Ethiopia: the second most populous country in Africa where over 63% of the population is under age 25 and there are more than 40 million school-aged children and adolescents (UIS). In 2000, nearly 60% of primary-school-age students were out of school in Ethiopia, a number that had dropped to 14% as of 2015 due to dramatic government investment (World Bank). Though the country has navigated rising ethnic violence in recent years, such as in the Tigray and Oromia regions, the government has continued to invest deeply in education. Today, the Ethiopian government spends nearly a quarter of its entire budget on education. As H.E. Ato Minister Million Mathewos, State Minister for General Education, puts it, “Ethiopia is rising.”
Recently, the Luminos Fund had the privilege of hosting a discussion on the current and future state of education in Ethiopia as it navigates beyond COVID-19. Guest speakers included Minister Mathewos and Dr. Pauline Rose, Professor of International Education and Director of the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre, University of Cambridge.
The Current Education Landscape in Ethiopia
The Ethiopian Ministry of Education (MOE) presented the current state of affairs in Ethiopia to frame the discussion, noting that the number of primary schools has increased from 4,000 in 1994 to over 37,000 as of 2018, as has gender parity. While making considerable progress on enrollment, Ethiopia has struggled to keep students in school through graduation. Yohanese Wogasso, Director General of School Improvement noted, “Primary completion rate is a critical area where we are challenged. In 2018-2019 we only had 62% [of students] attend school through 8th grade, meaning 7.6 million students couldn’t complete grade 8.” Minister Mathewos and Yohanese outlined several different priority areas where the MOE is looking to expand its efforts in collaboration with external support: accelerated learning programs (such as the Second Chance program run by Luminos), school feeding programs, secondary school construction, and school improvement including WASH facilities.
Examining the Data
Dr. Pauline Rose noted that one of the incredible strengths of the Ethiopian MOE has been its ability to reflect on both the progress they have made and the challenges ahead saying, “That’s why we see Ethiopia as a leading light on the continent.”
Notwithstanding Ethiopia’s progress, even before COVID-19, the most disadvantaged children in Ethiopia and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa were struggling to complete their primary education. Pulling from her recent research through the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre, Dr. Rose noted that this is in part because students from poorer rural backgrounds simply don’t have access to the same resources as more affluent, urban students.
COVID-19 is likely to increase dropout rates for the most disadvantaged students in addition to causing large learning losses for students in the early years of schooling. Accelerated learning programs, such as Luminos’ Second Chance program, are among the efforts Dr. Rose hailed as a learning opportunity for other countries, especially post-COVID-19.
Referencing an August 2020 phone survey conducted with the RISE Programme and the Early Learning Partnership, Dr. Rose explored the digital divide between rural and urban households in Ethiopia. According to the survey, only 58% of rural households had access to electricity compared to 92% of urban households. In both urban and rural households, fewer than 60% of those surveyed had access to a radio and barely 2% had access to the internet. Dr. Rose emphasized that this lack of access to technology and basic electricity is something funders interested in Ethiopia should pay particular attention to before pushing for ed tech solutions. To read more about the REAL Centre’s research in collaboration with Addis Ababa University and the Ethiopian Policy Studies Institute, please view the full report here.
In order to build resilient, inclusive education systems, Dr. Rose recommended prioritizing resources to improve primary school standards. This includes adapting the curriculum to focus on the basics and extending the school day. It may also involve providing additional support for those whose family members are unable to support home learning due to illiteracy, poverty, or lack of access to ed tech. She noted that supporting schools and teachers with resources on tackling learning loss, both academic and socio-emotional, will be another critical step to building a resilient, inclusive education system, as will paying particular attention to the most vulnerable students: those in the rural areas, those in poverty, and girls. Finally, to create a safe learning environment, especially during the pandemic, Dr. Rose emphasized the importance of providing basic hygiene in schools as well as masks and hand sanitizer for the poorest students – something Luminos provides in all of our Second Chance classrooms.
At the end of the discussion, a guest asked the speakers to name one key take-away or piece of advice for the donor community. Dr. Rose emphasized that, “The number one thing is bridge programs [like] accelerated learning programs: something that is possible for children to attend in a flexible manner, that allows them to engage in the learning environment and get up to speed. I think they’re going to be even more vital going forward.” Luminos Strategic Advisor in Ethiopia, Dr. Alemayehu Hailu Gebre, reflected on how the current state of the world requires new creativity in education, explaining, “As we all know, COVID-19 coupled with unprecedented disasters has augmented the problems of exclusion in education. Bringing these children to school requires an innovative approach.” Luminos CEO Caitlin Baron closed out the session:
“The Ethiopian government has made an extraordinary commitment to education over the last few years. Luminos looks forward to continuing to partner with the Ethiopian MOE to ensure that the most vulnerable out-of-school children get a second chance to catch up on education after COVID-19.”
