Annie’s Story: Transformative Learning in Liberia

Annie’s Story: Transformative Learning in Liberia

In a quiet community near the banks of the Farmington River in Liberia, 10-year-old Annie lives just minutes from her local government school. Sadly, when her mother could no longer afford the modest fees, Annie dropped out of school, fell behind on her education, and needed help catching up.

When the free Luminos program launched in her community, Annie suddenly had the opportunity to learn to read, write, and do math in just one school year.

“I was excited to come back to school. I was happy because I got a second chance to learn,” says Annie.

“I was excited to come back to school. I was happy because I got a second chance to learn”

Annie, Luminos student in Liberia

The same year that Annie attended the Luminos program, IDinsight, a global research and advisory organization, conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of the Luminos program in Liberia, which proved that Luminos students learn a remarkable amount. The results show that Liberian children enrolled in the one-year Luminos program learn 90% of what the average Liberian will learn in their lifetime.

Annie with her mother, Mary, outside their home. (Photo: Mara Chan/Luminos Fund) 

Annie admits it was challenging at the beginning.

“The math was hard for me.” She pauses, then smiles. “But I learned the times table.”

“I didn’t know how to read before, but now I can read,” Annie adds with confidence. By the end of the program, Annie’s Luminos teacher described her as a “super reader.”

The Luminos program goes beyond teaching children to read, write, and do math. The classroom instills confidence in children, most of whom have never experienced how it feels to be successful at school.

Annie now takes initiative, is eager to read in front of her peers, and participates in classroom activities.

“I feel happy to go to the school,” she says.

Annie’s Remarkable Reading Progress (words per minute):

By the end of the Luminos program, Annie was reading over 100 words per minute and successfully transitioned into grade 4 in her local government school.

Annie’s aspirations are as bright as her smile when she speaks of her future: “I want to continue my education. I want to go to college. I want to be a nurse when I get older.”

New RCT Shows Huge Learning Gains in Luminos Liberia Program

In 1 year, a Luminos student learns

%

of what the average Liberian will learn in their entire life*

*Based on Learning Adjusted Years of Schooling

Results of a new IDinsight RCT of the Luminos program in Liberia prove that, with the right support, children can learn a remarkable amount in a short period of time.

At the end of the 2022-23 school year, Luminos students read four times as many words per minute and completed two times as many addition and subtraction problems as children in control communities.

Effects were similar in size for girls and boys, younger and older children, children who were previously enrolled in school and dropouts, and children who started with lower baseline learning levels compared to higher baseline learning levels.

Compared with government school children in the same communities, children in the Luminos program started the school year with much lower literacy and numeracy scores, but ended the school year with similar numeracy scores and substantially higher literacy scores than their peers in school.

No other externally evaluated program in Liberia has come close to the learning gains that IDinsight documented through the RCT of the Luminos program. Learn more in this summary of the RCT.

“The Luminos Fund is demonstrating that there is a way to reach the most marginalized children and to run an accelerated program that, within 10 months, can give them the building blocks that will prepare them to transition to and succeed in the mainstream education system.”

Jeffery McManus, Senior Economist at IDinsight

Read this story and others from our various country programs in our 2023 Annual Report!

To learn more about our Liberia program, click here.

Photo credit for this story: Mara Chan and Derrick Michael

Ethiopia: Tsigereda’s Journey Into the Light of Learning

Ethiopia: Tsigereda’s Journey Into the Light of Learning

Set in the rolling green hills of southern Ethiopia, Tsigereda’s village is a patchwork quilt of carefully tended fields, forest, and traditional homes made of earth and wood.

Nestled between the fields and the forest is a Luminos classroom full of brightly colored posters, handmade clay letters, and songs. This is where Tsigereda began her first steps towards lifelong learning—but it wasn’t always this way.

Tsigereda had spent earlier years of her life out of school, helping raise younger relatives about 124 miles away in a bustling fishing town called Ziway.

“Since she spent a lot of time in Ziway, it was hard for her to get used to rural life,” says Tsigereda’s teacher, Konjit.

Help children like Tsigereda get a second chance at education

Journey to the Classroom

After the death of her parents, Tsigereda’s grandmother became her caregiver, but with extra children to feed in her household, Adnaech had no money left over to send Tsigereda to school. Instead, she sent Tsigereda to Ziway to look after their relatives’ children. Child labor in Ethiopia can often take innocuous forms like this: caring for the children of relatives, tending to livestock, or simply helping around the home. Yet all of these tasks keep children out of the classroom, pulling them off the path of learning.

Tsigereda with her grandmother, Adnaech

Tsigereda with her grandmother Adnaech outside their home. (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund)

This year, at age 11, Tsigereda’s uncle brought her back to her rural home village to be raised alongside her cousins. Shortly after Tsigereda’s homecoming, her grandmother learned about Luminos’ free catch-up education program for out-of-school children like Tsigereda and enrolled her.

“My favorite activity is learning by songs! Because the songs we sing have a lot of knowledge in them,” says Tsigereda earnestly. Songs in the Luminos program help students internalize lessons on a variety of topics from the sounds vowels make to the importance of learning. These activity-based lessons are core to the Luminos curriculum, allowing formerly out-of-school students to catch up on the content of three years of school in just 10 months.

