Think Creative - Issue 7

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Think Creative Spring 2020 Bilingual learning in Mozambique Catalyzing economic growth in West Africa Supporting women on the move By Creative Associates International

Building holistic education programs that go further than ‘students in seats’ Child Beyond & The Whole

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time “forgotten” by local authorities. “I’ve lived through things, I’ve survived,” she told me. Without testimonies like hers and the bullet holes riddling the walls across the community, it would be hard to imagine that such a bright place was once oppressed by crime and conflict. Mere survival is no longer the status quo. With the USAID Crime and Violence Prevention Project’s support, the Tikal Norte community is organized and dedicated to building an environment where its residents can thrive. The murals are just visual manifestations of a deeper change. The power of art became a recurrent theme in my time in El Salvador. From the restoration of an old theater to the use of storytelling to process trauma, a host of creative methods at the community and municipal level are interrupting the cycles of violence beleaguering the country. These moments of light pushing through a prolonged cloud of darkness are, for me, a testament to what is possible for El Salvador. n

Crime and Violence Prevention Project

By Janey Fugate, Writer and Editor

gang violence has not reported a single homicide in nearly two years. Their pride was brilliantly evident. A former gang member-turned-gardener, who after 10 years in prison returned to live in Tikal Norte, cut some mangoes from a tree and shared them with me. An elderly woman led me to a temporary police station, considered a major advancement in a place they said was for a long

When I set foot in Tikal Norte, a small community in Apopa, El Salvador, I was greeted by a friendly host of men and women, both old and young, wearing matching T-shirts. They guided me through the narrow streets under giant fruit trees, pointing out colorful murals and homes. Pausing to explain different aspects of the community’s transformation, they told the story of how a place once known as a battleground for

In this Issue

07 Dispatches

14 p.

Proponte Más by the numbers 10 p.

The Whole Child and Beyond

Updates from around our world

08 // Promoting local ownership in Honduras 09 // • Launch: Mimi’s Place Ethiopia • Pakistan Reading Project to close • Field Notes

10 // By the numbers: Proponte Más results 11 // Reaching Somalia’s out-of-school children 12 // In Focus: Mali Peacebuilding, Stabilization and Reconciliation program 14 Cover Package The Whole Child and Beyond Building holistic education programs that go further than ‘students in seats’

Mimi’s Place Ethiopia 09 p.

ON THE COVER: An Ethiopian girl smiles with her mother while holding her school books. Photography by Jim Huylebroek for Think Creative .

Photos by Janey Fugate (CVVP and top left); JimHuylebroek (bottom left, right)

4 | Think Creative | Spring 2020

Think Creative by Creative Associates International

Letter from Leland Kruvant President & CEO Creative Associates International


Founder & Board Chair Charito Kruvant President & CEO Leland Kruvant Chief Operating Officer Pablo Maldonado Chief Financial Officer Oswaldo Holguin Senior Vice President Thomas Wheelock Senior Vice President Sharon Cooley VP, External Relations Jessica Kruvant VP, Global Operations Mario Vilela VP, Education Eileen St. George VP, Economic Growth Jim Winkler

people through a door-to-door effort that busted myths, offered guidance and provided hand soap. It is during difficult times that people demonstrate their respon- siveness—and I have found it to be nothing short of incredible. I am immensely proud of our staff and partners around the world. Though the road is still very long, it reassures me that we will get through this together. Please stay healthy and enjoy your new issue of Think Creative. Sincerely,

Think Creative magazine goes to press during the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, a fast-mov- ing pandemic that has touched every program and community where we work. Today is a moment in history that tests our ability to ensure the well-being of our teammembers and deliver on our mission. Creative has confronted other crisis situations that have pushed our ability to be responsive and adaptive. However, there is no playbook for a pandemic of this magnitude and speed. All of us have learned a lot and are still discovering new approaches to living and working during this pandemic.

Our colleagues are rising to meet the challenge. In the field, I am inspired by on-the-ground leadership of our Chiefs of Party and their staffs’ commitment to continued service to their commu- nities while adapting to the reality of COVID-19. Across the globe, Creative’s talent- ed staff members are addressing the needs of communities and seeking solutions to programmat- ic demands. For example, our USAID-support project in Northeastern Nigeria made a quick pivot and launched a two-state campaign called #StopTheSpread. After training community groups, on day one they reached more than 5,000


Senior Director, Communications Michael J. Zamba Art Direction Amanda Smallwood Communications Manager Marta S. Maldonado Marketing Coordinator Evelyn Rupert Writers Janey Fugate Ashley Williams Digital & Social Media Specialist Olivia Chapman

20 Feature Stories 20 // Bilingual Education Strategy: A big win for learners in Mozambique  22 // Catalyzing Growth: Nigerian and U.S. officials kick off West Africa Trade & Investment Hub 25 Creative Life A mission-driven community 26 // Staff Spotlight: Naseer Ahmad Serving others through a career in IT 27 // Staff Photo Submissions 28 // Women on the Move: Recognizing women as a force for positive change 30// Walk this Way: A day in the life of Amina Aminu, Media Producer for Nigeria’s NEI Plus

Bilingual Education 20 p.

Women on the Move 29 p.

