Test-Learn-Adapt: Lessons from Year 1 in Ghana

Test-Learn-Adapt: Lessons from Year 1 in Ghana

In 2022, when Luminos launched our catch-up education program in Ghana, we drew on our experience working in multiple countries, reaching thousands of out-of-school children aged 8-14. In just one school year, Luminos students progress from not recognizing letters of the alphabet to reading short stories. Luminos prides itself on delivering these impressive learning gains through our methodology, also known as the Luminos Method. Everywhere we operate, about 70% of our program model is the same, while a key 30% is customized to the local context in partnership with community-based organizations and ministries of education.

A test-learn-adapt approach is central to our success, and our program in Ghana, where we have reached 3,500 out-of-school children to date, provides an excellent example of how we put this philosophy into practice.

Testing: Implementing the CBE Curriculum

Luminos collaborated with community-based organizations and the Ministry of Education to implement a 10-month accelerated learning program utilizing the government’s national Complementary Basic Education (CBE) curriculum. The CBE curriculum is widely respected as one of the most effective accelerated learning programs for out-of-school children. We recognized the value of this curriculum and decided to test its effectiveness in the Ashanti region where nearly 23,000 primary-school-aged children are out of school (Ghana 2021 Census).

Learning: Enhancing the Program for Better Outcomes

During Year 1 of the program, we made several enhancements to the CBE curriculum to ensure the best possible outcomes for the children we serve. These enhancements included weekly classroom monitoring and teacher coaching, weekly student assessments, monthly engagements with parents, and more. In the months following our program launch, we collected regular, real-time internal and external program data on student learning. From this data, we were able to triangulate the results and discovered two key findings.

A parent engagement meeting in Ghana.

A monthly parent engagement meeting. (Photo by Obeng Baah for the Luminos Fund)

Adapting: Making Program Improvements Based on Findings

First, we found that the CBE curriculum did not provide a solid foundation in the basics of phonics in the early weeks, resulting in some children being left behind in reading. We also discovered that despite Ghana’s mother tongue education policy, many children in our classrooms did not speak the language of instruction (Asante Twi).

A donut chart breaking down the different languages Luminos students in Ghana speak at home.

With these findings in mind, we adapted the program to better meet the needs of the children by increasing the amount of time spent on phonics instruction and providing additional support to children who were struggling with the language of instruction. By making these program improvements, we were able to ensure that all children had a solid foundation in phonics and were better able to engage with the curriculum. Luminos is now rolling out this updated version of our program to 2,000 out-of-school children during Year 2.

Spotlight on Teacher Training

Another example of our test-learn-adapt approach in Ghana can be found in our teacher training. A core part of the Luminos program is hiring and training community teachers for our classrooms. Community teachers are high-potential young adults who come from the same communities as our students and have, at minimum, a high school diploma.

From classroom observation and data analysis throughout Year 1 in Ghana, we identified three crucial areas that required more attention in Year 2’s teacher training: practical training, closer government partnership, and modeling the teaching we wanted to see.

Teachers practice leading a reading session in front of their peers during Ghana teacher training.

Practical training:

Incorporating generous time for practice teaching was key to building teacher confidence in delivering phonics instruction and reading aloud in Twi, a language many of our community teachers were not native speakers of. Through frequent small group practice sessions and live feedback, teachers became more comfortable with the enhanced curriculum and activity-based learning.

Ghana teacher training.

Closer government partnership:

As we continued to build on the foundation of Ghana’s CBE curriculum, it was important to deepen our partnership with the government. This enabled government education officials to offer their language expertise, deep understanding of CBE, and contextual knowledge of working in rural communities during the Training of Trainers session while we shared our new teaching and learning approaches. Partnering more closely with the government also meant they could help bring teachers onboard with curriculum enhancements, having become convinced of their value.

Luminos staff model the teaching we expect during Ghana teacher training.

Modeling the teaching:

It is hard to do something you have never seen. To demonstrate the teaching we expect in our classrooms, we actively modeled it during our teacher training. By showing teachers that learning can be fun and joyful through group work, activity-based learning, energizer activities, and effective classroom management techniques, we inspired them to replicate these techniques in their own classrooms.

