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Supporting children's post-COVID learning
South Africa; Vietnam; Zambia
The LEGO Foundation
Primary education
Professional development of teachers (INSET) and school leaders; remedial teaching; Learning through Play

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education at a never-before-seen scale. In April of 2020, nearly 1.3 billion learners across 186 countries were affected by country-wide school closures – 73.8% of all enrolled learners. Many schools across the globe do not have the resources to continue teaching through digital means during school closures. Many parents also struggle to engage children in learning activities at home. The learning gap has deepened considerably, leaving more learners than ever behind.

As some countries have moved to a very gradual reopening of schools, we face an enormous challenge: How do we make up for lost time learning? And how do we make sure that every learner, the most vulnerable ones included, find their way back to school and continue learning in a way that safeguards their physical and socioemotional wellbeing?


In South Africa, teachers, school leaders and district officials work together in (virtual) professional learning communities to address teaching and learning challenges exacerbated by COVID-19. Considering this stressful time, learner wellbeing is prioritised with pedagogies of learning through play.

In Vietnam, teachers and parents integrate learning through play in their daily activities to safeguard learner wellbeing after the COVID-19 crisis, and to overcome the learning gap experienced by the most vulnerable learners, particularly those children transitioning to primary school.

In Zambia, government officials and schools implement play-based Teaching at the Right Level as a way to remedy learning losses accumulated during the COVID-19 school closures.


South Africa:

  • Department of Basic Education (DBE)
  • South African Council of Educators (SACE)


  • Ministry of Education and Training (MoET)
  • National Women’s Union (NWU)
  • VTV7 (Vietnam national education channel)


  • Ministry of General Education (MoGE)
  • TaRL Africa

‘Supporting children's Post-COVID Learning in South Africa, Vietnam and Zambia’ is a multi-country effort that further builds on ongoing activities in the respective countries. The LEGO Foundation’s additional support allows VVOB to react quickly and appropriately to the new educational challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This multi-country effort integrates COVID-19 recovery measures into:


1. Facilitating the reopening of primary schools in South Africa after COVID-19 for teachers and principals/school management teams through professional learning communities

[Provinces of Free State and KwaZulu Natal]

Professional learning communities (PLCs) are groups for peers from the same profession that come together voluntarily to learn with and from each other. In South Africa, VVOB supports the establishment and facilitation of PLCs for teachers and school leaders as part of their professional development. While VVOB has continued to support the establishment and facilitation of PLCs during the COVID-19 pandemic by developing online training modules, there is a pressing need for more targeted support to teachers and school leaders to address challenges exacerbated by COVID-19.

The project in South Africa centres on the development of online trainings for teachers and school leaders to set up new or use existing professional learning communities to address challenges exacerbated by COVID-19. These responses include

  • existing COVID-related content available on the Department of Basic Education’s website and
  • existing content on learning through play as a way to better respond to the socioemotional wellbeing of learners when they return to school.

By the end of the project in South Africa, teachers and school leaders will have the necessary materials at their disposal to employ professional learning communities to address teaching and learning challenges posed by COVID-19.


2. Overcoming COVID-19 learning gaps for children transitioning into primary school in Vietnam: televised inspiration for learning through play and Playday events for teachers and parents

[Provinces of Thai Nguyen, Hanoi, Quang Tri, Da Nang, Quang Ngai, Ho Chi Minh City, Lai Chau, Ha Giang]

Although the Ministry of Education and Training decided to prolong the 2019-2020 academic year with one month, all Vietnamese children will have to face the consequences of a shortened school year. For children enrolled in the last year of preschool and the first year of primary school especially, this can have long-lasting effects, as these formative years are crucial for developing foundations in early-grade reading and maths.

The project in Vietnam centres on the development of short television clips for teachers and parents to apply learning through play in their daily practice. The series focuses on the five developmental domains children are expected to excel in to participate fully in primary school, and that learning through play is known to foster: cognitive, social emotional, physical, language and creativity. Eight ‘Play-day’ events across the country provide children and their teachers or parents with the chance to experience the learning-through-play activities first-hand.

By the end of the project in Vietnam, teachers and parents have the skills to engage children in playful learning activities to overcome learning losses and to prepare them to start or continue primary school.


3. Bridging the gap in student learning through Teaching at the Right Level in Zambia: Catch Up COVID-19 recovery support

[Districts of Chirundu, Kafue, Chongwe and Rufunsa]

With 70 per cent of learners already struggling to read for meaning, school closures have undoubtedly further deepened the learning crisis in Zambia. The Ministry of General Education’s (MoGE) Catch Up programme (2017-2020) implements remedial and accelerated learning to bridge the learning gap accumulated during the school closures. Catch Up is based on the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) methodology (see box below).

The project in Zambia centres on getting the play-based Catch Up project ready for national scaling in response to the worsened learning crisis by school closures.

By the end of this project in Zambia, TaRL materials have been revised to make the linkages with learning through play more explicit; and have been translated and made available in multiple local languages, enabling scaling to all provinces.


Catch Up is based on the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) methodology, an easy-to-understand and effective intervention that enables primary grade learners to gain foundational skills in literacy and numeracy through interactive teaching practices adapted to the level of the individual learner. TaRL and learning through play share their five characteristics. They are:

  • joyful
  • socially interactive
  • iterative
  • meaningful
  • highly engaging

Find more information about learning through play on the LEGO Foundation's website.



To reach its goals, VVOB develops the capacity of its partners. VVOB uses capacity development trajectories that give partners maximal responsibility in the execution and management of their own change processes. This is done through technical assistance provided by the VVOB teams in the respective countries, which includes both local and international educational and change management experts.