Kenya, a country in East Africa, has made strides in battling poverty by reforming childhood education. In 2003 Kenya established a free primary school education program meant to ensure that young children receive a basic education. However, the Kenyan school system still has challenges to overcome. Teachers often lack proper training and support, and students often do not have enough school supplies. These obstacles ultimately contribute to low learning outcomes for students. Tusome, which means “let’s read” in Kiswahili, is a national literacy program powering childhood learning in Kenya that attempts to address these education shortfalls.

Origins of The Tusome National Literacy Program

Despite previous efforts to improve childhood learning outcomes by the Kenyan government, assessments from the years 2010-2014 showed no significant change in literacy and 40% of primary grade students could not understand their reading material. Tusome was built on this prior research and “was one of the first experiences of taking a piloted literacy program to national scale through government systems.” Tusome is funded by both the Kenyan government’s Ministry of Education and the USAID organization. The program was implemented in January of 2015 and will run until 2020 with a goal of improving reading for 6.7 million students.

Training and Support of Faculty

Two of Tusome’s key goals are to address the need for faculty training and support in the Kenyan school system. Tusome educates teachers, administrators, coaches, and support staff on the Ministry of Education’s expected learning outcomes. The program also provides Curriculum Support Officers that regularly visit schools to coach and monitor teachers in learning outcomes, though these are not professionals trained in general classroom instruction. Youth associations are also working to help to tutor children and develop a reading culture in their area.

School Supplies and Integration of Technology

One of the Tusome program’s notable achievements is that is has provided 26 million textbooks and supplementary materials for primary school students, ensuring that each student has a textbook of their own. Tusome also offers its students tablets with digitized learning materials, which can also provide feedback and progress monitoring for teachers. The performance of each student is uploaded to a cloud-based network system which is meant to promote greater responsibility within the school system.


Tusome has been able to improve teacher support, training and availability of school materials in Kenyan primary schools. This is, in part, due to the integration of technology in the form of digital materials, tablets and cloud-based technology. Learning outcomes have been promising, even in the early pilot phase. In 1,384 schools, children who reached the Tusome standard for an understanding of the English language increased from 8.6% to 43.7%. Overall, Tusome is considered a successful example of large-scale governmental implementation of a national program that can power childhood learning in Kenya, and serve as a model to education systems around the world.

– Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

HolisticFebruary 2016 saw the launch of two new education initiatives that emphasize a holistic approach to educating low-income children. A project from Harvard University’s Education Redesign Lab, “By All Means: Redesigning Education to Restore Opportunity,” and a project from the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, the “Broader Bolder Approach to Education,” will address factors outside of school that influence student performance.

Harvard University’s project will use six cities as laboratories for their project: Oakland, California; Louisville, Kentucky; Providence, Rhode Island; and Salem, Somerville and Newton in Massachusetts.

Harvard’s initiative is a multi-year project funded by individual donations and foundations. The project has created a “children’s cabinet” composed of government representatives, school superintendents and community leaders in each city. They will meet several times over the course of the project to share best practices and Harvard professors will connect them with experts in the field of education.

The project will track each city’s progress and identify barriers to students’ educational attainment and achievement. Their main focus will be on external factors, such as Medicaid regulations on health clinics in low-income school districts.

The mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer, hopes that the project will add to his ambitious education goals for the city. In an article published by the Huffington Post, Fischer states, “What we hope for is to get [other cities’ and Harvard’s] best practices, learn from that, and learn how to make it happen.”

The Economic Policy Institute’s initiative “Broader, Bolder Approach to Education” was first launched in 2008. At that time, the initiative’s focus on external factors such as health care, nutrition and afterschool and summer enrichment programs drew strong skepticism. The program’s relaunch in February 2016 marks its entrance into the mainstream, as others have now adopted its holistic approach to education.

The initiative aims to improve educational attainment and achievement by tackling issues brought about by socioeconomic inequality. It targets early childhood education, offering a system of high-quality education, health and nutrition support for children and families.

The program continues to aid students throughout their childhood, following up with comprehensive health, wellness and nutrition supported by promoting partnerships between schools and third parties to keep children healthy and in school.

The “Broader, Bolder Approach” also aims to increase children’s educational opportunities by promoting before-school and after-school programs, as well as summer enrichment programs.

To narrow the achievement gap, the initiative advocates for greater integration of low-income and minority students into higher income, homogeneous school districts. The program emphasizes the importance of engaging and consulting the community when making decisions about improving education systems.

Elain Weiss is the national coordinator of the “Broader, Bolder Approach.” In an article published in Education Week, she comments on the relaunch of the program, noting that it has shifted from a focus on the “poverty-education connection, to emphasizing […] the specific policies and practices that would help mitigate those connections.”

The launch of these two programs marks a new trend in education policy, emphasizing holistic approaches to narrowing the achievement gap. By addressing factors that affect students’ health and happiness, such as the challenges of poverty and lack of access to health care, these programs promise to help disadvantaged students reach their full potential.

Clara Wang

Sources: Education Week, Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Education Dive , Bold Approach

TongaThe Global Partnership for Education reported that if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. That would amount to a 12 percent cut in global poverty.

In Tonga, the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning (PEARL) project is driven towards preparing children for school. Funded by the Global Partnership for Education, and implemented by the World Bank, PEARL has two main goals. The first goal is to support children in developing key skills that will be useful at school. The second goal is helping more children learn to read and write well in their first years of elementary school.

According to the Global Partnership for Education, 40 percent of children in the developing world live in extreme poverty. Around 10.5 million children under the age of five die from preventable diseases each year because of extreme poverty. They also said investments in quality Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) can improve an individual’s well-being and close the education and poverty gap.