Think Creative is published three times a year by Creative Associates International, a global development organization dedicated to supporting people around the world to realize the positive change they seek. The content is produced by Creative and does not represent the policies or positions of its clients, partners or host governments. Reproduction of any or all of Think Creative is prohibited without prior written permission. Copyright ©2020.

Meet Naseer! 26 p.

For more information about Think Creative , please email us at

5301 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 700 Washington, DC 20015 + 202.966.5804 Creative Associates International

Photos by Skip Brown (Leland Kruvant, Naseer Ahmad); Erick Gibson (top); iStock (middle) | 5

Talent. Experience. Skill.

You got it? We want it.

Join our mission for a better world. Visit our career page at to view available jobs.

insights Leading Voices on Today’s Topics

Empowering Women in Agriculture in Rural Honduras

By Yajaira Hernández

Catch up on the latest blogs from our industry experts at

Political Reintegration and Elections

By Dean Piedmont

CreativeAssociatesInternational. com/category/insights

Potential Game-Changers of Afghanistan’s Economy

By Nargis Nehan

6 | Think Creative | Spring 2020

Di spa t che s

Updates from around our world

Spectators gather to watch a girls basketball game in Maiduguri, Nigeria as part of a USAID Women, Peace & Security program.

Photo by JimHuylebroek | 7


updates from around our world

Local ownership, lasting legacy

Honduras // Alianza Joven

Arnold and Julia Linares have passed their commitment to the Rivera Hernandez Outreach Center on to their daughter, Sara (right), who oversees the center’s operations as its coordinator. Below: At the Outreach Center, kids and youth of all ages find a safe space to play and learn.

It’s early on a Saturday, but a few kids and volunteers are already at the Outreach Center, sweeping the floor, rearranging chairs and getting started on a game of foosball. They greet Arnold Linares as he unlocks the gym, classroom and computer lab spaces for the day. Linares, a pastor, and his family oversee this busy community center in the Rivera Hernan- dez district, a sector that has made slow but steady progress to reduce the high levels of gang violence that make it notorious. The Outreach Center has been a key part of that progress for more than a decade. Here children and youth find a safe space to build skills like leadership and goal setting, learn a trade, take computer classes, play music, make art or participate in sports. “It’s a great privilege that here, in this sector that used to be very violent, they created what was the first Outreach Center,” says Linares. “Now we have more than 60 Outreach Centers across Honduras.” The Rivera Hernandez Outreach Center was established through a USAID programcalled Alianza JovenHonduras (Youth Alliance Hon- duras). Today there are 68 centers dotted across Honduras’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. And while Alianza Joven helped get many of the Outreach Centers off the ground, the centers have continued to operate and grow in number since the program’s scheduled close in 2017. Their sustained success is thanks to the leadership of the National Foundation for the Development of Honduras, known in Spanish as FUNADEH. “As early as 2012, we recognized FUNADEH’s potential to be a strong legacy partner with the expertise and passion to take over the Outreach Centers,” says Salvador Stadthagen, Director of Creative’s Latin America and Caribbean Strategy and former Chief of Party of Alianza Joven. “We have since seen how they have not just maintained the centers, but continued to evolve, expand and meet the needs of these communities.” Alianza Joven partnered with FUNADEH to develop an Outreach Center in Chamelecón, another high-violence area outside of San

with a unique approach to engaging communi- ties,” says Marco Matute, Deputy Chief of Party of the Genesis project. Since Alianza Joven ended, FUNADEH has expanded the Outreach Centers’ offerings to include additional resources and opportunities for children and youth. It has also developed significant support for the Outreach Centers from local governments and businesses, greatly reducing contributions by USAID. FUNADEH has leveraged $2.7 million in investments frommore than 50 private sector companies. An additional $6.6 million in resources have been mobilized from local and national government agencies, universities and nongovernmental organizations. Looking ahead, FUNADEH is working on cre- ating a National Outreach Center Association to further cement the centers’ sustainability and local ownership, so that Outreach Centers like the one in Rivera Hernandez can continue to serve vulnerable populations. “Outreach Centers have provided immeasur- able benefits to the lives of children and youth living in these communities,” Matute says. “And they are stronger than ever.” n

Pedro Sula. And in 2013, FUNADEH began overseeing seven Outreach Centers in the San Pedro Sula area. From there, the partnership grew and over time, the organization expanded its leadership of the Outreach Centers. FUNADEH later signed a cooperative agreement with USAID and estab- lished the Genesis project, through which it is still running the Outreach Centers today. “FUNADEHwas strengthened with the oppor- tunity of working with Creative as a partner, adopting positive and effective practices in social development and violence prevention,

Photos by Janey Fugate

8 | Think Creative | Spring 2020

Field Notes

m Education

Gateway to Education Creative has begun work in Yemen on Gateway to Education. The project will work toward safe and equitable access to quality education through the formal school system for boys and girls in host and IDP communities. READ II The 10,000 community literacy leaders serving the READ II project across Ethiopia were celebrated with an event in Addis Ababa. Libya Electoral Security Planning and Implementation (LESPI) The Libya Electoral Security Planning and Implementation (LESPI) program recently conducted two workshops with several elections commissions and government agencies to build their electoral security capacity. girls in the state of Borno built self-confidence and an ability to advocate for themselves through a series of Women, Peace and Security efforts. USAID/OTI-funded activities included soccer, basketball, book clubs and debate teams. Development Aprendo y Emprendo In Nicaragua, Aprendo y Emprendo recently expanded its capacity to teach digital communications skills in technical centers through a series of workshops for instructors and staff.

