COVID-19’s impact on our classrooms and mission

COVID-19’s impact on our classrooms and mission

At this time, all of the Luminos Fund’s programs across Ethiopia, Lebanon, and Liberia are on hold due to school closures. Our team is sharing WHO guidance, monitoring the situation on the ground, tracking government and Ministry of Education responses to the crisis, and identifying opportunities to help. Our U.S. team has begun working remotely but is well-connected through digital tools.

In the near term, we are evaluating effective, agile ways to continue supporting our students. For example, in Liberia, we are distributing readers and numeracy materials for students to work on at home.

Our team is managing resources closely to leave room to respond in new ways as the crisis evolves: we want to both respond now and plan ahead for the long term.

UNESCO reports that the number of children and young adults now out-of-school due to COVID-19 has surpassed 1 billion. At Luminos, this pandemic feels like a lightning rod: reinforcing how essential back-to-school and accelerated learning programs like Second Chance are to ensure children can unlock opportunity.

Our team looks forward to springing into action helping even more children as soon as the situation is safe.

We welcome your comments and questions at info@luminosfund.org or @luminosfund. Thank you.

Special event: Christie’s exhibition benefiting Luminos (RSVP for Feb. 7)

Special event: Christie’s exhibition benefiting Luminos (RSVP for Feb. 7)

The Luminos Fund is thrilled to announce that Christie’s is hosting a charity exhibition benefiting Luminos, kicking off on Friday evening, February 7th in New York City. We are deeply humbled by Christie’s generosity in support of children’s education and our Second Chance program. Please read on for information about the event and how to register.

Educate: A Charity Exhibition at Christie’s New York
Benefiting the Luminos Fund

On Friday, February 7, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. EST, an opening reception will be held at Christie’s New York commencing a charity art exhibition benefiting the Luminos Fund.The Luminos Fund is a philanthropic organization which aims to bring the life-changing opportunity of education to the most disadvantaged children around the world. The night will include live performances, complimentary refreshments, and a SPIN New York sponsored ping-pong tournament open to the public.

The reception will inaugurate a group exhibition of global emerging artists of diverse styles, and mediums. Each artist will donate a single work into a silent auction with proceeds fully benefiting the Luminos Fund. Additional works will be available for purchase directly from the participating artists. The silent auction and artist’s exhibition will remain open to the public until Tuesday, February 11, 2020.

Tickets are $25 (USD) via Eventbrite with all proceeds going to Luminos. Purchased tickets will grant admission to the opening reception and will be fully donated. If you cannot attend the reception but would like to donate, you will find a donation-only option within the Eventbrite ticketing screen.


OPENING RECEPTION AND SILENT AUCTION
Friday, February 7
6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020

EXHIBITION
February 7–11
Friday, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Monday – Tuesday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

For more information, please visit www.christies.com/auctions/educate-a-charity-exhibition or email us at info@luminosfund.org.

Relationships Power Africa. They Should Drive its Education, too.

Relationships Power Africa. They Should Drive its Education, too.

The following is a plenary address given by Mubuso Zamchiya, Managing Director of the Luminos Fund, to the International Education Funders Group (IEFG) Bi-Annual Meeting in November 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting was hosted by the Luminos Fund.

A young Program Officer, working at a large philanthropic institution, pays a visit to his former development studies Professor at Oxford. They greet warmly. And they reminisce about the many “save-the-world” arguments they once had. Spirited debates which rivaled that of Jeffrey Sachs and William Easterly. Disputes softened only by the several pints they tenderly nursed at the Kings Arms, on the corner of Parks Road and Holywell Street.

On this occasion, seeking to recapture the erstwhile glow of the good old days, the Program Officer posits a question, “Professor,” he says, “What must I do to fulfill the objectives of SDG4?”

“Hmm,” the Professor muses. “Well, what does best practice tell you to do? What have you learned from the entire canon of development literature you’ve assimilated all these years?”