We are delighted to announce that two new members are joining our Board of Directors this month: Erin Ganju and George Kronnisanyon Werner.
Erin Ganju is a Managing Director at Echidna Giving, one of the largest private funders in girls’ education in lower-income countries. Erin joined Echidna Giving from Room to Read, the internationally lauded NGO she co-founded to advance literacy and gender equality. During her tenures as COO and CEO, Room to Read helped over 12 million children in 15 countries pursue a quality education.
George Kronnisanyon Werner is an experienced public-sector leader and innovator who has spearheaded successful national and government-wide reform programs across a range of areas including health and education workforce reforms. George served as Liberia’s Minister of Education from 2015 to 2018. Since leaving public service in March 2018, he has used his first-hand knowledge to assist other African and Asian leaders to implement transformative reform agendas aimed at developing human capital and maximizing demographic dividends for long-term economic growth.
Erin and George are longtime trusted advisors and friends to the Luminos Fund and were recently featured in our Education Leadership through Crisis video series. To get to know them better, we’ve asked Erin and George a few questions about themselves:
At Luminos, we’re working to unlock the light of learning in every child. What do you see as the power of education? Why is education so important to you?
Erin: “I see education as the cornerstone solution that can help solve so many other issues. If you have an educated population, they are able to develop local solutions that can best address health issues, climate change, political participation, peace, justice and so on. As Nelson Mandela so aptly said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.'”
George: “If you want bridges, if you want hospitals to function well—good doctors, good nurses, all of these people—if you want engineers, and good presidents, you ought to invest in children. Right from the beginning of the pipeline to its end. There is a clear moral purpose to this. I think that once people get the message that we have a moral responsibility to our children not to fail them, that we should do whatever it takes so that every child, regardless of disability, regardless of gender, regardless of whether or not they come from low-income families, must have equal access to quality education. It is our moral responsibility to make sure we have citizens who are not just healthy, but literate and numerate and productive to grow the economy and to make sure that we transmit this from one generation to another.”
What excites you most about the Luminos Fund?
Erin: “The work the Luminos Fund is doing to ensure all children, no matter what their circumstances are, have access to a quality education in their local communities is very relevant. I think your Second Chance accelerated learning program is especially relevant as children are reentering school after the COVID-19 pandemic. I am particularly impressed with the approach Luminos Fund takes to collecting and analyzing data to ensure effectiveness of your programs.
George: “The practice the Luminos Fund has of hiring high potential young people who are often only Grade 10 graduates to become your classroom teachers and providing them with three weeks of intensive training followed by weekly in-classroom coaching. For countries with massively stretched school systems and average class sizes already in the 50+ range, this is an effective, practical auxiliary option to educate children.”
At Luminos, we value each students’ learning journey and emphasize activity-based, joyful learning. Erin, when you were a student, what was your favorite subject? Why?
Erin: “I loved school as a child and feel very fortunate to have been able to attend great public schools filled with dedicated teachers. I can’t remember really disliking any subjects, but, if I had to choose one as my favorite, I would choose world history. I loved learning about different cultures and important world events, and imagining all the great places I would visit when I grew up!”
Another thing we emphasize in our programs is the importance of reading. George, when you were young, what books inspired you?
George: “The first one that really got to me was Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The second one was Camara Laye’s The African Child. It was the first time I came face to face with somebody talking about the nature of an African village and the culture around African villages.”
To learn more about Erin and George, view their interviews from the Education Leadership through Crisis video series. You can find Erin’s here and George’s here. Welcome Erin and George, we’re honored to have you on our Board of Directors!
A special episode of the podcast “Let’s Talk About Skills, Baby” launched Monday, December 7 featuring Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund, and Dominic Regester, Program Director of Salzburg Global Seminar and Founding Member of the Executive Committee for Karanga, The Global Alliance for Social and Emotional Learning and Life Skills.
Created and hosted by Kelly Ryan Bailey, the “Let’s Talk About Skills, Baby” podcast was developed with the intent of learning what skills make individuals successful, how they developed those skills, and their innovative approaches to improving skills-based hiring and learning around the world. In this episode, Kelly spoke with Caitlin and Dominic about transforming education through social and emotional learning (SEL).
While talking about Luminos’s SEL efforts, Caitlin noted that in our Second Chance program:
“What we’ve seen is that through a variety of evaluations, as many as six years later, [Second Chance] children are still progressing through school at better rates than their peers, and most importantly, they have sustained greater happiness in the classroom, that they have a strong sense of self-efficacy, and that they have higher aspirations for the future.”
