Amidst years of conflict, displacement, and compounding socio-economic challenges that threaten children’s well-being, Luminos classrooms in Ethiopia provide a haven for students—a space for healing to begin.
Since late 2020, inter-communal conflict in the Konso Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia has displaced more than 200,000 people. As a result, thousands of children have had their lives uprooted and their education disrupted. Compounding these challenges, recent years of drought and food insecurity have exacerbated tensions and increased barriers to education, forcing many parents to make difficult decisions about how many children they can afford to send to school.
In addition to delivering urgent humanitarian aid, ensuring children’s psychosocial well-being is imperative. With limited access to basic services, far too often, these children are denied the social and emotional support needed to ensure their success.
With cornerstone support from the LEGO Foundation, Luminos expanded to Konso in the 2022-23 school year, placing children’s psychosocial well-being at the center. The Luminos program helps out-of-school children catch-up on the first three grades of school, building foundational reading, writing, and math skills in a safe, inclusive, and joyful learning environment. This emphasis on a joyful and activity-based pedagogy has been proven to support the development of important Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills.
In contexts like Konso, where food insecurity creates significant barriers to learning, providing a safe and nurturing learning environment for children is critical to ensuring that no child is left behind. Luminos students in Konso receive free midday meals as part of their participation in the program. (Photo: Michael Stulman/Luminos Fund)
In Konso, the Luminos curriculum includes an explicit emphasis on SEL, which is incorporated into daily classroom instruction alongside our core model that focuses on foundational reading, writing, and math skills. Each day, Luminos teachers lead dedicated lessons that engage students on topics like building self-awareness, managing emotions, dealing with disappointment, promoting confidence towards reaching goals, creating empathy, and respecting differences. These sessions are participatory and collaborative, and students are encouraged to share, learn from each other, and use their experiences to develop solutions and new ways of thinking.
The SEL components of the curriculum were developed in close collaboration with our community partner in Konso, SIL Ethiopia, who are experts in SEL and supporting children experiencing trauma.
Luminos classrooms use a wide range of activity-based teaching methods that are interactive and engaging, collaborative, physical, and build students’ skills and confidence. These methods include group work, role play, physical and tactile activities, and the use of local songs, dances, and handicrafts among others. (Photo: Michael Stulman/Luminos Fund)
Recognizing the diverse needs of each child, our program in Konso provides Luminos teachers with training and materials on understanding trauma and its impacts on children, as well as the use of therapeutic skills such as effective listening, music and art therapy, and sharing stories to facilitate healing. Equipped with these basic tools, our teachers are able to better support children exhibiting more serious signs of trauma or distress by providing children with counsel and a safe space to share their own experiences, process their emotions, and reflect using positive coping mechanisms.
At the end of the 2022-23 school year, teachers and parents noted significant improvements in communication and collaboration among students, as well as an increase in students’ self-confidence. Nearly 90% of students qualified to transition into Grade 4 to continue their education at the local government school with peers. Despite the trauma they experienced, students remain hopeful and proudly express their aspirations for their futures and careers.
Luminos students in Konso engaged in a lesson. (Photo: Michael Stulman/Luminos Fund)
In the 2023-24 school year, we are reaching over 700 out-of-school children in Konso with transformative education. We are also scaling our program to Tigray, Ethiopia, where children have been out of school for three years due to COVID-19 and conflict, and where findings from a Luminos-commissioned study revealed that children have experienced significant learning loss and psychological trauma. The Luminos program in Tigray is informed by learnings from Konso and includes a structured pedagogy, comprehensive trauma healing training for teachers, daily SEL sessions, and an emphasis on play-based learning.
Luminos recognizes the profound impact a classroom can have in providing a sense of stability, hope, and community for children displaced by conflict and experiencing trauma. For many of our students, Luminos classrooms provide a much-needed space for joy and healing.
“There is no doubt that this work is important. For the children we serve in Tigray, life is not back to normal and there is a lot of work to be done,” says Luminos Ethiopia Education Program Manager, Lula Yibaleh. “My hope for students is that they overcome the psychological burdens they face and become positive agents of change in their communities. I hope that these children’s hopes and dreams are restored through the power of transformative education programs, such as the Luminos program.”
“There is no doubt that this work is important.”
Lula Yibaleh, Luminos Education Program Manager, Ethiopia