Call for education consultant

Research into early childhood development and education in southern Africa

Former Education Programme Manager

October 12th, 2011


Call for Education Consultant

Research into Early Childhood Development and Education in Southern Africa

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)

Terms of Reference

1. Introduction 

Early Childhood in Southern Africa

Southern Africa is part of sub Saharan Africa, a region with the highest rates of absolute child poverty in the world: 207 million children— 65 percent of all children in the region—suffer from two or more types of severe deprivation; more than 80 percent are severely deprived of one or more basic needs. Among rural children, more than 70 percent live in absolute poverty and 90 percent suffer from severe deprivation" name="_ftnref" title="">[1].  Similarly, the health statistics reflect the dire state of children’s prospects for survival and development in the region with half a million newborn children dying  within 28 days; 1.7 million children dying before the age of 5 in addition to 45% of children being stunted (a condition that impacts later cognitive development) and 23% being underweight. Moreover, 1.3 million children are living with HIV, primarily transmitted from their mothers.  " name="_ftnref" title="">[2]

Access to the full range of quality early child development and education (ECDE) services are vital if outcomes for children are to be improved. Yet, it is the most disadvantaged and marginalised households, mothers and children that are least likely to access quality services.  Children from poorer and rural households and those socially excluded have significantly less access to ECDE than those form richer and urban households. Children most likely to benefit from ECDE programmes, those exposed to malnutrition and preventable diseases, are the least likely to be enrolled. The majority of ECDE centres have no special measures to accommodate children with special needs or to support children with home languages that are different from the language of instruction.  Existing programs suffer from a lack of quality. ECDE practitioners typically have minimal education and pre-service training and are poorly remunerated, which often results in poor quality. In most countries, there is a lack of systematic planning leading to an absence of standards, indicators and regulations." name="_ftnref" title="">[3]

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)

In an effort to respond to the need for quality early childhood development and education services the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) is focusing increasing attention on providing quality services for young children and their families. OSIA is an African institution committed to deepening democracy and human rights in southern Africa. Its vision is to promote and sustain the ideals, values, institutions and practice of open society, with the aim of establishing a vibrant Southern African society in which people, free from material and other deprivation, understand their rights and responsibilities and participate democratically in all spheres of life.

The Early Childhood Development and Education Programme is part of the broader OSISA education Programme that seeks to make significant improvements in the early childhood sector in Southern Africa by engaging in multi-levelled interventions in selected countries.  The overarching goal of the programme, which is being run in collaboration with Open Society Foundation’s (OSF) Early Childhood Program, is to promote access to quality early childhood development and education in a manner that places a premium on eliminating inequalities in current access for the most marginalised and vulnerable children.

This innovative initiative will enable sustained engagement within at least six countries, including Swaziland, Angola, Malawi, Lesotho, Zambia and Mozambique, by initiating multi-layered programming that improves the capacity of duty-bearers to realise the rights of young children and their families. Responsibility for the implementation of this strategy will reside jointly within the OSISA Education programme and the OSI Early Childhood Programme.

The programme focuses on the young children and their families from birth to 3 years of age as well as those from 3 to 8 years. Both short and long term support will be provided for interventions designed to address the following objectives.   

  • Strengthen the capacity of decision makers from relevant Ministries as well as civil society leaders to design and implement policies and strategies that will increase the access and availabilty of comprehensive early childhood services;    
  • Raise public awareness through campaigns designed to inform parents about importance of early childhood and increase their demand for quality services;   
  • Increase the capacity of professionals, community workers and parents by increasing access to national and regional training and educational opportunities;
  • Enhance the capacity of research institutions to evaluate programs and disseminate best practices through a coordinated research agenda.
  • Establish national and regional networks to foster collaboration, coordination and information exchange between state, civil society, researchers, providers and communities.

These objectives will be achieved through the following support mechanisms:(i) grant-making, (ii) capacity-building, (iii) networking and facilitation of new ideas, and (iv) advocacy, communication campaign, and research and the production of strategic information.  

2. Goal and Objectives

As stated above, an important component of the overall strategy is to strengthen the research capacity of regional institutions to evaluate programs, disseminate best practices, and design supportive policies.  In achieving this goal, a regional mapping and assessment of the ECDE research initiatives and institutional capacity in six countries in Southern Africa is requested. The findings will be used to generate a coordinated regional specific research agenda and a framework for institutional capacity building support and assistance.  