Karanga, which works to equip and inspire practitioners, policy makers, and researchers from around the world to promote quality and equitable SEL and life skills, is working with Luminos to further strengthen our SEL practice within the Luminos Second Chance program. As Caitlin notes:
“In our program, it’s not like from 10-10:15 we do social and emotional learning—there’s no unit in the days calendar. It’s really baked into the ethos.”
Luminos is honored to be part of Karanga’s Global Steering Committee, a community of 60+ SEL experts, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. Karanga is currently hosting a series of online SEL activities which can be joined at https://karanga.org/events.
Listen to the full episode here, or via the “Let’s Talk About Skills, Baby” website.
Click here to read a PDF version of our program updates.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge communities across the globe, the prospects for the world’s most vulnerable children are somber. We know that one third of schoolchildren globally have not been reached by any remote learning during COVID-19 (UNICEF) and even three-month school closures can cause students to fall one year behind (NWEA). New research predicts that COVID-19 school closures will cost students up to $15 trillion in lost future earnings (IZA Institute of Labor Economics). Other new studies predict that at least seven million children are now at risk of dropping out of school completely (World Bank, Save the Children). And this is on top of the fifty-nine million children of primary-school age who were already out of school worldwide prior to the pandemic.
While this year exacerbates inequality across the globe, the Luminos Fund team is more dedicated than ever to our mission helping girls and boys learn to read and do arithmetic in our joyful classrooms, and continue their studies in their local village schools. Our key focus during this crisis is to keep our students safe and connected to learning. Our team never stopped pushing and, this fall, our classrooms are beginning to reopen. Read more about our efforts and plans in Ethiopia, Liberia, and Lebanon on the next pages.
In Ethiopia, the Luminos Fund is operating micro-classes, supporting distance learning, and partnering with government.
On March 16th, Ethiopia mandated the closure of all schools, impacting more than 26 million learners. Luminos continues to explore all available options for resuming learning safely for our children and understands the need to be agile while adhering to the guidelines laid out by the Ethiopian Ministry of Education (MOE). This year, the MOE’s growing need for proven alternative learning solutions—like Second Chance—is creating an even greater opportunity for the government’s adoption of our model beyond what is underway. There is significant appetite from education stakeholders in Ethiopia for technical expertise from Luminos and its partners on condensing curriculum, teacher training, and improving learning outcomes.
Our 2019-20 cohort of students
When schools closed, Luminos pivoted to supporting students with home-based learning through the distribution of learning resources and the creation of a digital learning portal for Luminos and its partners to share resources across regions. SMS-based contact helped ensure direct communication with families during the pandemic, and from May to July, we ran outdoor micro-classes of 4-6 students. Facilitators received guidance on micro-classes and ongoing virtual training and support from Program Supervisors and Luminos partners. Luminos also supported the MOE’s COVID-19 education response with staff as active participants in the Education Cluster and through one-on-one advising with key MOE officials. We continue to explore MOE partnership opportunities to reach even more children through our Second Chance model. All schools in Ethiopia plan to open by the end of November, and all Ethiopian students—including our 2019-20 cohort—will be promoted to the next grade for the start of the 2020-21 academic year.
Our 2020-21 cohort of students
In the 2020-21 school year, Luminos expects to reach 1,300 children directly through Second Chance education, and thousands more through government adoption. As noted, all schools in Ethiopia plan to open by the end of November. Our staff continues to work extensively with government partners across national, regional, and local levels to finalize plans for the 2020-21 government adoption program, which aims to equip the government to implement Second Chance in conventional government primary schools across Ethiopia.
In Liberia, the Luminos Fund is operating micro-classes (up to seven students and a teacher, physically distanced), supporting distance learning, and partnering with government.
Schools across Liberia closed in March. Luminos continues to explore all available options for resuming learning safely for our children. We understand the need to be flexible to respond to students’ and families’ needs while adhering to guidelines laid out by the Ministry of Education (MOE). The Luminos Fund launched in Liberia in the aftermath of Ebola, when approximately one in four Liberian children did not return to school, and we are keen to apply lessons from that time to the current crisis. Strategies like micro-classes keep children engaged in learning and help ensure they enroll when schools resume. As challenging as it has been to get these classes off the ground and ensure learning is happening, we are encouraged that we have positively engaged our children and kept up their enthusiasm for school.
Our 2019-20 cohort of students
Our primary focus has been the safety and health of our children and communities. Our US team actively participates in weekly MOE, Education in Emergencies Zoom meetings. Given only 12% of the Liberian population has access to electricity, we adopted a low-tech approach to ensure our 2019-20 students remain connected to the learning process by distributing worksheets, English readers, writing materials, and workbooks. Currently, Luminos is running outdoor micro-classes of 6-7 children, covering key foundational literacy and numeracy concepts. We anticipate students will transition to government school for the start of the 2020-21 school year in December. Since March 2020, Luminos has also supported its communities with WASH stations and food supplies. Even procuring basic items such as bags of rice proved challenging as most of the stores had run out of supplies. Our team worked incredibly hard on the ground to source the required permissions to cross county borders during lockdown and complete the necessary distributions.
