Priyanka Handa Ram, Founder
Learn To Play
HundrED shortlisted this innovation
Learn To Play
What we do?
Learn To Play, or Ithute Go Tshameka in Setswana, enables mothers in vulnerable communities to establish child-centred, developmentally-appropriate, and culturally-relevant playgroups. We operate in disadvantaged communities where poverty is high and most children don’t have any exposure to early childhood education.
Our programme utilises an untapped resource as the key change-agent: Mothers. In each community 6 marginalised Mamapreneurs are empowered to improve their children’s education and development using recyclable and reusable materials as well as natural materials from their local environment.
This means that the resources and people-power are readily available and the Playgroup can be delivered, scaled and sustained at low-cost.
Each community receives a ‘Playgroup in a Box’, containing everything that a team of mamapreneurs needs to run their own playgroup: a daily curriculum; a low-cost resource development guide; stories, charts and other learning tools - which are all available in both English and Setswana.
Through our unique and scalable model (which includes a play and learn curriculum, our trademarked and specialised Rainbow Play training, our community conservation interventions, and the specially-designed ‘playgroup in a box’), communities build the skills and resources they need to uplift the children of their community, establishing a bridge between their community life and formal education.
How do we do it?
1. We invest early, to give every child a fair chance in life from the start.
2. We invest equitably, because the children with the least, benefit the most.
3. We invest smartly – not only in education, but also in health, nutrition & protection as they all work together to promote healthy brain development.
1. Learning Through Play
2. Uplifting Women’s Opportunities
More than 200 million children under the age of 5 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. Quality early childhood interventions for children under five should not be a luxury.
Our growth plans are developed with the communities we serve, as well as in our strategic plan for impact, scalability and sustainability. Over the past year of play, we've seen how education and health are intrinsically linked. We've learned how important a dedicated, child-centered play area is. We have learned how working in strong partnerships can do more for a community than any one single organization.
In the next 12 months, we will strengthen our services within our current 4 communities. We have recently been allocated a plot of land by the village leadership where we are building our own playgroup structure, and our partners, Cheetah Conservation Botswana, are building a similar playgroup structure in one of our other community locations. Further, we will now be providing healthy and nutritious snacks for each child in our playgroup programmes and we are exploring models for long-term engagement of our Mamapreneurs.
We strongly believe in nurturing existing and cultivating more community partnerships within Botswana. For example, we've been proud to work with Cheetah Conservation to provide holistic support to communities in the Ghanzi district. We look forward to doing more of this in 2020 with Botho University as we jointly uplift one more community through play, extending our direct impact to 5 communities, 35 women and 360 children & families.
We have also been approached by other community organisations, not-for-profits and private sector companies to partner and provide our expertise in sustainable early childhood programmes in areas where they work and will be launching new playgroups in more communities across Botswana next year. We continue to provide trainings on our unique approach to educators, schools and parents across the country - demonstrating how scalable and easy-to-implement our frameworks and tools are.
Learn To Play COVID-19 Response
Botswana faced several weeks of lockdown and for our communities on the margins, that has meant desperate threats into isolation and toxic stress. Despite the easing of lockdowns, the current restrictions still mean we have to temporarily close all playgroups across the country.
Health organisations worldwide are emphasizing on the importance of focusing wellbeing and wellness during the pandemic. We believe that it is imperative to create opportunities for children to manage emotions, express their concerns, have a routine, feel safe as well as relax and play. Therefore, instead of bringing the child to play, we brought play to the child.
Steps we are taking as an organisation:
1. Mental health support through wellbeing and mindfulness trainings for our staff
2. Individualised play and learn packs for every child. We marketed a "Buy One, Get One" play-at-home kit - made out of reusable materials - for more economically advantaged families to support our Learn to Play children. A win-win for both!
3. Home-visits for children who cannot attend playgroups
4. Parenting support interventions including a mobile mentoring programme
5. Training and professional development for educators and facilitators
6. Communication and coordination with partners, stakeholders and relevant government authorities
7. We are preparing for a safe and happy reopening focusing on safety, wellbeing and holistic child development from August as per government guidelines.
Many of our COVID-19 responses are highlighted below!
While at-risk children, including Learn To Play beneficiaries, are losing out on the safety and routine of playgroups, we are committed to build their resilience and happiness during these tough times. With the support of our partners & donors, Learn To Play’s interventions are impacting children across the country positively.