Yousef: Finding Refuge and Hope in the Classroom | Lebanon 

Yousef: Finding Refuge and Hope in the Classroom | Lebanon 

Joyful, bright-eyed, and brimming with hope for the future. These are just a few words that describe 9-year-old Yousef. 

Despite having to overcome several challenges at a young age, his optimism shines brightly. Yousef was an infant when his family fled their home in Syria and settled in Lebanon. As he grew, his education was postponed because his parents could not afford to enroll him in school. Despite these obstacles, this aspiring pilot continues to dream big.  

In Lebanon, Luminos works closely with two community-based organizations, reaching more than 7,000 children like Yousef to date — providing a safe, welcoming environment where students can catch up on foundational skills and develop their full potential. 

After successfully completing the Luminos catch-up program, Yousef transitioned into public school to continue his education. 

“Education is important because it helps me in the future to get a job and be an independent and effective member in society.” 

Yousef, Luminos alum

“Education is important because it helps me in the future to get a job and be an independent and effective member in society,” Yousef says. “I want to reach university level and get a degree in aviation.” 

Yousef with his mother, Watfa. (Photo: Chris Trinh for the Luminos Fund) 

But Yousef’s path to lifelong learning — and aviation — is not an easy one. As a result of teacher protests over salaries, public schools in Lebanon have faced significant disruptions and closures. The country has endured a series of ongoing social, economic, political, and health crises in the past few years, which have created a dire situation for children, especially the Syrian refugee children Luminos serves. Due to a nationwide economic crisis, prices of basic goods have skyrocketed, and many families have limited access to electricity, which substantially restricts the delivery of basic services.  

“Life has become hard and complicated,” says Yousef’s mother, Watfa. “The electricity and many other problems made Yousef feel sad. I am worried about everything, especially not being able to afford my children’s basic necessities.”  

Today, through an additional Luminos program, Yousef is receiving homework support for math and English (English is one of the two standard languages of instruction in Lebanon). His motivation for learning grows more and more each day. 

“I love my classmates and my teachers,” says Yousef. “After classes, I usually revise my lessons and then I get ready to go to the public school in the afternoon schedule.”  

Colorful posters and letters of the alphabet decorate classrooms in Lebanon. (Photo: Chris Trinh for the Luminos Fund)

According to his teacher, Amal, Yousef has shown significant improvements and is thriving as a self-confident, intrinsic learner.  

“Yousef usually interacts with the pictures shown in stories and connects them with his surroundings. He has proved to be an independent learner. He answers and solves the questions individually,” says Amal.  

By providing a safe and nurturing space to learn, Luminos programs help mitigate the devastating impact of compounded crises and school closures.  

Beyond learning, our classrooms offer a sense of stability and hope — not only for our students, but their teachers and parents, too.  

“Hope has motivated us to curb pessimism. This hope is reflected in the students’ faces. When we see the learners’ diligence and interest in discovering knowledge, our confidence in the coming days is boosted.” 

Amal, Luminos teacher

Read this story and others from our various country programs in our 2022 Annual Report!

To learn more about our Lebanon program, click here.

The Luminos Fund's 2022 Annual Report spread on a wooden table.

Photo credit for this story: Chris Trinh

Emmanuel: A Family Steps on the Path to Education in Liberia 

Emmanuel: A Family Steps on the Path to Education in Liberia 

On a bustling government school campus in Liberia, students on their lunch break fill the air with loud and lively conversation.

Tucked away from the midday sun under the cool shade of a corridor, a Luminos alum named Emmanuel shares his story. At 15 years old, Emmanuel has achieved something remarkable: he’s made it to the eighth grade after being out of school for nearly a decade. And he has no plans of stopping.

“I’d like to go and continue my education past high school — go to college, and get a degree in medicine,” he says.

These big dreams and achievements are possible because Emmanuel attended Luminos’ catch-up education program four years ago. Inside a joyful, interactive classroom, Emmanuel learned how to read, write, and do math for the first time.

“I’m proud to be in school and learning because they teach us, and we can learn, and then take it home to our parents.”

Emmanuel, Luminos alum

“I like school because education is a powerful tool and the key to everything,” he explains.

