The program “Learning through play” developed by NGO SIRIRI is a project that fits to the specific needs. It brings together modern teaching methods for Central African teachers and the creation, printing and distribution of teaching tools in the pupils’ mother tongue, Sango.

The Central African Republic (CAR), seriously affected by a bloody conflict, is one of the poorest countries in the world. If it is ever to move forward and become an independent and stable country, it needs educated people. Education, however, is impossible without competent teachers and relevant teaching materials; these are lacking in the CAR. An expert team consisting of Czech and Central African teachers and educational advisors has developed a comprehensive teaching method and guide book for teachers.

Therefore, in 2015, Czech teachers from the SIRIRI team and Central African teachers joined forces and launched the educational program “Learning through play in CAR”. It meets the needs of Central African teachers, has a high standard of pedagogy of the 21st century, and the didactic tools are in a language that the locals understand. The interest of teachers and parents in the educational program is still growing. It’s not just about educating teachers. Trainings for teachers are complemented by tools that are part of the programme – a spelling book (ABC na ya ti sango) and a reading book (Mbeti ti dicko) in Sango, pedagogical manuals and other didactic tools. The Central African linguist Prof. Diki-Kidiri participated in the creation of the new Sango reading book.

Where does the problem lie?

The Central African Republic is being destroyed by civil war and poverty. The current level of education in CAR is not likely to improve in the near future.

According to statistics, the literacy rate of the population over the age of fifteen in the SAR has long been the lowest in the world. According to the International Index ( comparing countries in terms of accessibility and level of education, in 2019 the country ranks 164th out of 167 countries monitored. Before starting school, children only know the most widely spoken language, Sango. However, teaching in schools is mainly in French, which makes it difficult for children to master the basic curriculum. The standard of public schools is weak. For a long time, the Central African Ministry of Education has not been able to provide teachers with regular salaries, but also sufficient education.

As far as teaching methods are concerned, teaching is based on memorising long texts or on copying texts in French. Often pupils do not even have notebooks or textbooks at their disposal; they usually have only a slate with a piece of chalk.

How can the problem be solved?

What children need most is a reading method written in their language and teachers who know how to motivate them. Our program ensures both.

The idea underlying this program is to improve the quality of education in selected elementary schools in the CAR because primary school is often the only school level attended by a large number of Central African pupils. This program was initiated by the Czech organization SIRIRI, which has been working for nearly 10 years in the CAR, working closely with Carmelite missionaries. SIRIRI, in consultation with Czech experts in pedagogy, sought the most appropriate solution to support teachers in the CAR.

We worked on the concept of our books with Central African teachers, who thus had the opportunity for the first time ever to teach in their mother tongue.

After completing the interactive training, SIRIRI hands over to all participants the Manual of Five Pedagogical Principles and other didactic tools, which are a living alphabet, sets of letters and numbers, an illustrated spelling book and a reading book, all in the local Sango language.
The promotion of Sango teaching in primary schools is in line with UNESCO’s recommendation on teaching in the mother tongue in multilingual countries. The Central African Ministry of Education recommended teaching in Sango as early as 1995.

Why is this the best solution?

The program has not been prepared by people “in an office”. We developed it through dialogue with local teachers who helped us to assess what the Central African education system really needs. There was no reading method in the CAR that we could have relied on to develop our own syllabary. The demand for this program is enormous, which shows that the program makes sense and that its implementation is going well.

Interactive courses for the lower primary school teachers

The aim of the courses is to inspire teachers with the idea of “meaningful education”, i.e. to be able to strengthen the interaction between the student and the teacher in the educational process. In the spirit of the concept of “learning through play” according to John Amos Comenius, the aim is to strive for the development of creativity, playfulness and, as a result, the joy of learning in children.

During the trainings and during the teaching process, SIRIRI representatives accompany the teachers and together with them confirm that even in the conditions of an extremely poor country it is possible to work with basic modern pedagogical procedures and didactic tools. In the CAR, they are calling for more trainings so that they can deepen their qualifications even further and open the way to education for more teachers.

Trainings are based on a handbook that has been tailor-made for local teachers. During trainings they learn how to approach learning creatively, ask questions, listen actively and read with comprehension.  They can think about how to develop basic pedagogical tools for their students. From 2016 to 2020, between February and April, SIRIRI carried out evaluation visits to the classrooms of teachers who received training, evaluated children’s skills and progress, and provided feedback to teachers. Detailed evaluation reports from dozens of monitored classes were done from these trips.

