Since 2009, Mango Tree has been implementing the Northern Uganda Literacy Program (NULP) to address the complex challenge of early grade reading. Mango Tree was founded in Uganda in 2000 with the intention of increasing the number of quality of resources available to rural schoolteachers while simultaneously generating local employment. The goal was to create educational tools and products that made learning both fun and effective, and that were easy to implement, focusing on local languages. The project is implemented in the Lango sub-region covering eight districts and Lira Municipality.
After a successful pilot randomized control trial impact evaluation in 2013, the program scaled up in 2014 through additional funding from existing and new donors. The scale up began in 2014 with 128 primary schools involved.
Today, Mango Tree manufactures and distributes innovative educational tools for schools, health centers, and other organizations/companies, and provides training in how to use them effectively. Mango Tree's products include educational games and toys, pictorial charts, counseling tools for health care workers, and large format story charts used to ignite discussion on subjects such as gender, communication, and HIV/AIDS. Many of the educational tools are made from locally available materials like grain sacks, bottle tops, recycled slippers, bicycle spokes, gourds, and plastic cans, which makes them easy to replicate by low-income educators across East Africa. Mango Tree's educational products are specially designed to encourage participatory teaching; learners understand and retain information better because they play an active role in the teaching process. Mango Tree's products and training programs share the following features:
- They are designed with input from grassroots educators.
- School supplies and materials are culturally relevant, durable, inexpensive, and made from local materials that can be replicated by users.
- In using Mango Tree products, teachers are trained to use participatory teaching methods and are expected to employ these strategies in their classrooms.
Mango Tree additionally provides a range of other services related to the development of educational material, including strategic design, graphic design, illustration, curriculum development, situational analysis, writing and editing, translation, and product testing.
Mango Tree has also worked to develop learning materials and curricula that benefit specific user groups. For example, Mango Tree developed a learning kit for Deaf Child Worldwide, to assist parents who wanted to communicate more effectively with their deaf children. The kit included flashcards with pictures and associated sign language, and Mango Tree developed a curriculum of games and various teaching methods around them. Mango Tree has also developed learning materials around health and agricultural issues.
Mango Tree partners with NGOs to reach the teachers, schools, and health centers most likely to benefit from its products and advice.
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To date, Mango Tree has worked with over 300 companies and organizations to provide them with innovative, participatory and pictorial educational tools and materials.
Mango Tree, through partnering with other organizations such as NGOs, has been able to extend its reach to countries across Africa. In its early years, Mango Tree developed predominantly primary education materials, with a focus on strengthening education in the classroom. Since then, Mango Tree has diversified its services to include teacher guides, curriculum design, developing materials for health education and agricultural knowledge, among others.
Mango Tree plans to expand significantly in the coming years by:
- Offering more services, including situational analyses and strategic designs earlier in the communication process with instructors and schools.
- Expand its packages of creative materials to be replicable across a variety of subjects and learning levels.
- Make services more widely available throughout East Africa.
The program will run until 2018 with P1 being the focus in 2014, P2 in 2015, and P3 in 2016. In 2017 and 2018, the program will focus on continued assessment and analysis of pupil performance as part of a longevity impact study.