Early childhood is defined as the period from birth to eight years of age. Quality ECCE guides children towards fulfilling their potential and promotes social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. Young children who benefit from ECCE services are more likely to be healthy, prepared to learn, stay longer and perform better in school.

Nadia Fifita, Director at Ocean of Light International School in the Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa, said, “We see a big difference in the children who have had some early childhood [education] experience, whether that is formally through a school-based program or informally through parents.”

Tonga is not the only nation benefiting from PEARL. The project is also helping other Pacific Island countries improve policy and programming around school readiness and early grade literacy in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. In those countries, the World Bank and other partners are supporting each country’s Ministry of Education to make changes strengthening early education.

While early childhood education has increased globally, it is still limited and unequal in developing countries. The Global Partnership reported Sub-Saharan Africa and Arab states have shown the lowest gross enrollment ratios at 18 percent and 21 percent respectively in 2009. In some countries, children from privileged backgrounds are four times more likely to receive pre-primary education than poor children.

Tongan teacher Seini Napa’a said, “My dream is that the students in Tonga have the best future, the best readers and the best writers.”

Kara Buckley

Sources: Global Partnership 1, Global Partnership 2, World Bank
Photo: World Bank

Today more than 700 people are impoverished because of a lack of meeting basic needs and human rights. Innovative solutions provide different routes to solving the issue of global poverty.

Canadian student, Salima Visram, set out to revolutionize the way of life for those who live in deteriorated conditions with an ingenious solution that literally sheds light on the lives of students. Her invention: new solar backpacks equipped with a source of light that will charge all day and can be activated at night in order for students to study.

Instead of using toxic kerosene lamps, alternative technology allows for clean energy to be used. Not only is this a green solution, but also an economic one, as households can grab a backpack as their energy source instead of constantly replenishing their kerosene supply.

These solar backpacks have the potential to positively impact states that struggle with poverty, especially Kenya, where 92 percent of households utilize kerosene lamps.

The first to receive Visram’s backpacks were the residents of Kikambala village, where she raised enough money to produce 2,000 solar backpacks. Each backpack consists of a solar panel, battery pack and light.

This occurred in January after she raised money via crowdfunding site, Indiegogo. Since then, Visram has said she wishes to “expand the project to a hundred schools in the county within the next year and a half.”

Sticking to her own agenda, in September, Visram delivered 500 backpacks to the students of Kikambala Primary School, marking her business’ first official order. This is not the only milestone Visram wishes to achieve, however, as her goals go hand in hand with Masomo Bora—Kenya’s mission to provide education to all children.

Visram’s dream began as a public funding project on Indiegogo, but continues today in hopes of bringing as many students “into the light” as possible.

Fortunately, the costs of production are cheap, and in two months alone an additional $50,000 has been raised—more than doubling the initial capital of $40,000 required to manufacture the first 2,000 solar backpacks.

The backpacks are able to provide between seven and eight hours of light using only three to four hours of sunlight. As more and more solar backpacks become available, the hope is that the 4,000 deaths that occur daily due to kerosene-induced illness will be significantly reduced.

Emilio Rivera

Sources: Indiegogo, IT News Africa, Compassion International
Photo: Conscious Living TV

Imagine being too poor to attend your local school, too poor to go to college. Imagine your entire community and many others are in this predicament. Now imagine that you are offered the chance to travel to a new country, study, earn a degree and learn skills that will help you build a career.

Would you take it?

Nigeria failed to complete the global education goals it set for 2015, according to The Guardian. These goals included expanding early childhood education and care, achieving universal primary education and adult literacy.

Corruption and lack of investment have earned Nigeria one of the worst education systems in the world. Over ten million Nigerian children are not receiving a proper education.

The Mike Omotosho Foundation is trying to make a dent in the number of uneducated children by offering 10,000 Nigerian students the opportunity to study abroad. Because so many Nigerians struggle to afford even local education, scholarships are available for each student.

The purpose of the program is “to gain quality education abroad and hopefully bring this knowledge, expertise and quality back to Nigeria.”

To earn a scholarship, students need at least four credits in their O Level Examination, an international exam distributed by the British Council, and an eligibility date no later than June 2016. The process is simple, but competitive enough that students are required to put forth reasonable effort.

The scholarship offers a tuition waiver of up to 50 percent, but those who demonstrate outstanding scholarly abilities may receive a complete waiver from some universities. The nature of the waiver encourages students to put forth their best effort to achieve good grades even before they set foot abroad.

Countries participating in the program are Malaysia, United Kingdom, Cyprus, Russia and India. Nigerian students will have their pick of foreign cultures to learn from.

One benefit of studying abroad is a unique education. Each country offers its own education style. International students have the opportunity to experience more than one learning method, expanding their minds and providing them with a wider range of effective techniques.

Graduate schools look favorably upon former international students because they know these individuals are dedicated to their studies.

Another benefit to studying abroad is that it creates more career opportunities. Students who study abroad gain new perspectives, language skills and confidence, all of which help them stand out to potential employers.

The students who participate in the Mike Omotosho Foundation scholarship program will be better equipped to find work upon their return to Nigeria, keeping them out of poverty. Furthermore, they will bring back new skills and knowledge, which they can use to improve Nigeria’s education system and its overall quality of life.

Perhaps, in time, Nigeria will no longer have 10 million education-less children, but rather millions of youth educated, informed and ready to help their country.

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Mike Omotosho Foundation 1, Mike Omotosho Foundation 2, British Council, International Student, NGR Guardian News,
Photo: Wikimedia