How uneducated mothers in rural communities can become the teachers of tomorrow

An interview with the founder of 
Lively Minds,  Alison Naftalin

Lively Minds trains uneducated vulnerable mothers in highly deprived rural villages to run educational Play Centres for pre-school children using local materials.

Here is an interview with the founder of Lively Minds, Alison Naftalin, on education today and the importance of disruption:

Is education keeping up with 21st Century?

The reason we exist as a charity is because we feel that education isn't keeping up with the 21st Century and isn’t equipping children with the necessary skills for the future. We need to make sure that during the 21st Century, all children have equitable access to education, and that importance is given to early childhood learning.

Our theory of change is that we need to equip caregivers such as teachers and parents with the skills and aspiration to provide better opportunities for early childhood development

We realise the importance for children to start learning at a very early age. There is a huge amount of research that tells us the most critical time in a child's life is from birth to six years old, that is when the foundation for all future learning are laid. Children today are not getting those critical early learning opportunities. That is partly due to the fact that the quality of formal preschool provision is either non existent or is of very low quality. But mainly, this is due to parents not having the knowledge, the education or the aspiration to provide stimulating education opportunities for their children at home.

How is Lively Minds resolving this issue?

Our theory of change is that we need to equip caregivers such as teachers and parents with the skills and aspiration to provide better opportunities for early childhood development. We teach mothers in rural communities that have never had any education themselves and we show them ways that they can use their own local resources to provide quality education for their children.

We train mothers in communities to run "play schemes" and at these play schemes, children learn the important skills needed for the future. These are very simple games that we have all taken for granted when we were growing up but that are not always available to everyone today.

What led you to found Lively Minds?

When I was volunteering in Ghana eight years ago, I was struck by the fact that parents were struggling to get their children into primary school but at the same time, students in the primary schools were not getting the right education to prepare them for tomorrow. It made me think about what was essential and key in a child's learning. That is when I understood the importance of early childhood learning and the need for children to learn through play, to develop a wide range of skills that is not being development in schools at the moment.

I think children need problem-solving and critical thinking skills and innovation skills to become active changemakers and not passive recipients. It is about how you approach a problem, how you come up with your own solution, so creativity is a key part of learning. Research shows that learning through play fosters all of the learning needed for the good development of a child. With Lively Minds, we want to provide access to informal education in a playful and fun way for children to start with the right opportunities in life.

Lively Minds is a Champion of the Re-imagine Learning Challenge launched by Ashoka and the LEGO Foundation.

Ashoka and the LEGO Foundation believe in the need to re-imagine learning and in the importance of play as the best way for children to develop critical skills and engage them as creative changemakers.

We are selecting and supporting the first global network of social innovators to re-imagine learning for the 21st Century. For more information, check out our website, follow us onTwitter with #play2learn and on Facebook. If you or someone you know is re-imagining learning for the 21st century, nominate them here.

The above article by Ashoka first published on in Nov 2015.