Uzbekistan: Teacher home visits support learning for the youngest children

Hondamir learning through play-based activities with his teacher, Aziza. Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa
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Story highlights

  • 7-year-old Hondamir is now ready to attend primary school thanks to the home visiting program.
  • A Multiplier grant of US$10 million mobilized alongside almost US$60 million in additional co-financing from the World Bank, supports the early childhood development project. This program aims to increase access to preschool education for vulnerable children living in remote areas of Uzbekistan.
  • Since Hondamir started participating in the home visiting program, his knowledge and skills have improved significantly. He, along with children from 3471 families participating in the program, is now fully prepared for primary school.
Map of Uzbekistan

This story was written in collaboration with the World Bank.

The sun is shining when teacher Aziza arrives at the home of 7-year-old Hondamir, who has been waiting impatiently for his weekly lesson with her. He runs toward her and gives her a hug, before washing his hands and heading to his new playroom, where the lessons take place.

Hondamir knows that he has a packed schedule ahead of him; his lesson with Aziza involves drawing, reading, playing and physical exercises. Through play-based activities, he is learning to count, read and write, and acquiring other skills fundamental to entering primary school and thriving in his education.

  • Teacher Aziza arrives at Hondamir’s house located in the Taylok district in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

  • Teacher Aziza is greeted by Hondamir and his mother, Handona, when arriving at their house.

    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

  • Hondamir washes his hand before a lesson with his teacher, Aziza.

    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

Hondamir is one of over 3740 children participating in the home visiting program, which offers the possibility to children from low-income families to learn from home and prepare for primary school.

We chatted with Hondamir's mother, Handona, and his teacher Aziza about the program – here are their stories in their own words.

“All our lives have changed since the program"
Mother of Hondamir

My name is Handona and I’m 26 years old. I live in the Toyloq district of the Samarkand region of Uzbekistan with my husband, mother-in-law and 3 children. I’m a homemaker and also take care of my family’s farm.

I firmly believe that education opens doors for the future, but it has been hard to enroll Hondamir in preschool. The nearest preschool is located 10 kilometers from our home. The cost of transportation, clothing and other related fees meant we couldn’t afford to send Hondamir there.

Everything changed the day that Aziza knocked on our door to inform me that our family had been identified as having difficulty accessing education services. Hondamir was a candidate for the home visiting program, she said, which sends teachers out to families who can’t access or afford education for their children.

I could never have imagined the positive outcomes of the program. In the 13 months since he started, Hondamir has made so much progress: he can count and read, and has learned about science, weather, nature and more. He has also matured and his way of communicating has improved too – he is more open about his thoughts and feelings.

But Hondamir is not the only one in our family who has benefited from this program; I have, too. I have learned about responsive caregiving and child wellbeing. Perhaps my most important lesson has been to pay more attention to my children, despite my domestic chores. I am now more mindful of their behaviors and feelings, and I make myself available when they need me.

Our lives have changed. If it wasn’t for this program, Hondamir wouldn’t have had a chance to prepare for primary school. Next September, he will start attending School Nr. 45, the same school I graduated from. I hope that his younger siblings will also benefit from the program. My greatest hope is that Hondamir achieves his dreams and goals. I’ll be with him every step of the way.

  • After attending the program, Handona pays more attention to her children, despite being busy with her domestic chores.
    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

  • Hondamir learning through play-based activities with his teacher, Aziza, and mother, Handona.
    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

  • Handona working in her vegetable garden.
    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

  • Handona at her home shares her impressions of the home visiting program.
    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

  • Hondamir with his mother, Handona, his siblings and his two grandmothers.
    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

Aziza, Hondamir's teacher
“The program is centered on the needs of the child"
Teacher of Hondamir

I am a teacher for the home visiting program while also studying preschool education at Samarkand State University. I love my job because I actively contribute to children’s early learning. What I like most about the program is the one-on-one interaction with the children and their caregivers. It’s a very effective way of teaching and learning as it’s centered on the needs of the child. Since 2022, I have taught and worked with the caregivers of 26 children through the program and I currently support 20 families.

I started visiting Hondamir and his mother twice a week in 2022. During my first couple of visits, I brought books, toys and drawing materials that Hondamir can access at all times. Once he acquired the basic early learning skills and knowledge and his mother learned how to support him, we reduced the lessons to once a week. I’m extremely dedicated to this program and my work goes beyond the weekly lessons. For example, teachers set up a Telegram group with parents so they are available if there are questions.

Both Hondamir and his mother have come a long way this past year. Hondamir’s knowledge and skills have improved considerably, his self-esteem has increased and he has become more confident. Next we will be tackling another language, either Russian or English. All of these improvements will help him adapt to primary school. Handona has been so inspired by my work with her son that she wants to become a preschool teacher.

  • Hondamir learning through play-based activities with his teacher, Aziza, and mother, Handona.
    Credit: Federico Scoppa

  • Teacher Aziza shows Hondamir his next activity.
    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

  • Hondamir engaged in an activity during the home visiting program.
    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

  • Hondamir pays close attention to his teacher, Aziza, during a lesson.
    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

Why GPE is supporting the home visiting program

In 2019, Uzbekistan received a Multiplier grant of US$10 million which is mobilized alongside almost US$60 million in additional co-financing with the World Bank. Working with the Ministry of Preschool and School Education, this has supported the establishment of alternative education models to ensure that children who had been left out, especially girls, children with disabilities and vulnerable children, learn and get ready for primary school.

The home visiting program is one of the two alternative education models and targets children in the year before primary school to prepare them for learning and transition while preparing parents to support them through this process.

To date, more than 3470 vulnerable young children have benefited from the home visiting program, already surpassing the original target.

Alternative learning models such as the home visiting program offer several advantages. The program targets the most vulnerable children: those who have never been to preschool because proximity is a challenge or their families can’t afford it. Not only do these children receive individual attention from their teacher, but they also receive (and get to keep) books, toys and other resources provided by the program to enhance their learning.

Additionally, the program is helping parents and caregivers change their perceptions and become more involved in the children’s learning and stimulation on a daily basis through play-based learning and storytelling. They now see how important it is for children to learn during their first years.

The ripple effects of the home visiting program

The alternative education models combined with the other initiatives which are benefiting more than 2 million students, are contributing to improving early learning in the country. In 2023, 75% of children were enrolled in preschool compared to only 30% in 2018.

  • Hondamir’s drawing showing that he would like to be a president when he grows up “to be able to help people.”
    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

  • During his free time, Hondamir loves playing chess. Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

  • Hondamir plays ping pong during a break.
    Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

And the benefits of the program go even beyond providing education. The program hires teachers who are either unemployed or recent graduates, improving employment in the region. In cooperation with the health district department, teachers also review the health of the children in their care, as under-nourishment can impact learning, recommending clinic checks where appropriate.

Hondamir has high hopes for the future. “I want to be a president,” he says, “because I would like to help people.” GPE is proud to support this program along the World Bank and is inspired by the meaning and opportunities it is bringing to all involved – the teachers and children, as well as their families.

With thanks to Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Education staff, including Dilshod Gafarov, Lola Yusupova and Alsu Akhmetzyanova for organizing visits to families benefiting from the home visiting program as well as for providing input to this story.

January 2024