The Program Officer, back in student-mode, straightens his frame and most eagerly responds,

“You shall innovate, scale, mainstream, and reform. This, with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And you shall engage your partner as yourself.”

The Professor heartily congratulates him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will succeed.”

But, eager to go deeper and, perhaps, trying match the Professor’s intellect, the Program Officer asks a penetrative follow-up question.

“And so, Professor, please explain. Who exactly is my partner?”

The Professor responds with a brief anecdote.

“There was a certain community in a particular African country – one of the least economically-advanced nations in the world. Its population had been systematically colonized, despotized, and marginalized. Millions of adults were illiterate. And the formal education system was not serving many children well at all. Now by chance, the country was visited by the representatives of three international foundations. The leader of the first cohort was Debbie Deficit.

‘Oh it’s just awful,’ she complained during the site visit. ‘These people have absolutely no clue. What kind of parents stand in the way of their children going to school? And what kind of government fails to provide its citizens with quality education? I don’t see anything happening here, unless we intervene.’

‘I completely agree,’ said her colleague, Sid Savior. ‘We need to make things right. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?’

The second convoy pulled up just as the first one was leaving. Its most vocal member was Pat Paternalist. ‘I mean, what do you expect?’ he said rhetorically. ‘It’s not a sophisticated country. It doesn’t have a lot of resources. Its teachers and education officials don’t have our sort of knowledge and expertise. We’ll just have to show them the way. Help them – whether they like it or not.’

When the third group arrived, Emma Empathy led her team off the bus. She immediately connected with the children. And she also sat down to listen to their parents. She had fruitful meetings with local educators and government officials about their work and their plans. And she constantly asked how her foundation might be of help. ‘We’ll fund what we can,’ Emma concluded. ‘Building, of course, on the remarkable progress you’ve already made.’”

At that point, the Professor squares up the Program Officer “Tell me,” she says. “What do you think? Which one of these groups was a good partner to the community?”

“I suppose, the one led by Emma Empathy,” he replies. “The one that built good relationships.”

And the Professor says to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

~~

Now, some of you will have noticed that my story is a cheeky adaptation of the parable of the good Samaritan. Yes, I remixed it. But, to depict a Professor, who, like the Lord Jesus, cares more that learners cultivate the right sort of relationships, and less that they demonstrate capacity for abstract intellect.

This is a crucial point. Especially in the African context – where having good relationships is both fundamental to the way of life and also forms the basis of how people learn. The connection is well-explained by Jomo Kenyatta (the first head of state of Kenya). In his seminal anthropological book, entitled Facing Mount Kenya, which is a fantastic body of literature, he discusses the structure of African society and the nature of the African mind. And while the subject is the Gikuyu people, the exposition captures the experience of Africans throughout the continent. Chapter five is of particular interest to us, as it examines traditional African education.

Says Kenyatta, “The striking thing in Gikuyu education, and the feature which most sharply distinguishes it from the European system, is the primary place given to personal relationships.” He notes that western education is characterized by five things: (i) the schoolhouse is the source of learning, (ii) freedom of personality is the greatest good, (iii) accumulation of knowledge is the chief objective, (iv) self-actualization is the highest aim, and (v) individuality is the finest ideal. But not so in African education. There, the foremost purpose is to build character for wise and useful living in a collective society. Not merely the acquisition of knowledge. In the African paradigm, relationships give agency to learning, and the homestead, not the schoolhouse, is the cornerstone of wisdom.

In African education, learning begins at birth and ends at death. And parents drive the process. They shape language, inform heritage, and provide apprenticeship. And the three concentric circles of relationship that organize African life – namely family, kinship, and peer group – facilitate the learning journey. Nothing is abstract in this approach. And every lesson – whether philosophical, ethical, or functional – has a specific interactive object to which it relates. Children learn what they practice and practice what they learn, as they emulate adults, and conduct their own experiments. All the time acquiring a mass of useful knowledge and proficiency in both functional and theoretical matters.

