especially for families living in poverty and for children experiencing isolation and toxic stress. Learn To Play is proud to have helped the teams at The University of Oxford and University of Cape Town translate their parenting support posters for COVID19 into Setswana, making them accessible to families who need this information and support the most. https://www.covid19parenting.com/setswanaWe share these through parenting support groups via WhatsApp to parents and caregivers across Botswana.
The Learn To Play team
Pictured here are all our fabulous Mamapreneurs from across the country, our Play Rangers and staff - celebrating each other and what we do. 
Consortium of Pre-Primary Data and Measurement in Africa - Rwanda
Represented by our Board Chairperson at the prestigious consortium, we found that the presentations were insightful, reflecting the difficulties yet importance of data collection to catalyse impactful change. We are one of 9 African countries using the MODEL tool in our Monitoring and Evaluation for Learn To Play playgroups. 
Play-At-Home: COVID19 Response
Our WhatsApp group and Play-At-Home packs give parents and caregivers weekly activities to enhance resilience and explore possibilities to support themselves and children of all age groups and learning stages. The play at home kit covers 6 key areas of development as per our Rainbow Play Approach: Social and emotional development, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, language and literacy, cognitive and numeracy, fantasy and creative play. 
Creating a play-based curriculum
Our curriculum covers 15 themes for early childhood development that are contextulaised to the communities we serve, and cover social and emotional development, fine motor skills, literacy and communication, gross motor skills, numeracy and cognitive skills as well as creativity and imagination. 
Training over 80 early childhood teachers in rural Malawi
In 2019, we spent time serving communities in Malawi and training over 80 teachers in the The Rainbow Play method, sustainable play programmes, positive behaviour management, literacy and child protection training. 
Mobile Mentoring: COVID19 Support to 200 families
The WHO warned that effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns on at-risk children include anxiety, uncertainty, separation, disrupted routines and lack of safe spaces to feel loved, cared for and stimulated. To this end, we also launched our Mobile Mentoring programme to support families to continue playing, learning and thriving together despite the national lockdown. Our Playgroups may have closed but our interventions continue. That’s nearly 200 families around Botswana who benefit from weekly support calls from our team who are checking in on all children enrolled with us to see how they are doing. We have been coaching caregivers on simple play at home ideas; offering guidance on government and World Health Organisation COVID-19 policies and providing assistance and information wherever we can to keep their happiness levels high and anxiety low.
Sustainable Play Kits as a COVID19 Response
Currently, we are intensifying our efforts to bring Play to children at risk of isolation and neglect. With the uncertainty of when playgroups will resume, we are creating individual play-at-home kits for every child enrolled in our programmes throughout Botswana. The activities are open ended and cover the 6 key areas of development as per our Rainbow Play Approach: Social and emotional development, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, language and literacy, cognitive and numeracy, fantasy and creative play.
Nature Play
One of our mandates is community conservation and sustainable play. We use what we can find around us to build key skills in early childhood development. 
Food security and sustainable entrepreneurship through organic vegetable farming
Empty streets can mean empty plates for many in our communities.Before lockdown, we made sure that our Mamapreneurs replanted their vegetable gardens for winter so that they would have some food security for themselves and their families. They have reaped a wonderful organic harvest recently, with enough to feed their own families and others in their community.
Ecostraws made by Mamapreneurs from the Chobe Floodplains
Our Mamapreneurs make straws from reeds found on the Chobe riverbanks, these are then sold to lodges, restaurants, schools and cafes as an income generation and livelihood support project for families living in poverty. Plus they're eco-friendly and serve our mandate of community conservation and sustainability. 
Clean water and hygiene interventions
Through our mobile mentoring, we identify families on a weekly basis who still need help with food and essential toiletries. While most have been assisted through the government food hamper scheme, some households didn’t receive support. We have been able to reach out and support these families with essential food hampers as well as toiletries & cleaning supplies including laundry soap, body soap and sanitary pads. Through our mobile mentoring programme we have been chatting with families about access to water and soap. For those that don’t have access to running water, we guided and encouraged them to build a tippy tap. Over the last few weeks, families have built tippy taps in their yards and communities; they’ve shared pictures back with us of what they’ve made.
Mamapreneurs getting certified in First Aid
Mamapreneurs in Six Bricks LEGO Training
Six Bricks is a low-cost, high-impact programme from Care For Education and the LEGO Foundation. We have been trained by the team in South Africa to provide 6 Bricks and Playbox Training to impoverished communities in Botswana and received generous donations of LEGO/DUPLO bricks from them to support our interventions. 
Conservation & literacy through stories and hand-painted story-stones
One of the communities where we work is called Kavimba; it is in what is known as the "wildlife corridor" where it is common to have wild animals such as elephants, lions and buffalos in the area and communities have been coexisting with these animals for many generations. Our mission here is to cultivate this ethos of coexistence and community conservation from an early age. 
Sustainable numeracy and cognitive development
Fine Motor Mats & Home-made Books
Sustainable Play in a San Bushmen Community
One of the communities where we work is home to the Kalahari bushmen. They have been nomadic most of their lives and are now putting down roots to secure education and other opportunities for their children and themselves. They specifically asked for an early childhood programme in their community and we work closely with their tribal leadership to celebrate their indigenous cultural practices, art, skills and heritage - integrating them into our programme. 
Learn To Play / Ithute Go Tshameka
https://youtu.be/FGTxES6yhUE

Milestones

Achievements & Awards

May 2020
Innovation page created on HundrED.org
May 2019
We got published!
April 2019
Presented at The World Forum Foundation
February 2019
Presented at Africa Play Conference
October 2018
Presented A Poster at the Africa Early Childhood Network (AfECN) Conference
August 2018
Highlighting our Mamapreneurs as Women in Leadership at Women's Conference
October 2017
Keynote Speaker at the inaugural conference for Early Childhood Care and Education in Botswana
Map

Spread of the innovation

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Steps

Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

01
Support our work
Through sponsorship, fundraisers, and grants Learn To Play is able to sustainably scale our free interventions to children who need us the most. Every little bit counts!
Read more
02
Partner with us
We believe that partnerships with diverse communities, organisations and institutions can help us strengthen, deliver and scale our impactful programmes.
Read more
03
Consult with us
We share our expertise with community organisations, schools, early childhood providers, parents or any other organisation that would like to learn more!
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