Emmanuel’s mother, Josephine, marveled at the pace at which he was learning.

“They were learning really fast,” she says. “And he’s still progressing. The program helped him a lot. I’m proud that he can read and write.”

Emmanuel and his fellow Luminos alum, Princess, stand with their former Luminos teacher, Varney.

Josephine, who had to drop out of school after first grade, saw the Luminos program as an opportunity to ensure Emmanuel’s future would be different from her own.

When Josephine learned about Luminos’ free catch-up education program, she knew it was a second chance to help her son learn, grow, and gain the tools he needed to succeed — and the first step for their family into the world of education.

In the Luminos classroom, Emmanuel discovered his passion for math, which quickly became his favorite subject.

“Everything in math is my favorite — subtraction, percentages, addition,” Emmanuel says.

When Emmanuel completed the Luminos program, he was equipped with strong foundational learning skills and transitioned into fourth grade at his local government school.

One of Emmanuel’s current teachers, Robert, was amazed at the differences between Luminos alumni like Emmanuel and other students. Luminos students were better behaved, able to concentrate for longer periods, could pronounce words correctly, and were much more likely to volunteer — especially to read in front of the class.

“They were learning really fast. And he’s still progressing. The program helped him a lot. I’m proud that he can read and write.”

Josephine, mother of Luminos alum Emmanuel

“Emmanuel is especially good at math,” Robert notes, observing that while other students will count using their fingers, Emmanuel is able to do mental math quickly. Robert says that, even during breaks, Emmanuel can often be found in the classroom running his friends through math problems on the blackboard.

“It helped me,” says Emmanuel of the Luminos program. “Before I didn’t know math, and now I know math and I’m on the Middle School Academic Team!” As a member of his school’s Academic Team, Emmanuel participates in quiz competitions where he excels at answering math questions.

“I’m proud to be in school and learning,” says Emmanuel, “because they teach us, and we can learn, and then take it home to our parents.”

In addition to bringing knowledge home to his family, Emmanuel dreams of improving his community.

“I want to see my community get better. I want to see water pumps and a market every day. I want to be a doctor because a doctor helps other people.”

Meet Emmanuel’s Former Luminos Teacher: Varney

Varney, now a supervisor of Luminos classrooms, was Emmanuel’s teacher in 2019 when Emmanuel attended the Luminos program.

“Emmanuel was very smart,” Varney recalls. Varney is not surprised by Emmanuel’s continued love of math, noting that Emmanuel helped as his teacher’s assistant in mathematics. Varney still comes to check on his former Luminos students on their government school campus.

Read this story and others from our various country programs in our 2022 Annual Report!

To learn more about our Liberia program, click here.

The Luminos Fund's 2022 Annual Report spread on a wooden table.

Photo credit for this story: Mara Chan

Suraiya: A Brilliant Nurse in the Making | Ghana

Suraiya: A Brilliant Nurse in the Making | Ghana

Suraiya’s first reaction upon entering her Luminos classroom was awe — she thought it was beautiful.

The humble building dedicated to learning was a beautiful sight in Suraiya’s eyes because it represented a long-awaited opportunity to join her peers in an environment that had always been out of reach.

“I had never stepped in one before,” Suraiya says wistfully. At age 12, Suraiya had never been to school. In the Ashanti region of Ghana, where Suraiya and her family live, it is all too common for children to miss out on education. Nearly 23,000 primary-school-aged children in Ashanti are out of school.

In 2022, Luminos officially launched in Ghana to give out-of-school children in the Ashanti region a second chance at education. Suraiya was one of 1,500 children enrolled in Luminos’ classrooms.

“She wasn’t able to read at first, but now she is improving. She hadn’t been to school before so she wasn’t able to do math, but now she can.”

Ramatou, Suraiya’s mother

Suraiya and her mother, Ramatou, used to work together on the family’s charcoal farm to make a living — Ramatou did not have the money to send Suraiya to school. Every day, Suraiya would accompany her mother to a plot of land in the forest, cut down wood, and burn it into charcoal to sell.

During a reading lesson, one of Suraiya’s classmates answers a question.

Through the free Luminos program, Suraiya quickly began learning how to read, write, and do math.