Didactic Mural

In connection with the program, didactic murals are also realized. Dozens of schools in and around Bozoum, Bouar and Baoro are gradually being equipped with drawings. Two Czech artists, David Böhm and Jiří Franta, worked on their design or implementation.

These drawings have proven to be an alternative to missing textbooks and are designed to be usable across subjects. The first drawings were created thanks to the support of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Abuja (Nigeria), under which the Central African Republic territorially belongs.

Living Alphabet Set and ABC book in Sango

Classrooms of trained teachers were equipped with a set of illustrated living alphabets, and children were given a spelling book in Sango. The textbook was made in cooperation with the Central African teachers and Czech artists. Its aim is to enable children to learn the basic reading techniques. The spelling book remain the property of the school, which extends its use considerably. Another follow-up textbook is a reading book in the Sango language. When children master the technique of reading in a language they know, they can move much better and more effectively to official French. The knowledge of French is necessary in this country, not only for further levels of education.

First phase of the programme in 2015-2019

A total of 458 Central African teachers from 135 denominational, state, urban and rural schools were trained in two major regional capitals. Trained teachers were provided with 10,250 spelling books, 110 didactic murals and other tools.

More than 30 European volunteers came to the CAR to train – it has been especailly trainers and two artists. Gradually, selected Central African teachers were also actively involved in the management of the trainings as trainers. This way of working was aimed at strengthening local capacities and handing over the programme to the Central Africans in the future.

The year 2019 was a pilot year when the training was extended to specific subjects at the request of teachers: mathematics, reading and writing. Starting July 2019, a coordinator of the Learning through Play program has been working in the CAR and preparing training for 2020. She provided support to trained teachers and worked with local and international institutions to expand the programme to other schools and to transfer it to local authorities.

Covid pause and the second phase – handover of the programme to Central African trainers in 2023

However, in the spring of 2020, there was a global covid pandemic, so the implementation of the program had to be suspended by SIRIRI and remained fully in the hands of Central African teachers. It was not until 2022 that it was possible to visit some schools and teachers, and it turned out that teachers continue to teach in Sango and use the acquired knowledge and tools in teaching at primary school. The programme therefore continues in the spirit of sustainability and independently of the presence of trainers from Europe.

In several classrooms, we found locally made counters made of wood and plastic bottle caps. Teachers continue to be very interested in the program. They asked us for further training and didactic murals for schools where they are not yet. That is why we decided to add didactic murals to village schools in the area around Bozoum and Baoro. At the end of August and beginning of September, a training was held by Central African teachers with the supervision support of SIRIRI.

In 2023, a monitoring trip and an implementation of further training are planned, which will take place under the direction of Central African trainers again, with the financial and supervisory support of SIRIRI.

To support Central African trainers, SIRIRI has created two series of educational videos that can be distributed on flash drives. In the first part, the authors and artists explain the philosophy of the program and the methodological steps to meet the pedagogical goals. Avalaible in Czech with French subtitles online. The second part serves as a practical illustration of the work of Central African trainers during the training of their colleagues. Avalaible only in French here.

Program Awards

In June 2018, the Czech Development Agency linked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic in Prague, awarded the non-profit organization SIRIRI for the Learning through Play program in the CAR with the Award for the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the Czech Republic.

In March 2020, the General Inspectorate of National Education in the CAR granted approval for teaching according to the spelling book “Yanga ti sango” and according to the reading book “Mbeti ti diko” in primary schools. Both books were created by SIRIRI as part of the Learning through Play program in the CAR.

This was an important step for the development of the program, the dissemination of education in the national language and the confirmation of cooperation between the Czech organization SIRIRI and the Central African authorities. At the same time, the reference to the Learning through Play program in the CAR has been included in the comprehensive government program for the development of education in the Central African Republic for the next ten years, which should be co-financed by the World Bank.

We need your support to respond to the great demand that our program has rised in the CAR

SIRIRI finances the Learning through Play program in the CAR mostly from donations from individual donors. In 2015, the project was also supported by the French Embassy in the Central African Republic and lateron also by the Czech Development Agency and the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Abuja (Nigeria).

Establishing relationships with private and corporate donors and establishing partnerships with national and supranational institutions is essential for funding.

On the part of Central African teachers, SIRIRI is noticing a growing interest in a new, modern and, most importantly, effective methodology. Sufficient financial resources would help to expand the programme geographically, provide more teaching tools and support the implementation of additional trainings organised by Central African trainers for their colleagues.

Send any contribution to the SIRIRI Account >> Learning through Play in SAR: CZ7055000000000000636631

We thank you in advance!