In recent classroom observations, we already see the positive impact of these adaptations: teachers are making learning fun by applying the techniques they practiced. Most importantly, we are seeing students learn the phonics foundations they need to become great readers.

Continuous Iteration for Better Learning Outcomes

The core features of the Luminos Method, such as using phonics to build literacy, providing strong support for teachers, and creating a safe and joyful learning environment, can be found across our country programs. However, our work also demonstrates that success does not come from perfecting a single model that can be replicated unchanged in every context. Instead, we embrace a test-learn-adapt approach, working closely with government and community-based organization partners in each program country to develop a program that fits the local context, gathering data from day one to inform ongoing program improvements.

By utilizing a data-driven approach and optimizing our methodology to ensure children reach the key threshold of literacy, we develop a model that draws on global evidence and is adapted to the unique needs of each community. Furthermore, our way of working gradually builds the capacity and political will of stakeholders throughout the system, from teachers to politicians, setting up the conditions for future scaling and sustained impact.

At Luminos, we are committed to continuously testing, learning, and adapting our approach to achieve the best possible learning outcomes for the children we serve. We believe that our iterative approach is key to our success in delivering impressive learning gains and creating sustainable impact in the communities where we work.

Transforming Education Systems through Innovative Government Partnerships

Transforming Education Systems through Innovative Government Partnerships

By: Kirstin Buchanan

Today, seven in ten young children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple story.

The profound learning crisis facing young children today is not one that any single organization or government can address alone. Bringing children back on the path of learning and strengthening education systems to keep them there in the long term will require innovative partnerships built on mutual learning and trust.

This belief was the impetus for a powerful peer-to-peer exchange between the Ministries of Education in Ethiopia and Ghana, facilitated by the Luminos Fund in July 2022.

A Holistic Approach

The Luminos Fund takes a holistic approach to education that works in tandem with all levels of society and is supported by a network of partnerships, including with ministries of education. Though these partnerships vary from country to country, they have common goals: strengthening education systems, sharing best practices, prioritizing mutual goals, and building capacity to bring joyful, transformative learning to millions of vulnerable children.

In Ethiopia, the government first began adopting the Luminos program into government public schools in 2017 with a small pilot of 35 classrooms. Today, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is implementing our approach across the school system, and as its preferred solution to reach out-of-school children.

Inside a Luminos classroom in Ethiopia, students work in small groups as their teacher, Tegistu, walks around to support students who need help. (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund)

To accelerate this process, the Ministry created the Accelerated Learning Unit—to which Luminos provides technical support on curriculum development, strategies, and national education policy—to oversee the delivery of across government schools. Partnerships such as this enable Luminos to deliver quality education at scale while prioritizing an approach that puts the interests and needs of local communities at the center of decision-making. They also serve as a testament to the value of government partnerships in bringing about systems change.

In each program country, working closely with governments is key to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Luminos program.

What Can Ghana and Ethiopia Learn From Each Other?

In addition to partnering with ministries of education on the delivery of the program, Luminos also convenes governments and other key stakeholders to champion proven education solutions and share best practices for scaling accelerated learning programs that ensure all children have equal access to joyful, foundational learning.

Luminos Ethiopia Country Director and Regional Strategic Advisor, Dr. Alemayehu Hailu Gebre, greets Mr. Francis Asumadu, Acting Executive Director of the Complementary Education Agency (CEA) for the Ghanaian Ministry of Education. (Photo: Obeng Baah for the Luminos Fund)

In July 2022, Luminos facilitated a learning visit for members of the Ethiopian MOE to explore our newest country program in Ghana and meet with their peers in Ghana’s Ministry of Education. This learning exchange was a unique opportunity to share best practices from Luminos’ flagship program in Ethiopia and bring visibility to the ongoing work within the education sector in Ghana. The visit included four days of highly productive workshops, meetings, and classroom visits. Here are three key takeaways:

1. There’s a strong desire for collaboration.

Both Ministries are keen to find innovative ways of strengthening government-to-government and multistakeholder partnerships, and leveraging these partnerships to provide quality education to out-of-school and marginalized children. Building relationships with other ministries and partners that are providing social services to the most vulnerable families will be critical to ensuring holistic, sustainable support for all learners. The Ghanaian and Ethiopian Ministries of Education are also keen to continue to forge collaborations on key sector issues including improving student retention and strengthening monitoring and evaluation within government schools.

2. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to program delivery and scaling.

To develop high-impact and contextually relevant education solutions to the learning crisis, catch-up education programs will need to be adapted based on the needs, capacity, and context of the communities they serve. Building and strengthening engagement with community-based organizations, parents, and other members of the community is key to ensuring the effective delivery of programs.

3. Accelerated learning programs must be aligned with national strategies, policies, and goals.

Rather than working in silos, nonprofit organizations and ministries of education must work together within a framework established by government, which can generate impact in both informal and formal education systems.

What’s Next

To tackle today’s education crisis, we must act together. Increasingly, our work with governments forms a fundamental piece of the puzzle in scaling our reach and impact. Through these partnerships, we are embedding effective accelerated learning and teaching strategies into the fabric of education systems and creating structures that ensure out-of-school children remain a priority for national education planning. It is only through deep, innovative partnerships with government, local communities, and key education stakeholders that we can truly transform education systems in service of the most vulnerable children.

Kirstin Buchanan serves as the Development & Communications Associate at the Luminos Fund where she amplifies student voices and program stories, in addition to helping drive content, messaging, and fundraising strategy. She holds a MA in International Affairs and BA in International Relations from Boston University, as well as a certificate in Latin American studies.

Adams: A Community Leader Embraces Teaching to Change Children’s Lives

Adams: A Community Leader Embraces Teaching to Change Children’s Lives

The classroom where Adams teaches in Mossipanin, a rural community in southern Ghana, is surrounded by small farms and rough roads.

Hours from Ghana’s second-largest city, Kumasi, most of Mossipanin’s residents are farmers. Each day, they walk to their plots of land to grow yams, corn, and beans to feed their families and sell at the market.

Adams came to Mossipanin years ago from a nearby town to complete his national service for the government. Adams was happy and, when his service finished, decided he would stay.

“I started helping the community as their secretary,” Adams says. As secretary, Adams keeps the community up to date on what is happening, takes notes for villagers who do not know how to read, and generally serves as a link between Mossipanin and the rest of the world. When Luminos began recruiting young adults to train as teachers for our new Ghana program, Mossipanin’s village chief immediately put Adams’ name forward.

Luminos signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ghana’s national Ministry of Education in the autumn of 2021 and officially launched our Ghana program serving 1,500 formerly out-of-school children in the Ashanti region where Mossipanin is located.

With the second highest number of primary-school-aged out-of-school children in Ghana and little support historically, Ashanti has a deep need for a catch-up education program to help children build foundational reading, writing, and math skills. Data shows that the majority of children entered Luminos’ program unable to read a single word.

In Adams’ classroom today, students eagerly join in learning songs and dances, reading and writing, and solving basic math equations.

Mignot with her mother, Alemitu.

Adams has just as much fun as his students while leading short energizing activities like this one where students sing and dance.

“I love mathematics,” says Adams, noting that he always strives to involve his students in learning activities and the teaching process itself to help them internalize lessons. His enthusiasm is infectious: students from Adams’ class usually name math as their favorite subject!

“My favorite thing to learn is math,” says eight-year-old Bele, one of Adams’ students. “I feel happy when I study it. I especially like doing subtraction!”

Bele loves when Adams leads the class in an activity called Number Line where Adams draws a line on the floor in chalk, labeling it with numbers such as 1-10. Students practice addition and subtraction by taking steps forward and backward on the line.

Adams cares deeply about his students—Bele shares that Adams once made the long journey into town to buy sandals for him when he had none.

Bele, one of Adams' students, loves math.

Bele, one of Adams’ students, loves math.

“Teaching is my passion! I like teaching because I want to make a better future.”

Adams, Luminos teacher in Ghana

Adams has big dreams for his students and himself. He says, “I want my students to become a better person than I. Education is the key to success in everything. I would be proud seeing my kids having a better future; a better life through education.”