Assessment is also different in these two polar systems. Success measures in western education are largely transactional. They are all about value extraction – from the exchange between teacher and student. My inputs, your inputs. My outputs, your outputs. My outcomes, your outcomes. By contrast, progress measures in African education are relational. They involve monitoring the value that is inserted to the communion between family and child, kinspeople and child, and peer group and child. Our love, your love. Our well-being, your well-being. Our fulfillment, your fulfillment. Care is taken to ensure that learning reflects the culture and that the culture informs learning. It is the reason why African languages have words like Harambee in Kenya, Ujamaa in Tanzania, Ubuntu in South Africa, Hunhu in Zimbabwe, and Medemer in Ethiopia.

Now, I am not here to argue that there is no merit at all to western education. And I also am not saying that traditional African education is perfect. But I am suggesting that western education is a cultural import. One that sits very uncomfortably within its host. Moreover, since traditional African education persists within the ties of family, kinship, and peer group, there results a sort of “tale of two cities.” A forging of a complex context within which learners must code-switch daily – as between home and school. And because these two systems are in tension with each other, the souls of African children are very much being stretched dangerously thin. Some, indeed, to the very breaking point, where sense of identity, sense of belonging, and sense of readiness for adult life, are all but torn asunder.

What’s the way forward, then? Well, perhaps we cannot put the genie back into the bottle. But we can apply ourselves to listening. To Jomo Kenyatta, for example, who recommended, almost fifty-five years ago, that we ought to figure out how to connect formal education to the traditional bonds of family, kinship, and peer group. Or, more recently, to Kwame Akyeampong, Professor of International Education at the University of Sussex, who has also called for a reclamation of African education. He argues that we need to fix the deficiencies in our interrogation of education delivery on the continent. We have focused largely on structural and capacity issues, which are important, of course. But this at the expense of deeply investigating fundamental questions related to pedagogy, culture, context, and relevance. And this also at the risk of causing children to become widgets in our production processes as we seek to mold international development outcomes in the image of SDG4.

The truth is, acing standardized tests and acing non-standardized life are dramatically different things. Excel academically or not, the learners who pass through our reformed education systems, must all go back and engage productively with their parents, siblings, kinspeople, and the broader society around them. But how, though, if their education does not prepare them to do so?

Therefore, when it comes to those core tenets of best practice in international development – namely the charges to innovate, scale, mainstream, and reform – I think the plea of Kenyatta and Akyeampong is that we stop throwing the baby out with the bath water. We need to put to death our inner Debbie Deficit, and Sid Savior, and Pat Paternalist. Self-correct when we find ourselves disparaging rural parents for essentially homeschooling their children. Or African teachers for relying on pedagogies that are not scripted in western instructional manuals. Or government officials for not unequivocally adopting the imported interventions of international NGOs. And we need to bring to life our willingness to listen and learn from them. Not to hear a parroting of, “Think, pair, share,” or any other western instructional strategies. And not just to tick the box when the western curriculum is delivered in local languages. But to gain a deep and rich understanding of how African relationships and culture contribute to learning.

Perhaps the greatest contemporary “professor” on African relationships, was none other than the beloved musician, Oliver Mtukudzi. My favorite song from him is Dzoka Uyamwe. You see, Mtukudzi had kinship roots in Dande – a rural community in the Mashonaland region of Zimbabwe. There, and across the country, Mtukudzi was known as Sahwira – which means “close friend” or “good partner,” the kind who tells it like it is. And the song, Dzoka Uyamwe, is the lament of an African who has long been estranged from home and feels alienated in a foreign land. So, Mtukudzi’s lyrics say, “You see my dark skin and you conclude that I’m rotten. But a man’s rottenness is in his heart. And his darkness is in his mind. Because of you, I think of Dande. Of returning to Dande. Because I miss Dande.”

And since Mtukudzi’s music often follows a call-and-response structure, his melodious backup singers deliver the emotional overtones of a mother beseeching her last-born son to return. “Come back, my son. I’m waiting for you. Come back home and be nursed. Dzoka Uyamwe.”