Preschoolers whose parents work at Ethiopia's READ II program now have a place of their own.

Ethiopia // Mimi’s Place

The term “mimi” means “little girl” in Ethiopia’s offi- cial language, Amharic. The word gained a whole new meaning in February when Creative’s early childhood education center, called Mimi’s Place, opened in the capital of Addis Ababa. Mimi’s Place is a unique benefit for Creative’s staff implementing the USAID READ II project, who can leave their children at the center during the work day. Using a methodology called the Creative Way, 11 students ranging from ages 3 to 6 learn essential social skills through six curriculum areas: literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, the arts and nutrition. This curriculum promotes learning in a creative, hands-on way through interactive activi- ties, games and learning assessments.

The first Mimi’s Place was established in Lusa- ka, Zambia, in 2016 in honor of Creative’s late co-founder, Mimi Tse, who championed access to quality education. Based on its now almost five-year success, Creative expanded this one-of-a-kind early childhood education center to Ethiopia. Head teacher Etsehiwot Teferi believes that Mimi’s Place is more than just a school. “Mimi’s Place is not only designed for kids,” Teferi says. “Through the teaching process, I also learn a lot from the kids’ smiles, creativity and courage to learn new things. For me, Mimi’s Place is not only a school or kids’ center, it is a home. I wish in the future for other Ethiopian kids to get the chance to pass through the Creative Way curriculum.” n

m Elections


m Political Transitions Nigeria/OTI More than 200 adolescent

Pakistan // Pakistan Reading Project

The USAID-funded Pakistan Reading Project is coming to a close after successfully improving the reading skills of over 1.3 million children in grades 1 and 2 since 2013. It was implemented by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in partnership with Creative, World Learning and IRM. In the Sindh Province:

m Workforce




Photos by JimHuylebroek (top); Pakistan Reading Project (right) | 9


updates from around our world

Counselor Dinora Izaguirre meets with a family at

their home in Tegucigalpa.

Family counseling: By the numbers Honduras // Proponte Más

After four years of working with Honduran youth most vulnerable to gang violence, the USAID Proponte Más project is coming to a close. The project used a family-centered approach to promote stability in high-risk communities and foster institution-wide transformation.

Learn more about the project's impact by visiting our Special Reports page:

Photo by Janey Fugate

10 | Think Creative | Spring 2020


• 1,107 youth ages 8 to 17 completed the family counseling intervention • 79 % of youth significantly reduced their risk level • 1,344 families benefited from community activities

Bar ama Baro will target out-of-school children and youth to increase enrollment, create safe learning spaces and improve literacy, numeracy and socio-emotional skills.


Photo by JimHuylebroek

Creative to support out-of-school children in Somalia with nearly $50 million USAID education project

• 42 professionals joined a volunteer service network to support communities • 837 service hours completed by professionals in the network in five cities • 30 professionals enrolled in family counseling or juvenile justice and child protection master’s programs

Somalia // Bar ama Baro

other successful Somali-led literacy campaigns.” Bar ama Baro builds on Somalia’s new national cur- riculum and Education Sector Strategic Plan, which lays out a stronger, inclusive vision for education. The newly announced program already has the support and interest of key officials in Somalia. “My gratitude goes to USAID for its tireless support in education for our children, particularly disadvan- taged groups,” said Somali Minister of Education, Culture and Higher Education Abdullahi “Godah” Barre in an announcement from the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu. “I trust that this intervention will make a positive impact on our education system, particularly access, quality and governance.”  Creative’s expertise working in conflict and post-conflict areas, particularly in education, will be leveraged to ensure the success of USAID’s Bar ama Baro, said Leland Kruvant, Creative’s President and CEO. “Bar ama Baro is an incredible opportunity to enroll more out-of-school children and youth in accelerated education programs while improving the safety and quality of education,” said Kruvant. “We are proud to continue our work in Somalia and be a partner as the country further develops institutions that serve the wellbeing of its people.” Creative is also implementing the Bringing Unity, Integrity and Legitimacy to Democracy (BUILD) project in Somalia. The project is providing critical assistance to help build electoral systems, strength- en civil society and encourage civic participation in Somalia, with a particular focus on women, youth and other marginalized groups. n

A five-year U.S. government program in Somalia to increase access to quality education and support accelerated learning for out-of-school children and youth who have been persistently left behind is being implemented by Creative and its partners. Funded by USAID, the nearly $50 million program Bar ama Baro (“Teach or Learn” in Somali) will target Somali out-of-school children and youth ages 8 to 15 to increase student enrollment, create safe learning spaces and improve literacy, numeracy and socio-emotional skills. Eileen St. George, Vice President of Creative’s Education Division, highlighted the urgent need for this type of U.S.-supported initiative and its commitment to building the expertise of the So- mali government to support these students. “Creative is eager to continue this momentum and begin to tackle the challenging issue of out- of-school children and youth, who make up 70 percent of Somalia’s school-age population,” said St. George. Under Creative’s direction, Bar ama Baro will be implemented with Save the Children, ORB Interna- tional, Charlie Goldsmith Associates and SIL LEAD. When USAID announced Bar ama Baro, the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Y. Yamamoto reinforced U.S. support for the country, particularly in the area of education. “This U.S. government investment will give vul- nerable Somali students vital skills so that they can contribute in a meaningful way to their society,” said Ambassador Yamamoto in an October 2019 statement. “The program focuses on teacher qual- ity and student learning and invokes the spirit of