English is her favorite subject, but Suraiya also enjoys learning addition and singing along with her teacher, Adams. Suraiya admires Adams and appreciates the way he helps her learn.

“When he teaches, I understand,” says Suraiya. “He has been telling me that I will do well in the future.” With her teacher’s encouragement, Suraiya feels inspired about her learning progress. “I want to be brilliant!” she declares.

Suraiya’s mother also notices her growth.

“She wasn’t able to read at first, but now she is improving. She hadn’t been to school before so she wasn’t able to do math, but now she can,” says Ramatou.

Ramatou is not able to read or write, but she can see Suraiya’s progress as Suraiya brings home materials to practice reading aloud. Suraiya also shares what she learns in the Luminos program with her siblings and the neighborhood children that come to her for help.

Adams leads his class, including Suraiya (third from the left), in a warm-up activity before class begins.

“She helps them to read,” beams Ramatou.

Suraiya was steadfast in her attendance during the school year, believing education will help her become a better person in the future. After completing the Luminos program among the top three students in her class, Suraiya is advancing into the local government school. She dreams of continuing her education all the way through college and becoming a nurse.

“I will become a nurse and bring pride to my parents,” Suraiya declares. “I will come and take care of the sick here.”

“I want to be brilliant!”

Suraiya, Luminos student

Read this story and others from our various country programs in our 2022 Annual Report!

To learn more about our Ghana program, click here.

The Luminos Fund's 2022 Annual Report spread on a wooden table.

Photo credit for this story: Mara Chan

Konjit: Journeying through Conflict to Education in Ethiopia

Konjit: Journeying through Conflict to Education in Ethiopia

Konjit lives with her family in Konso, a small farming town in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia.

She loves writing and excels in reading. When Konjit grows up, she wants to be a doctor so that she can help people. But five years ago, Konjit’s life was upended when her family was forced to flee their home.

“Everything was stolen and burned,” says Konjit. “We started from nothing here.”

Since late 2020, inter-communal conflict in the region has displaced more than 228,000 people, and thousands of children are out of school.

Konjit had never been to school, but along with her guardian, Abebe, the stabilizing force in her young life has become a Luminos classroom.

“Education is important for changing my future. If I’m educated now, I will get a job and help my family.”

Konjit, Luminos student in Ethiopia

Konjit (right) plays a clapping game outside the classroom with her friend. (Photo: Michael Stulman for the Luminos Fund)

“Everybody welcomed me,” she says warmly. In just one school year, Konjit is learning to read, write, and do math in a joyful and safe learning environment.

“At first, Konjit was shy, but now she has confidence in herself,” says Konjit’s teacher, Tiblet.

Last year, Luminos expanded to Konso to serve children displaced by violence, like Konjit, who face numerous barriers to education. In recent years, drought has brought an additional challenge by exacerbating food insecurity in the region. As part of our Konso effort, Luminos provides a free lunch for students.

“This might be the only meal they have today,” explains Tiblet. In addition to Konjit, Abebe has two other children in the Luminos program: Andinet, age 10, and Ashalo, age 8. He recognizes their family is unfortunately still an outlier.

Konjit (left) and her classmates enjoy the free lunch Luminos provides to students in Konso. (Photo: Michael Stulman for the Luminos Fund)

“Education is key to all growth… This is an important program, and I hope the government can expand it. If all schools had this approach, a generation with concrete knowledge can be created.”

Abebe, guardian of Luminos student Konjit

“The conflict has a big impact on education. Many children have no second chance at education because of conflict,” says Abebe. “There’s only a small portion of displaced children who are in school.”

Providing a safe and nurturing learning environment for children like Konjit is critical to ensuring that they are not left behind. The Luminos program not only offers education and nourishment but also instills a sense of hope and possibility for a better future.

“Education is important for changing my future. If I’m educated now, I will get a job and help my family,” says Konjit.

“Education is key to all growth,” Abebe agrees. He is committed to supporting Konjit’s learning journey.

“When Konjit comes home, I help her with her assignments. I want her to have a good education to get a job and I’m willing to help her all the way,” he says. “This is an important program, and I hope the government can expand it. If all schools had this approach, a generation with concrete knowledge can be created.”