Now, as a Zimbabwean – and as someone working in the field of international education – Dzoka Uyamwe strikes me in a profound way. So, in the mother’s portion of the song, I hear the voice of Africa itself. I hear the continent calling back its children. Children it knows feel alienated in an education system that has gone adrift. Dzoka Uyamwe. “Come back,” it says. “Back to those relational moorings that once nursed you and made you secure, and wise, and vital, and strong.

And since the way back is the way forward, I wonder whether the children of Africa will find good partners to accompany them there. Partners who will work with their parents and with their governments to transform the tale of two cities into a story about the best of both worlds. Both African and western education. It is exactly what the Ethiopian philosophy of Medemer is all about – combining the constituent elements of separate parts into a single or unified whole. This is in fact the crucial next step. Because we cannot secure the future for African children by indiscriminately destroying their past. You see, the blackness of Mtukudzi’s Dande – indeed, the blackness of all of Africa – is beautiful. And so if, in our pursuit of education development, we learn to look, not at the deficits of Dande, but at the fabric of riches which hold it together, then we can be confident that our contributions will be of some good.

Let me end with the words of N’Dri Thérèse Assié-Lumumba, whom Kwame Akyeampong quotes in his Inaugural Professorial Lecture of 2018. Dr. Assié-Lumumba is a Cornell Professor and President of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies. She asks this:

“Which systems of education do we analyze to inform which future? From whose perspectives are learning opportunities seen or ignored? When studying education in the Global South or former colonies, do we tend to see opportunities in their systems of thought, learning, and knowledge? Or do we simply dismiss what already exists in favor of some so-called superior global knowledge?

Now, I know – because I created her –that Emma Empathy, and those like her, are committed to higher levels of reflectiveness and lower levels of dismissiveness in their work in Africa. And I have to believe that this room is full of Emma Empathys. I think that’s why we’re all here. To discuss government adoption, not as an abstract intellectual exercise. But as a pathway to surround children with the right relationships to help them learn. So let’s come together, not matter how different we are. Let’s unlock the light in our own hearts – and in every child. And let it be our love, their love. Our well-being, their well-being. Our fulfillment, their fulfillment. Medemer.

Thank you.

HundrED Honors Luminos as a Global Education Innovator for the Third Time

HundrED Honors Luminos as a Global Education Innovator for the Third Time

The Luminos Fund’s Speed School initiative, an accelerated learning program for out-of-school children also known as Second Chance, is one of the world’s leading innovations in K-12 education according to Finnish non-profit, HundrED. HundrED recently released its third global innovation collection, HundrED 2020, highlighting one hundred of the brightest innovations in K-12 education.

This is the third consecutive year that the Luminos Fund has been honored by HundrED. Luminos was also awarded in HundrED’s 2018 and 2019 global collections.

The HundrED 2020 collection includes innovations spanning thirty-eight countries. Each innovation was evaluated on its impact and scalability, and submissions were reviewed by teachers, students, leaders, innovators, as well as HundrED Academy Members and community members.

Caitlin Baron, Chief Executive Officer at the Luminos Fund said: “We are thrilled to be recognized again by HundrED in its 2020 collection. This honor is such an affirmation of our ongoing work helping children. Our team couldn’t be happier to continue being part of this community of global education innovators and changemakers. Thank you, HundrED.”

The Speed School initiative was chosen due to its pioneering status and ability to create a scalable impact. Since 2011, Speed School has worked in partnership with Ethiopian NGOs to enable more than 113,000 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. (The Luminos Fund also provides accelerated education to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, though that program is not under the Second Chance/Speed School umbrella.)

Saku Tuominen, Chairman & Creative Director of HundrED, said: “Spreading innovations such as Speed School across borders can be a gamechanger for education, worldwide. We will continue to encourage as many stakeholders as possible including schools, educators, administrators, students and organizations to get involved so that we can work towards a positive future.”