• 4 municipal councils trained in family counseling • 16 organizations certified as service providers for youth with alternative measures to detention • 3 new family counseling clinics for gender-based violence opened • Training manuals, videos and tools available for replication of the family counseling model | 11


updates from around our world

12 | Think Creative | Spring 2020

Program in focus A closer look at Creative’s work in action

A group of teachers gathered in this classroom in Segou, Mali, and took their seats for a training. But the workshop was not focused on the typical professional development for educators or the latest teaching techniques. Instead, Abdulai Mohammed was there to talk with his fellow teachers about ways to mitigate violent extremism. In this workshop, teachers discussed how they can be on the front lines of preventing violent extremism by building the resilience of their students. The training was organized through the USAID-funded Peacebuilding, Stabilization and Reconciliation program, which aims to build trust and social cohesion between conflict-affected communities and their government, and to help communities detect, mitigate and manage conflict. The program works in 46 communes in northern and central Mali, including Segou, where youth are often vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremist organizations. The program fosters community-led action and local ownership of peacebuilding processes and gives educators tools to be a positive force for peace in their schools and communities. n “I love my country. I want peace for my country. I want peace for the world.” Mali Peacebuilding, Stabilization and Reconciliation program - Abdulai Mohammed, Teacher

Photo by Beyond Borders Media | 13

Building holistic education programs that go further than ‘students in seats’ Child Beyond & The Whole

By Ashley Williams

14 | Think Creative | Spring 2020

Students in Afghanistan, and across the countries where Creative operates, are benefiting from a holistic approach to education.

Photo by JimHuylebroek | 15

The whole child and beyond

The whole child approach opens doors for more students to succeed.

In rural Mozambique, Felix Francisco and his 5-year-old son, Atanásio, sit on the ground beneath a tree with other families. A facilitator guides them through activities that get them dancing, singing and —most importantly — talking. Rarely seen inmuch of Mozambique, these enriching conversations between kids and their parents are critical to children’s development. Francisco and his son are participating in a Vamos Ler! /Let’s Read! community activity that works in tandemwith this USAID program’s ef- forts in the classroomand the national Bilingual Education Strategy. It is this type of compre- hensive approach that Creative strives for when designing results-driven education projects. “There used to be the ‘students-in-seats’ idea that if they were in school that was enough, but we know now that it isn’t,” says Janet Shriberg, Ed.D., M.P.H., Creative’s Senior Advisor of Child Protection andWell-Being. Karen Tietjen, Principal Technical Advisor for Creative’s Education Division, developed the “whole school, whole teacher, whole child” ap- proach. The approach was introduced in 2012 as part of the USAID Read to Succeed project in Zambia, which included funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Tietjen and her team crafted their holistic approach to marry the health and education components. This methodology is now the cornerstone of Creative’s education programs. “Our whole child, whole teacher, whole school approach recognizes that for learning to take place you have to provide the conditions that enable the child to learn in the classroom, at the school, at home and in the community,” says Tietjen. Two critical aspects Creative looks at are the different parts of a child’s wellbeing (physi- cal, social, emotional and cognitive) and the stakeholders in the school ecosystemwho are able to support learning (students, parents, teachers, school directors, communities and the government). Creative-implemented projects across the world are engaging these stakeholders to address needs and encourage participation in creating the conditions necessary for student success.

“Our whole child, whole teacher, whole school approach recognizes that for learning to take place you have to provide the conditions that enable the child to learn.”

Karen Tietjen, Principal Technical Advisor for Creative’s Education Division

poverty over the last decade. Students do not enroll, attend or remain in school as they grapple with the effects of hunger, violence and displacement. Combined with other issues — disability, mi- nority language, gender and ethnic marginal- ization — schools are unprepared to cope with factors that prevent attendance and learning.

“We know that educators, parents and com- munities can all teach the students, as well as

enable them to learn,” says Tietjen. Catering to the whole child

A number of shocks in Ethiopia, from drought to regional conflict, have contributed to an increase in the number of people living in

Photo by JimHuylebroek

16 | Think Creative | Spring 2020

Even without a traditional classroom, well-equipped teachers can make a strong impact on a student’s learning.

this approach is that it equips the most import- ant people in a child’s life with strategies they can incorporate into their homes, classrooms and communities. “The cool thing about the toolkit is that it brings together lots of stakeholders with the common goal of supporting the child’s wellbeing,” says READ II Project ManagerMegan Schug. As part of the project’s grants initiative, schools select several modules from the toolkit and make an implementation plan in order to receive grant funding fromREAD II to carry them out. One such module is the Early Warning System that identifies students at risk of dropping out using readily available data about student attendance, behavior and performance and triggers a series of timely responses to help them stay in school and thrive. Other modules focus on back-to-school campaigns to encour- age re-entry of students who have dropped out, creating child-friendly school environments, supporting gender equitable schools, and more. Literate or not, all parents and commu- nity members can support education Many factors influence student performance, and among the most important are parental involvement and support. Parents and care- givers are a child’s first educators. They are crucial in building the linguistic foundations for their children’s future school success. According to 2017 World Bank data, nearly 40 percent of adults inMozambique are illiterate and many feel they cannot participate in their children’s education. Rural families typically do not have reading material at home and most children’s first experience with a book is when they receive their grade 1 textbook at school. Corrie Blankenbeckler, Creative’s Senior Technical Advisor, and her team designed the Conversemos!/Let’s Talk! approach for USAID’s Vamos Ler !/Let’s Read! It works to encourage parents of all literacy levels to un- derstand their role as educators and support their children’s learning. A staple of Let’s Talk’s community-based ap- proach is promoting “nutritious talk” between parents and students outside of the formal