Luminos is working with the Ethiopian government to do just that. Since 2017, the Ministry of Education has been rolling out the Luminos model nationally to reach out-of-school children, through a program known as the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP), reaching over 65,000 children.

Konjit (right) studies in class. (Photo: Michael Stulman for the Luminos Fund)

Read this story and others from our various country programs in our 2022 Annual Report!

To learn more about our Ethiopia program, click here.

The Luminos Fund's 2022 Annual Report spread on a wooden table.

Photo credit for this story: Michael Stulman

Emily: A Luminos Colleague Responds to a Government Invitation

Emily: A Luminos Colleague Responds to a Government Invitation

While The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa — with just less than 2.5 million residents — the value of education is clear, even if achieving quality education for all is still a challenge.

“People understand why they need to go to school and its direct impacts on their futures – like being able to live in a house and not a temporary structure, being able to speak English. The benefits and impacts of education are clear even to the youngest learners in The Gambia and it is something they yearn for,” explains Emily Joof, Associate Director of Programs at Luminos, who is based in Banjul.

At the request of The Gambian government, based on our unique expertise and program track record worldwide, Luminos is providing curriculum development support and advisory services to the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) and co-creating a practical plan that will ensure all out-of-school primary-aged children in The Gambia receive a second chance at education.

“Every child deserves to be given the opportunity to explore and realize their full potentials through schooling,” says Mr. Momodou Jeng, Director of Curriculum Research Evaluation and Development Directorate at MoBSE and a key partner to Luminos. “This is my conviction.”

“Every child deserves to be given the opportunity to explore and realize their full potentials through schooling. This is my conviction.”

Mr. Momodou Jeng, Director of Curriculum Research Evaluation and Development Directorate at MoBSE

“When you look at the numbers of out-of-school children in the country, we are confident we can get 50,000 kids into school and learning,” says Emily. “This is a solvable problem.”

Although funding for education is scarce compared to the needs, teachers in The Gambia are fully committed to their students. Their passion often extends beyond the classroom, as they tend to wear many hats: nurturer, caregiver, health worker – even nutritionist.

However, there is a long road ahead. Public classrooms tend to be bare. Unlike Luminos classrooms, there are no colorful posters on the wall, no markers, pens, and few, if any, books for the students. Teachers need a user-friendly accelerated curriculum suitable for out-of-school and vulnerable children, as well as regular training, resources, and support.

“Regardless of how excellent our curriculum may be, if teachers don’t know how to teach it, it’s all for naught. Teacher training will be critical for The Gambia,” says Emily.

Mignot with her mother, Alemitu.

Mr. Jeng (center, in suit jacket) visiting a Luminos classroom in Liberia as part of the MoBSE learning trip.

In 2022, Luminos invited The Gambia’s MoBSE to visit our programs in Liberia, where they had an opportunity to see the benefits of continuous training and feedback for teachers.

“After each teacher training session, teachers would be prompted: What went well, and what didn’t go well? It is really important that we have relationships built on trust, because if not, we won’t be able see the transformation we want to see,” explains Emily.

For Emily, who recently moved back to The Gambia to work with Luminos, her interest in education is deeply rooted.

“Education is a big part of who I am. My grandmother was one of the first teachers in The Gambia. We have a lot of teachers in my family. We are proof of and the advocates for education as a tool to lift yourself out of poverty and reach your fullest potential.”

Emily Joof, Associate Director of Programs

“Education is a big part of who I am. My grandmother was one of the first teachers in The Gambia. We have a lot of teachers in my family,” she says. “We are proof of and the advocates for education as a tool to lift yourself out of poverty and reach your fullest potential.”

Looking ahead, Luminos is excited to grow our partnership with the government and realize our vision where thousands of children catch up to grade level, reintegrate into government schools, and prepare for lifelong learning.

“There is an eagerness for this change in The Gambia, which is really unparalleled,” says Emily.

Read this story and others from our various country programs in our 2021 Annual Report!

To learn more about our work in The Gambia, click here.

Photo credit for this story: Ahmed Jallanzo

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The Luminos Fund is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt charitable organization registered in the United States (EIN 36-4817073).

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