Related Links

The Luminos Fund 2020 Innovation Page on HundrED.org, 2019

Speed School Students Complete School At Twice The Rate of Government-Run Institutions, HundrED, 2018

Luminos Recognized by HundrED Global Innovation Prize for the Second Time, The Luminos Fund, 2018

Speed School Program Recognized With Two Innovation Awards, The Luminos Fund, 2017

Video: Caitlin Baron on Speed School, HundrED, 2017

Video: Caitlin Baron: Spreading Speed School Across Borders | HundrED Innovation Summit, 2017


Video: How HundrED Spreads Innovations

Event Recap: “Dynamic Philanthropy: A Remedy for the Global Learning Crisis”

Event Recap: “Dynamic Philanthropy: A Remedy for the Global Learning Crisis”

On September 26 during U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) week, the Luminos Fund hosted “Dynamic Philanthropy: A Remedy for the Global Learning Crisis,” an intimate conversation featuring Phyllis Kurlander Costanza, Head, UBS Philanthropy and CEO, UBS Optimus Foundation; Pascale de la Frégonnière, Executive Director, Cartier Philanthropy; His Excellency Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Cares; and Alan McCormick, Managing Director, Legatum Group. Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund, moderated.

In the last fifteen years, enormous progress has been made in global education, such as a 40% decrease in the number of children out of school, a doubling of the school system in Africa, and the emergence of near parity in girls’ and boys’ education in the primary phase. However, much work remains. Globally, three-quarters of children and adolescents are still not learning at minimum levels.

Now in its third year, the Luminos UNGA week event convenes key funders, thought leaders, and implementors around the subjects of education and international development. This year, we were delighted to have a packed room of participants all focused on real solutions for the 260 million children around the world who still fail to learn the basics.

Caitlin Baron moderated the discussion

Innovative Approaches to Solve the Global Learning Crisis

At Luminos, we believe in philanthropy’s power to fuel breakthrough innovations that will tackle the global learning crisis. We feel extremely fortunate to work with these four leaders and their respective organizations, and were eager to hear their timely, energizing insights about the power of philanthropy in education development.

Cartier Philanthropy, Dubai Cares, Legatum Group, and UBS Philanthropy/UBS Optimus Foundation have funded an array of innovations that are moving the needle in educational opportunity around the globe. During the event, each speaker discussed his or her organization’s approach to philanthropy, innovation, and international education.

“The power of UBS Philanthropy is bringing clients to the doorstep of the world’s greatest problems,” Phyllis explained, noting that up to 80% of UBS clients are interested in investing in education. “UBS Optimus is a foundation of our clients: we route money from clients towards solving many social challenges. With education, we are trying to move clients from building schools to focusing on the quality of learning happening in the classrooms.”

One key area of innovation for UBS Optimus Foundation has been investment in outcomes-based financing. Phyllis described outcomes-based financing as one way to help build capacity in the space and encourage NGOs to focus on results. UBS has achieved strong returns through Development Impact Bonds (DIB) that can then be re-invested to achieve even more impact.

Meanwhile, Cartier Philanthropy seeks to fund scalable, high-impact innovations while moving toward an unrestricted funding model.

“Cartier Philanthropy believes in unrestricted funding,” Pascale noted. “We work for our grantees. They don’t work for us.”

“Cartier Philanthropy is quite independent of Cartier, which has been great to let us be experimental and find organizations working on exciting ideas that scale. Our work isn’t dictated by how we can further the Cartier brand: we were left free to draft our own strategy. Test, try, learn, fail, and try again is a philosophy we believe in,” she continued appreciatively.

Tariq described Dubai Cares’ founding vision to improve children’s access to quality primary education and, more broadly, increase funding for education as this sector receives far less investment than health.