Felix Francisco and his 5-year-old son Atanásio participating in the Let’s Talk! activity in Mozambique.

Creative began implementing its Whole Child approach in a project in Zambia that integrated health and education.

The toolkit, which is part of the project’s wid- er literacy initiatives, consists of eight mod- ules that address school dropout, inclusive education and gender-based violence, among other concerns. Promoted to tend to vulnerable students, the toolkit casts a wide net that delivers useful best practices to support all students. The power in

“If their social-emotional development isn’t being attended to, it’s hard for students to learn,” says Shriberg. To address these issues, the USAID READ II project in Ethiopia developed a Student Success and Support Toolkit for schools and communities to holistically meet the needs of at-risk and vulnerable primary school students.

Photo by JimHuylebroek (top); Valdimar da Fonesca (middle); David Snyder (bottom) | 17

The whole child and beyond

Training educators, like this one in Pakistan, how to teach effective reading is critical to student success.

Educator development for stronger teachers and classrooms A fragile context like Afghanistan creates a challenging environment for education to thrive. Teachers have limited opportunities to formally develop their skills and both they and students suffer as a result. USAID’s Afghan Children Read project has incorporated teacher professional develop- ment as a core part of its work to improve the quality of literacy and learning instruction in the country. “Any time you provide a teacher with tools to be successful, the success begets success. It’s a wonderful cycle,” says Susan Hirsch-Ayari, Project Director for Afghan Children Read and Director of Creative’s Middle East and Asia Education Portfolio. Teachers receive training through the project and continue to grow through ongoing coach- ing, mentoring and teacher learning circles. This type of in-school teacher support system is new to Afghanistan. Agatha J. van Ginkel, Ph.D., Senior Education Advisor for the project in Kabul, explains that this approach has changed the relationship among teachers, supervisors and students. “Before the current system, academic super- visors would travel around to schools and pro- vide support to teachers. But they very much functioned as supervisors and the schools would feel it was an examination and a perfor- mance review rather than receiving support,” says van Ginkel. Now, principals and head teachers are trained on what to look for and apply that knowledge to regular classroom observations. They then provide individual feedback to teachers and facilitate teacher learning circles where the educators can share their experiences, tips, frustrations and support. Afghan Children Read created a continuous as- sessment book that guides teachers on how to evaluate their students on major competencies like reading, writing, listening and speaking. Teachers record their evaluations in the books and discuss them during teacher learning cir- cles to identify successes and challenges. “Coaching is something very new,” says Ahmad Wali Faizi, the project’s Teacher Training Man-

school system— like between Felix Francisco and his son, Atanásio. “A lot of kids hear mostly negative talk when they’re in their younger years. It’s mostly commands or prohibitions and there’s not a lot of positive interactions,” says Blankenbeckler. “Nutritious talk, which we also call rich talk or dialogic conversation, turns that on its head.” Joanie Cohen, Ed.D., Project Director of Vamos Ler !/Let’s Read! explains that inMozambique, and in much of where Creative works, parents or caregivers often do not have the luxury of having enriching discussions with their children. “These cultures have these rich folktales, but when life is difficult and you’re really worry- ing about what you’re going to eat and where you’ll sleep, it’s hard to incorporate meaningful language into your everyday interactions with children,” says Cohen. The Let’s Talk! materials use pictures and icons to represent various recognizable aspects of local life to initiate rich conversations between parents and children regardless of literacy levels. The project team provides training and materials used to guide and structure the sessions, which are run twice a week by trained volunteer facilitators selected from the communities. The sessions are conducted in the local lan- guage, which enables parents and children to participate confidently. This type of exchange between parents and children stimulates the child’s cognitive development. Children learn to value communication and reading and are motivated to learn and ask questions.

“We used to be in the dark, maintaining an authoritarian environment with our children,” says Felix Francisco. “Now, I talk to my child in a friendly way. He enjoys playing with me and it makes him so happy. I believe this will contrib- ute significantly to his school performance.” Initial feedback on the Let’s Talk! sessions from parents and children has been overwhelmingly positive. Community leaders, such as heads of the school councils, say they enjoy attending the sessions even when they don’t have children of their own participating. In communities without preschools or out-of-school enrichment activities for young learners, the Let’s Talk! ses- sions have become known as “kindergarten.”

Catering to the whole child involves engaging the stakeholders in a child’s life that can make a difference.

