We join the World in celebrating The International Literacy Day! Early Childhood Development and Education is critical in preparing children to enter in their academic pursuit as well as in enhancing their physical, emotional and social development. Literacy has traditionally been thought of as reading and writing. Although these are essential components of literacy, today the understanding of literacy encompasses much more from the moment a child is born, his or her literacy journey begins. Children’s literacy abilities are nurtured through their families and communities and can be seen in an infant smiling or crying to communicate their needs to a parent, a toddler forming their first words, a preschooler singing a song and a parent and child reading and laughing over a story.

While implementing various projects aimed at promoting inclusion of children with disabilities in education,The Action Foundation (TAF) has learnt that Chidren with Disabilities who are enrolled in early childhood education programs – especially in low income settings – are far more likely to drop out or fail to transition to primary school than their peers. This can largely be attributed to the fact that they do not receive the individualized attention that they require in order to fully benefit from the learning process. Additionally, with no assessment at enrolment, or any other stage, ECD teachers are left unsure as to how to support learners with disabilities. These children are also deprived of early childhood development rights. Some of these are the right to play with other children; the right to enjoy their childhood like other children of their age; the right to form friendships; the right to opportunities and stimulation to promote their maximum development and realize their full potential.These factors combine to produce low learning outcomes, poor growth and development and consequently low transition rates to primary education.

Child reading with caregiver

Child reading with caregiver at The Action Foundation Hub

In August 2018, the Ministry of Education raised the alarm over 852,000 children aged between six and seven who were out of school. A third of that number, about 300,000, were children with disabilities. Realizing that bridging these gaps was an urgent necessity if CWDs are to be equal participants in, and beneficiaries of, ECD, TAF initiated a project dubbed “Somesha” The project seeks to support children with disabilities to access quality and inclusive education from their early years to the highest level possible.

Early literacy remains low in most areas of the country although strategies and interventions have been put in place by the Kenyan government, Non-Governmental Organizations and other stake holders in the education/children sectors to ensure all children over the country are not left behind. Some of the reasons why most children in the country are having below average literacy skills are due to lack of age-appropriate literary resources, low rates of caregiver literacy, and low levels of teacher support. Because of this, TAF has come up with Somesha Android App to address barriers that prevent children with disabilities from learning to read and support transition to higher levels.

The Somesha App has four main areas which include Library, Resources, Ask an expert and Latest News. All these areas ensure that parents, teachers and young learners access the resources, skills and support to advance early years education for all. It has a Library section which has several children story books with different reading levels. With this, children can start word reading, picture reading, writing and even drawing at an early age. Here is the link to download from Google Playstore where it is available as a free resource.