“The Millennium Development Goals were set in 2000 and the 2nd Goal was universal access to primary education. Five years later when the UN met, they said Goal 2 would not be met by the deadline. Dubai Cares was founded in 2007 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. HRH is a strong believer in youth and education. He wanted to convince others to invest more in education, as health always gets more investment compared to education. Dubai today is where it is because of its focus on youth and education. Since 2007, Dubai Cares has worked to provide quality education around the globe.”

“The job of philanthropy is to pilot and test innovations, and do your best to see them to scale,” Tariq continued. “Philanthropists’ job isn’t system strengthening. But, partnership with government is key if you want to influence the mainstream. We have to work within the priorities of governments if we are serious about achieving systems change – or help the government to prioritize an issue if we feel it is important.”

Legatum has a unique relationship with the Luminos Fund. A Legatum Foundation grant launched Luminos as an independent organization in 2016. Alan currently serves as Chairman of the Luminos Fund’s Board of Directors.

Pascale de la Frégonnière, Alan McCormick, and Phyllis Kurlander Costanza

From left: Pascale de la Frégonnière, Alan McCormick, and Phyllis Kurlander Costanza

Alan explained, “We run a purpose-driven investment business at Legatum. The mission at the heart of our business is to generate and allocate capital that helps people prosper – and we’ve funded 2,000 projects across the developing world. Our philosophy is to test ideas and then bring others to invest in proven solutions. The best way to help people succeed is to give them the freedom to innovate.”

Describing the Luminos Fund’s origins, he noted, “When we saw how the program makes children numerate and literate in 10 months we were blown away.”

Words of Encouragement

As the event drew to a close, panelists offered advice based on their experience in philanthropy.

“We can’t do this alone,” Tariq said. “We need more donors to collaborate, like how Co-Impact is bringing funders together.”

Phyllis shared recommendations for prospective grantees: “Learn how to ask for money and go big.” Funders are pitched frequently and potential grantees must stand out from the crowd to succeed.

“Reading the news, it’s easy to focus on problems,” Alan cautioned. “Get out and look for solutions and innovations. The innovations out there today give me such hope. Be hopeful and persevere.”

H.E. Dr. Tariq Al Gurg discusses Dubai Cares' focus on education

H.E. Dr. Tariq Al Gurg discusses Dubai Cares’ focus on education

Images by Hannah Cohen Photography

Our 2018 Annual Report Focuses on Girls

Our 2018 Annual Report Focuses on Girls

The Luminos Fund is delighted to release its 2018 Annual Report. We’re working to ensure children everywhere get a chance to experience joyful learning, especially those denied an education by poverty, conflict, or discrimination.

In this Annual Report, we review 2018 through the lens of the Luminos Fund’s contribution to girls’ education. When girls get the chance to learn, they can positively transform their lives and those of their families.

Around the world, an equal number of girls and boys are out of school. Luminos programs prove you can give girls and boys a second chance at education right alongside one another — with great results. In fact, research shows that co-ed programs like ours may be one of the best ways to reach girls.

Highlights

  • 118,437 – To date, we’ve helped 118,437 children get a second chance at a good education, half of whom were girls.
  • 10 months – Luminos delivers accelerated 10-month programs covering the first 3 years of school, with 4 times as many reading hours as mainstream school.
  • 95% – Overall, 95% of children transition to mainstream school upon completion of our programs.
  • 11,185 – In 2018, 11,185 children (46% girls) received a second chance education in Ethiopia.
  • 1,615 – In 2018, 1,615 Syrian refugee children (43% girls) participated in our back-to-school programs in Lebanon.
  • 3,150 – In 2018, 3,150 children (46% girls) received a second chance education in Liberia.

Read the full 2018 Annual Report here.

Acknowledgements

The Luminos Fund team extends sincere thanks and gratitude to our funders, implementing partners, government ministry allies, Board of Directors, advisors, and friends for joining us on this vital journey.

Learn more and support our work

Learn more about the Luminos Fund and our work by exploring our website or contacting us at info@luminosfund.org.

Help more children get a second chance at a good education. Please donate here.


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