Photo by Pakistan Reading Project (top); JimHuylebroek (bottom)

18 | Think Creative | Spring 2020

Right: Building the capacity of Local Government Authorities in Northern Nigeria is helping equip teachers with the training and resources they need to succeed. Below: A teacher in Afganistan observes as her student writes on the board.

ager. “Teachers are learning how to learn from each other, how to work together, how they can provide good feedback to each other. And they are appreciating it.” Even though many teachers in Afghanistan have other jobs as well — since they are not em- ployed full-time as educators — they see it as an investment to carve out time during off hours to attend the teacher learning circles. The project has seen positive results for teach- ers, who now feel more confident, and students, who get to learn in a better environment. According to van Ginkel, students whose teachers receive coaching on a regular basis are performing better than students whose teachers do not receive regular coaching. The Early Grade Reading Assessment midline conducted in Herat showed that coaching is positively associated with student oral reading fluency scores.

“This is not [only] about reading,” Solomon says. “This is about system strengthening to achieve improved learning outcomes.” NEI Plus is building programmatic own- ership among federal, state, and the Local Government Authorities. The project seeks to strengthen local authorities’ ability to train and manage teachers, carry out professional development, strengthen school governance, mobilize community support for learning and ensure the timely distribution of materials. “All we do is strengthen, strengthen, strength- en so the system becomes efficient enough to deliver quality support and services to the Local Government Education Authorities and schools, because they are our main partners,” says Solomon. “I hate the word beneficiary. They are our part- ners. Even the kids are our partners,” he adds. One part of this ownership is, of course, finan- cial. Early in the program, NEI Plus absorbed more cost relative to the host government. Now in the project’s final year, Nigeria state and local authorities have assumed nearly all of the spending. Bauchi and Sokoto are now at the point where they are contributing more than $4 million to material printing and scaling up the teacher training model to more Local Government Authorities. “At some point or another, these states will have to graduate from aid,” says Solomon. “We are sowing the seeds to enable state govern- ments to lead and function within their own financial means.” It is through this system strengthening, both at the remote government level and the tangible community level of a father and son talking together under a tree, that children are able to grow into their potential. n With reporting by Valdimar da Fonseca, Homa- yun Sediqi and Michael J. Zamba

“Any time you provide a teacher with tools to be successful, the success begets success. It’s a wonderful cycle.”

Susan Hirsch-Ayari, Project Director for Afghan Children Read

have been mismanaged, are underfunded, or are enduring conflict. In Nigeria, for example, communities lack trust in weak governmental systems struggling to provide quality education, according to Semere Solomon, Senior Director of Creative’s Africa Regional Center. USAID’s Northern Education Initiative Plus (NEI Plus) is working to improve access and quality of education in Northern Nigeria’s Bauchi and Sokoto states. “In addition to making sure teachers are well-trained, providing quality textbooks and supplementary reading materials, and mobilizing communities, our main focus is to support systems,” says Solomon, who oversees the project.

“Teaching early grade students becamemuch more interesting and effective compared to four years ago,” says Sayed Ahmadzai, a grade 2 teacher inNangarhar province. “Previous- ly there was neither an observation formon which we could evaluate the performances of our students nor a specific teachingmethod for early grade learning. Nowwe have the students’ continuous assessment book, colorful textbooks and teachers’ guides, which helpedme andmy students to be active and enjoy the class.” Supporting governmental systems that work for students When we zoom out from individual school, classroom, family and student settings, there is a larger system at play to support their success. Students suffer when government institutions

Photo by Erick Gibson (top), JimHuylebroek (bottom) | 19

Bilingual education has been shown to improve school performance in children in Mozambique.

Only 10 percent of Mozambican children speak Portuguese when they begin school. Teaching in their local language helps get them started.

20 | Think Creative | Spring 2020

Education Strategy Bilingual

A big win for learners in Mozambique 

By Leopoldino Jerónimo. Photos by Erick Gibson

A new 10-year national Bilingual Education Strategy that sets out a plan for all teachers across the country to be proficient in teaching bilingual education classes by the end of 2029 is under review by Mozambique’s Council of Ministers. The strategy is the result of a successful pilot phase of bilingual education, which showed improvements in relations between teach- ers and students and in the children’s school performance. Although limited in scope, the pilot demonstrated that bilingual education is successful in delivering literacy and numeracy skills to early grade children in the Mozambi- can context. Four main areas have been defined to reach the strategy’s goals by 2029: provision of school material; initial and in-service teacher training; mastering the transition model from native language to secondary language for instruction; and community mobilization. In a country where more than 40 languages are used and where most people are not native speakers of the national language, Portuguese, bilingual education is critical to student suc- cess, education experts say. With only 10 percent of Mozambican children able to speak Portuguese when they begin school, this new bilingual initiative has the potential to extend education opportunities

