Uwezo’s annual learning assessments have in only five years become the gold standard for finding out whether our children are learning. Each year they assess children in their homes and put out reports detailing their findings for Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and the region. The cyclical nature of Uwezo’s work and the fact that there have been few changes in the data over the period meant that they had to do something else if they wanted policy makers to concentrate on quality. If Uwezo was to approach its goal of increasing literacy and numeracy by ten percentage points they realised they would have to raise their voices.
Regional head Sara Ruto, Kenya’s John Mugo, Tanzania’s Zaida Mgalla and Uganda’s Mary Goretti Nakabugo made a conscious decision to amplify their voices in the media. They would make themselves available to the media whenever possible and actively pursue media appearances. Now they are the go-to education experts in their respective areas, on every education correspondent’s speed dial.
It didn’t just happen over night, explains Sara Ruto: “You have to make the time for them. Media time is always weird time. The BBC will expect you in their studio at 6 am. And Citizen will want you in the Industrial Area at 9pm”.
Uwezo Uganda’s Nakabugo did some media training to make her feel more comfortable before the launch of their latest report. She memorised her key messages and stuck to them. “Close to 30 media people turned up, all asking ‘tricky’ questions” she says “but we stayed on focus: children’s learning!”
Just like everything else though, successful media engagement requires good planning, management and monitoring. Monitoring lead Zipporah Ongwenyi has identified that: “Uwezo must seize the opportunity and maximize on the good relationship with the media by being proactive and inviting the media for discussions and interviews that would contribute to tilting the conversation in education more towards learning outcomes”. To that end they have planned a series of media roundtables that will ensure they remain the go-to education experts they have worked so hard to become.