Our 2020-21 cohort of students
We are planning for the 2020-21 cohort and forecast that we will be able to resume classes, with certain restrictions, in January 2021. Luminos will reach 2,400-2,800 children across Bomi, Montserrado, and Grand Cape Mount counties. We are updating our curriculum for the new school year to include psycho-social support for children, both in school and at home, in response to COVID-19. We anticipate continuing to support students with an element of home-based learning in the 2020-21 academic year.
In Lebanon, the Luminos Fund provides educational programs for Syrian refugees.
This year has been uniquely challenging in Lebanon, between political and economic strife, COVID-19, and the massive explosion that shook Beirut in August. Lebanon is dependent on imports and the destruction of the port has led to widespread shortages of medicines, baby formula, and other essentials. Luminos continues to explore all available options to help our students learn safely. We are working to be flexible and agile to respond to students’ and families’ needs while, at the same time, adhering to guidelines laid out by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE).
Our 2019-20 cohort of students
Luminos pivoted to providing e-learning options to children within a few weeks of school closures. Curriculum-aligned educational videos, including lesson explanations, stories, rhymes, and songs, were shared 3-4 times per week. These videos covered the core subjects Science, Math, English, and Arabic. Teachers shared videos with learners through WhatsApp groups and followed up directly with learners through phone calls and WhatsApp messages.
While dealing with the macro-challenges in Lebanon, the team on the ground has been trying to find the best possible means to remain connected with children and their families. Our partners have responded nimbly to the Beirut blast by supporting children with school supplies, volunteering to clear the rubble, and providing emergency relief materials to effected communities. We’re incredibly grateful for their hard work.
Our 2020-21 cohort of students
We are planning for the 2020-21 cohort on the assumption that we will be able to resume classes, with certain restrictions, starting in November. We have invested in more established e-learning platforms to better structure the remote learning process for 2020-21. MEHE published an academic calendar that states that schools will reopen by first week of November for all grades in regions where there is no lockdown. Currently, student registration for the 2020-21 school year is ongoing for both Lebanese and Syrian children in public schools. In the 2020-21 school year, Luminos expects to reach 1,300 children across Mt. Lebanon, Beqaa Valley, and Beirut. We anticipate all students being promoted to further education.
The Luminos Fund’s Second Chance program, an accelerated learning program for out-of-school children also known as Speed School, is one of the world’s leading innovations in K12 education according to Finnish education nonprofit, HundrED. During this week’s HundrED Innovation Summit, Luminos was selected as a member of the HundrED 2021 Global Collection.
The annual Global Collection highlights 100 of the most impactful innovations in K12 education from around the world. HundrED’s goal is to help pedagogically-sound, ambitious innovations spread and adapt to multiple contexts across the globe. While there has been remarkable disruption in global education this year due to COVID-19, we at Luminos are inspired by our fellow education nonprofits across the globe as they have rapidly developed new ways of teaching and learning. This marks the fourthconsecutive year that the Luminos Fund has been honored by HundrED, starting in 2017.
This year’s HundrED Global Collection includes innovations from thirty-eight countries.To make the Global Collection, the HundrED research team compiled a list of over 5,000 innovations from over 110 countries. After this initial survey, 150 Academy Members—consisting of academics, educators, innovators, funders, and leaders from over 50 countries—reviewed a shortlist of innovations. In total, there were 3,404 reviews by the Academy based on each innovation’s impact and scalability that were then evaluated by HundrED’s Research Team to make the final selection.
In the words of Luminos CEO Caitlin Baron, “Over this past year, the hard work and creative problem solving of our staff to ensure children still get a second chance to learn has been truly humbling and inspiring. We are honored to be a part of the HundrED Global Collection for the fourth year running.”
Once again, the Luminos Fund’s program was chosen due to its pioneering status and ability to create a scalable impact. Since 2011, Speed School (known outside of Ethiopia as Second Chance) has worked in partnership with Ethiopian NGOs to enable more than 122,062 children in Ethiopia to get a second chance at education. Over 90% of the children who start the Luminos program transition successfully to their local village school. External evaluations show that graduates of our program complete primary school at twice the rate of their peers. In 2016, the program expanded to Liberia where it reaches thousands more children every year. During COVID-19, Luminos pivoted our programs quickly to support our students learning at home with remote learning resources and through “micro-classes” (small, distanced groups of students). In addition, Luminos is providing relief to vulnerable families and communities and strengthening our collaboration with Ministries of Education.