The Let’s Read! program’s essence is the focus of the pending national strategy. Training teachers in bilingual education and producing teaching and learning materials in so many languages requires resources that have not been available until now. Some of the main challenges have included the training and con- tinuous professional development of teachers, provision of school supplies — especially books — and the regulation, pace and sustainability of expansion. Let’s Read! is the largest bilingual education expansion in the country to date. Operating in 13 Emakhuwa-speaking districts in Nampula and eight Elomwe- and Echuwabo-speaking districts in Zambézia province, the program has reached over 1,950 schools, 7,000 teachers and 400,000 students. Let’s Read! designed intensive teacher training courses and developed teaching and learning materials through an integrated and inclusive process by the Ministry. The program’s efforts to expand bilingual edu- cation include the standardization of national languages’ orthography, an instrument to guide those developing learning materials, and the teacher training program. By creating common ground, Let’s Read! and its partners engineered the building blocks to scale up their efforts nationwide. n

and increase student comprehension and performance for thousands of students. Failing to understand instruction, many learners leave primary school before graduating, and many of those who do complete primary school are unable to read and write well. Portuguese continues to be the language of instruction in most Mozambican schools, but efforts from the local government and educa- tion partners are transforming this practice. Going further with bilingual education The strategy was created with support from the USAID Vamos Ler !/Let’s Read! program in response to the Ministry of Education and Human Development’s mandate to improve education quality and reduce the illiteracy rate inMozambique. The strategy is a significant achievement that responds to the major needs of the country.  “USAID Let’s Read! continues to support Mozambique’s Ministry of Education and Hu- man Development in its expansion of the new Bilingual Education Strategy, which respects and promotes local languages and cultures,” says programChief of Party Leesa Kaplan. “Students learn better and faster in a language they can understand, and parents and commu- nities can be more involved in school and their children’s education.” | 21

Over 200 attendees came to the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub official launch in Abuja, Nigeria on Jan. 28, 2020.

Catalyzing Growth

Nigerian and U.S. officials kick off West Africa Trade & Investment Hub

By Janey Fugate. Photos By David Rabinovitz

22 | Think Creative | Spring 2020

The Nigerian Minister for Women’s Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, was one of the marquee speakers at the Trade Hub’s launch.

Chief of Party Michael Clements speaks to the press after the event. He highlighted the Trade Hub’s commitment to leaving a sustainable social impact.

More than 250Nigerian government officials, business executives and other stakeholders officially launched theWest Africa Trade and Investment Hub, which seeks to bolster trade, employment and innovation in key sectors. The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, kicked off the Jan. 28 launch by high- lighting the Trade Hub’s commitment to forging partnerships withWest Africa’s private sector and creating 40,000 new, sustainable jobs in West Africa. “These partnerships support Nigeria’s efforts to expand its economy, with a focus on non-oil sectors with high growth potential, notably the agriculture sector,” she told the audience. Building the agriculture industry’s produc- tivity and resiliency are among the issues the USAID–funded project aims to tackle. With its doors now formally open, the Trade Hub is a five-year activity, implemented by Creative and several partners, that will attract private finance and investment, build links among businesses and strengthen trade inNigeria, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana and other West African countries. As part of the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Fu- ture, the Trade Hub aims, with its partnerships and investments, tomake smallholder farmers

sector,” Creative’s President and CEO, Leland Kruvant, told attendees. Building on existing relationships and forging new ones, the Trade Hub’s partnerships are in- tended in part to “reduce Nigeria’s dependence on staple crops like rice and other agricultural goods,” said Cheryl Anderson, the Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Africa Bureau. In addition to the agriculture sector, the Trade Hub’s partnerships will target deals in the apparel, aquaculture and service industries. Governor Ayade emphasized the importance of relationships. “For once we have a country giving us partner- ship, not aid,” he said. “Agriculture is the new oil” Senator Ina Etang, one of the Nigerian gov- ernment officials at the launch, addressed the audience with these words: “Agriculture is the new oil.” This pithy statement underscores the potential for growth in the agriculture sector inWest Africa, particularly Nigeria. The Trade Hub’s activities will primarily target themaize, soy, cowpea, rice and aquaculture value chains. Lack of access to capital, low productivity and isolation have prevented

more food secure and raise household incomes. This initiative “is in a sense far more spiritual than economic; it is about the essence of hu- manity,” said Cross River Governor Ben Ayade at the Trade Hub’s launch. “We needmoney and technical support for small-scale farmers. Then they will begin to feel a sense of pride.” The energy around the event was palpable, as speakers highlighted the immense potential Nigeria has for economic growth and leadership in the region. Home to half of West Africa’s pop- ulation, Nigeria is positioned to transform its economy into an agricultural powerhouse and a The Trade Hub hopes to foster innovation and challenge the private sector tomeet the demand of international markets, while improving its citizens’ livelihoods. As part of Prosper Africa, the U.S. government’s initiative to boost trade among the United States and African countries, the Trade Hub will administer $60million in co-investment grant funds, ameasure that ex- pects to attract a projected $300million in new private-sector investments. “Prosper Africa represents a new and innovative framework that seeks to liberate andmobilize the talents and capabilities of Africa’s private world-recognized exporter. Not aid but partnership | 23

West Africa Trade Hub Launch

Right: Creative leadership stands with U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard (center right). After the event, Creative hosted a dinner for business leaders to learn more about the Trade Hub. Bottom left: An event attendee holds his company’s signature product, a nutrition-packed peanut snack he hopes to make more popular on the market. Bottom right: Members of the Trade Hub team from Abuja pose for a group photo before the launch.

small farmers from scaling up and have kept the country reliant primarily on exports to feed its population. “Only 6 percent [of the profit] goes back to the farmer, so the farmer farms in vain,” said Gover- nor Ayade. “So we believe that this project will help us to scale up and increase the amount of money that goes into the pocket of the farmer.” With Africa’s population growing exponentially and its production capacity threatened by en- vironmental pressures, food security is amajor goal of the Trade Hub. Connecting these small- holder farmers to firms that can help themgrow sustainably and investing in their productivity are critical pieces of the puzzle. Recognizing that innovation will be essential in helping these producers grow, the Trade Hub will also offer research and development grants for new agricultural technologies, and will work to transformall levels of production and distribution. “If we don’t unlock capital, we will be in trou-