 OSISA seeks to hire a research consultant or institution to complete the following tasks:  

 In each of the six countries selected for the review, the consultant will; 

·       Identify the main research institutions/individuals currently engaged in early child development and education;

·       Complete a mapping and assessment of the major ECDE research studies conducted during 2000 -2011.  The review should include both applied and basic research;

·       Identify research institutions with the potential and interest to develop expertise in ECDE research;

·       Identify existing and potential donors with an interest and commitment to strengthening  regional ECDE research;      

·       Assess the degree to which existing information and research products are disseminated to generate awareness, inform policy, and increase demand.

The above tasks will be used to help OSISA to understand both the strengths and gaps of the current landscape, define priorities and propose a well coordinated research agenda and capacity   development framework.

Key research issues to be considered;  

The research selected to be included in the mapping and assessment should include both basic and applied research in child development and educational research focusing on children from birth to age 8. Basic child development and education research includes studies that increase an understanding of child development process and the factors that impede or enhance outcomes.

The areas of basic and applied research forming the primary focus of the study will be agreed in discussion with OSISA. The lists above illustrate the breadth of what may fall under a review of research in ECDE, but one of the first tasks of the agency appointed will be to select some items of interest that will yield the information required about the research environment for ECDE in the region.

Applied research refers to the evaluation of specific services and programs on children from birth to age 8 and their families. Program evaluation research that addresses issues related to curriculum development, training as well as program monitoring and evaluation.

3. Methodology

The methodology for the review should include a desk review of the available research, with the specific areas of focus agreed by OSISA. The consultant should develop a mapping and assessment tool to aid in the identification, collection and analysis of the information gathered. In addition, the consultant will conduct a series of virtual key informant interviews with representatives from: major research institutions, senior researchers, funders as well as potential users of research including programmers and policy makers. The consultant will work in close collaboration with OSISA and ECP program staff. Background documents and feedback will be provided to the consulted specific key points during the review.      

4. Deliverables

The consultant will provide to OSISA the following deliverables:

·       Development and completion of a mapping and assessment tool of selected areas of basic and applied research in the region; 

·       Directory of as well as an assessment of the capacity of major research institutions and researchers in selected countries;

·       Identification and analysis of the research activities and priorities of key regional partners/donors (i.e. UNESCO, HSRC, ECDVU);

·       ECDE research agenda highlighting major gaps and priority areas;

·       Capacity building strategy to support and enhance the capacity of selected institutions to carry out the proposed research agenda. 

5. Timeline

The above work will be carried out over a  3 month period. The final report will be due 30th April, 2012.

6. Qualifications

·       Over 10 years of experience in child development and early education research, program evaluation, design and development in Southern Africa;

·       Demonstrated professional research and writing experience;

·       Excellent writing conceptual and analytical skills including the ability to present complex processes and issues clearly to different audiences;

·       Advanced university degree in child development or education or a related social science;

·       Demonstrated capacity to implement multi country initiatives.  

7. Deadline for Submission 

Interested candidates are requested to submit a letter of interest outlining your relevant background and experience by 28th October, 2011 to Ms Yvonne Mathebula at

8. Process

Individuals who meet the criteria above should send an expression of interest detailing how they plan to undertake the task outlined above, with some indication of which areas of basic and applied research should be included in the mapping tool, with an explanation of why certain topics have been selected. Please also include a work plan, timeline and budget.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited for further discussion with OSISA.


" name="_ftn1" title="">[1] World Health Organization (2005)

" name="_ftn2" title="">[2]  Lynette, Okengo., 2010, ‘Early Childhood Care and Education: An Overview of Southern Africa’ OSISA

" name="_ftn3" title="">[3] Data drawn from Lynette, Okengo, 2010, ‘Early Childhood Care and Education: An Overview of Southern Africa’ OSISA




About the author(s)

Wongani Grace Nkhoma is the Education Programme Manager. Wongani has over 10 years experience working in the development sector. Before joining OSISA, Wongani worked with ActionAid International - Malawi as Regional Manager and Education Policy Coordinator


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