Emersed in a joyful learning environment, Tsigereda was thriving—and it didn’t take long for her teacher and family to notice. “Tsigereda has shown a lot of change,” says her teacher, Konjit. “Now she enjoys learning and spending time with her friends. She loves to read and lead activities.” For Konjit, seeing students like Tsigereda improve is her favorite part of being a teacher. “I feel like all my work pays off when I see them read and write,” she says.

Tsigereda sings about the importance of school and learning alongside her classmates as they begin the day’s lessons. (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund)

The walls of Tsigereda’s classroom are decorated with colorful posters from past lessons, and handmade teaching materials. (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund)

Outside the classroom, Tsigereda takes a turn reading to her small group, supervised by teacher Konjit. (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund)

In addition to her love of singing, Tsigereda proudly shares that her favorite subject is math: “I like working with numbers—it’s so much fun to add and subtract numbers!”

Tsigereda’s grandmother, Adnaech, observed Tsigereda’s rapid progress with pride saying, “They told me at her school that she is very clever—I have seen her improvement myself. She helps out others as well.” Adnaech is now very intentional about ensuring that Tsigereda has enough time for studying when she gets home. “I love to see her when she is studying, reading, writing, doing her homework at home,” Adnaech notes. “A person can only live a better life if they get an education—education is important for life.”

Tsigereda doing her homework after school. “Education is very important, because without education, you cannot get knowledge,” says Tsigereda. “Getting knowledge will broaden your mind, and you will be able to do good things for your community.” (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund)

Looking to the Future

Tsigereda’s teacher, Konjit, goes one step further in describing the power of education: “Education is what brings you out of darkness and into the light.”

“Education is what brings you out of darkness and into the light.”

Konjit, Luminos teacher in Ethiopia

Konjit, Tsigereda’s teacher in the Luminos program. “I like teacher Konjit because she explains everything very well,” says Tsigereda. “There’s nothing I don’t understand when she teaches us!” (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund)

That light is shining in Tsigereda as she takes the next steps on her learning journey. After gaining the foundation skills in reading, writing, and math through Luminos’ program, Tsigereda recently transitioned into 5th grade at her local government school where her teachers report she’s at the top of her class.

When asked about the future, Tsigereda confidently replies that she wants to continue her education “until I get a degree from a big university.” After that, she is of two minds—on the one hand she would love to become a teacher like Konjit “because I want everyone to learn!” On the other hand, perhaps Tsigereda will go on to become a doctor “because I want to save the lives of people.”

Whatever path she chooses, Tsigereda’s heart for helping those around her is clear and her future is bright.

Walk with Tsigereda on her way home from school!

Batoul: A Syrian Refugee Reaches Brighter Days After Unimaginable Hardship

Batoul: A Syrian Refugee Reaches Brighter Days After Unimaginable Hardship

Sitting at a desk surrounded by classmates, 11-year-old Batoul treasures her paper, pencils, and books — prized possessions at this Luminos classroom in Baalbek, situated in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.

One of 13 million Syrians violently displaced from their home, Batoul has yearned for a sense of normalcy and an education like other children her age.

Civil war, crisis, and displacement have severely disrupted the lives and education of the Syrian refugee children Luminos serves in Lebanon.

“She feels that the school is her second home. She trusts her teacher.”

Nawal, Batoul’s mother

Our programs support children — both academically and emotionally — so they can catch up to grade level in safe, welcoming classrooms and prepare to advance into Lebanese government schools. Classrooms are full of joy, resilience, kindness, and warmth and provide a safe space for students to explore and cultivate their potential.

Mignot with her mother, Alemitu.

Batoul practices writing the singular and plural forms of words on the board in her classroom.

“I can calculate and compute numbers quickly now,” Batoul says, beaming with pride. “Math is my favorite subject.”

“She feels that the school is her second home. She trusts her teacher,” says Batoul’s mother, Nawal.

As the sole provider for six children, Nawal has made unimaginable choices and sacrifices to meet the family’s basic needs.

“I worry about my kids the most, mainly about educating them,” explains Nawal. “After we were forced to flee our home, we faced many obstacles.”

At that time, Batoul knew only a few letters and words, and numbers one through ten. But education was merely one of their concerns, as the family experienced homelessness.

“We were homeless during the winter season,” Nawal says. “People later on helped us by offering us the basic necessities such as food and blankets. We were offered shelter and a job.”

Luminos was among those who could help provide relief. As she passed by a classroom, Nawal noticed a gathering of parents and children. Nawal approached the group to learn more about why they were there and stayed to register her daughter to enroll in a Luminos classroom.

Mesfin Yacob, Sodo Zuria Woreda School Improvement and Supervision Directorate Team Leader.

Batoul with her mother, Nawal.

Today, all Nawal’s children are in school, and Batoul’s teacher, Noha, is proud of the progress that she has made in the classroom.

“She became studious and diligent,” says Noha. “She has overcome all the obstacles.”

Such encouragement is fuel for Batoul’s future ambitions.

“The teacher always praises me and empowers me,” says Batoul. “I would like to continue to the university level and be a doctor.”

“I can calculate and compute numbers quickly now! Math is my favorite subject.”

Batoul, Luminos student in Lebanon

Mignot with her mother, Alemitu.

Students in Batoul’s class practice placing nouns into categories.

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

To learn more about our Lebanon program, click here.

Photo credit for this story: Chris Trinh

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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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