“I want to change the narrative and improve the lives of women and children,” she told the audience. Women still face skepticismwhen doing busi- ness in the private sector, and cultural barriers often hinder their chances of participating in both national and international markets. Access to capital is amajor obstacle for economic growth in the region, and this is exaggerated when women seek loans for their initiatives, no matter how viable theymay be. Michael Clements, the Chief of Party of the Trade Hub, emphasized that the five-year project’s return on investment is its “social and environmental impact.” Empowering women is the key to achieving sustainable economic growth and the cornerstone of the social impact the Trade Hub hopes to catalyze, he said. n

ble,” said attendee Ayodeji Balogun, CEO of AFEXCommodities Exchange. “Partners like Trade Hub will help catalyze growth.” Promoting sustainable economic inclusion Nearly every presenter at the launch highlighted the Trade Hub’s explicit commitment to work- ing with women entrepreneurs inWest Africa and addressing the gender-specific, cultural barriers they face when entering themarket. Of the 40,000 new jobs the Trade Hub aims to create, half are slated for women. The NigerianMinister of Women’s Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, said that investing in women “is investing in the community, the nation and the world.”

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Crea t i ve Li f e A mission-driven community

From left: Berihun Ali, Michael J. Zamba and Tadele Haile on a hill overlooking the Kebribeyah camp for internally displaced persons in the Somali region of Ethiopia, where READ II is providing support.

Photo by JimHuylebroek | 25

Creative Life

As both an HQ employee and field staffer, Naseer Ahmad has supported Creative programming in his home country and around the world.

a mission-driven community

Growing up in Afghanistan, Naseer Ahmad would ask his dad to bring home small elec- tronics so he could take themapart and rebuild them. Today, he has much larger electronic puzzles to solve: protecting Creative from cyberattacks. Naseer is Creative’s Information Security Spe- cialist andHelp DeskManager, overseeing the HQ and field offices’ IT support. On the cyberse- curity side of his job, he’s safeguarding Creative’s systems fromcyberattacks and training staff on how to protect themselves fromwould-be hackers. “I identify and analyze potential and actual security incidents to safeguard our informa- tion. The human factor plays amajor role in making companies vulnerable, because we all makemistakes,” Naseer says. “Unfortunately, most cybersecurity attacks are designed to take advantage of these human errors.” Naseer started out in Creative’s D.C. office about four years ago and has worked his way up from a network administrator position. But his Cre- ative career began back in Kabul in 2009, when he took a job as an IT assistant and supported several of Creative’s programs in Afghanistan. For Naseer, the connection to the development industry is personal. As the conflict in Afghanistan erupted, Naseer lost classmates and neighbors to rocket strikes at school and near his home. “I remember when a rocket landed next to our home, and we were just wondering who had been killed— if it was a child or a friend,” he recalls. His family was forced to pack up a few belong- ings in a friend’s car and flee to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Despite the hardships at home and in Pakistan, Naseer managed to continue his education and worked after school in a tailoring shop to pay for his and his siblings’ school fees. He took as many courses as he could in IT— a skill he hoped to use to help his country rebuild. The family was able to return to Kabul in 2005, whenNaseer’s father got a job offer froman international NGO Naseer Ahmad Serving others through a career in IT Staff Spotlight

Harley Black, Creative’s Senior Procurement and Database IntegrationManager. Black told Naseer about an open network administrator position at Creative and encouraged him to apply. In the years that followed, Naseer advanced his career at Creative, bought a house in Virginia and recently earned his master’s degree in cybersecurity. And he’s had the opportunity to return to Afghanistan to support current pro- grams, including Afghan Children Read. Naseer’s IT and cybersecurity skills could be applied to any number of industries. But he finds working in development themost rewarding. “I like the way Creative helps people, because I came from the same background. I was one of those people,” he says. “When I work for a company like Creative that supports education in other countries, I feel like I’mhelpingmy own classmates.” And what’s next? Naseer says his dad has some ideas: “I was talking to him last week and he said, ‘Hey, Naseer, start thinking about your Ph.D.” n

serving refugees. And with his IT experience, Naseer followed suit, working for a fewNGOs, as well as for Creative. “I wanted to contribute to Afghanistan. I wanted to work for my country,” he says. But in Afghanistan, working with international organizations comes with its own risks. Naseer’s father was imprisoned by the Taliban for several days, and he decided to leave his job for the safe- ty of his family. The Talibanwould later threaten Naseer, too, and demand that he quit his work. With a wife and family of his own by that time, Naseer applied for a special U.S. visa for Afghans who work with U.S. organizations or themili- tary. Hemoved to Connecticut in 2014, starting over in an unfamiliar place. “I started everything fromzero,” he says. “We had a lot of challenges.” But Naseer’s drive and experience in the devel- opment industry quickly led him to D.C. and his first U.S. job with an international develop- ment organization. There, he reconnected with

Photo by Skip Brown

26 | Think Creative | Spring 2020

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