Adams’ love for learning extends beyond his classroom: he is pursuing a degree in Business Management in Education in Kumasi and one day hopes to get his master’s degree.

Today, Adams proudly declares, “Teaching is my passion! I like teaching because I want to make a better future.”

With teachers like Adams, the future for Ghana’s children is bright.

Luminos teacher Adams leads his students in warm up song-and-dance.

Adams (bottom left) leads his students in a song-and-dance activity to get them energized and ready to focus on the next lesson.

“I want my students to become a better person than I. Education is the key to success in everything. I would be proud seeing my kids having a better future; a better life through education.”

Adams, Luminos teacher in Ghana

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

To learn more about our Ghana program, click here.

Photo credit for this story: Mara Chan

Showing Up, Raw Data, and Logistics: 3 Lessons on Conducting a Successful Baseline Evaluation in Ghana

Showing Up, Raw Data, and Logistics: 3 Lessons on Conducting a Successful Baseline Evaluation in Ghana

Ernesta Orlovaitė is Associate Director of Programs at the Luminos Fund. Ernesta oversees the design and delivery of Luminos’ program in Ghana, collaborating closely with the government and local implementing partners. She also guides Luminos’ efforts to strengthen its capacity for data-based decision-making and drive better outcomes for our students. Previously, Ernesta worked as a Product Manager at Google, leading product design and development teams in Switzerland and Japan. 

Launching an education program in a new country is an unforgettable experience. As a seemingly endless list of tasks gets shorter, emails and calls give way to something much more tangible: printing primers, delivering teacher training, and, finally, ushering excited children to the classrooms for their first lesson. The first day in class is the singular focus in the weeks and months before program launch – getting everything ready just in time is a monumental undertaking.

Yet at the same time, the first day is just that – the first day in a long journey of learning to read, write, and do basic maths; of learning to learn; and of falling in love with it. In that journey, every day matters. It’s that journey, joyful and child-centered, that transports Luminos students from zero to functional literacy and numeracy in just one school year.

On March 8, 2022, as dusk fell over the hills of Ashanti, Ghana, where we celebrated the launch of the Luminos program to 1,500 out-of-school children, we were already thinking about our next big goal: an external evaluation of our first year in Ghana.

Kicking off an independent program evaluation in Ghana

In Ghana, we are lucky to be working with an experienced local partner, Educational Assessment and Research Centre (EARC). In 2015, EARC, together with Ghana Education Service and RTI International, administered the national Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) to more than 7,000 Primary 2 pupils in twelve languages across all ten regions of the country.

We knew we’d want to use the national assessment instruments to evaluate our program. These instruments have been extensively tested and translated to Asante Twi: the language of instruction in Luminos classrooms this year. Using them would also allow us to compare our student progress against learning achievements in formal schools. But we also knew that Luminos classrooms are, in several important ways, different from government schools, making assessment delivery significantly more challenging. So, we got involved – and here’s what we learned.

Lesson 1: Attend enumerator training and provide rapid feedback

EARC ran a five-day enumerator training in Kumasi, the capital of Ashanti, the week before data collection started. Under the guidance of field coordinators, enumerators visit classrooms to administer EGRA/EGMA and record student responses.

Enumerator training is a critical component of the data collection process, so the day after our program officially launched, I arrived at the Bethel Methodist Primary School to observe a practice EGRA/EGMA delivery to Grade 2 students. After the first round, I had several pages worth of feedback and so did the two field coordinators from EARC. Huddling together in an empty classroom, we discussed our reflections from that first attempt.

Enumerator training in Kumasi.

Some mistakes the enumerators made were mundane and would go away with further practice. For example, with students facing enumerators, several indicated the wrong direction of reading – from right to left. In the second attempt, not a single enumerator repeated the mistake.

A more serious issue – and one that’s difficult to catch when you don’t speak the language of assessment – was not sticking to the assessment script. With the two field coordinators fluent in Asante Twi, however, we identified and addressed the problem right away. As one of the coordinators emphatically put it while pointing at the enumerator manual, “Read this, and you will go to heaven.”

Knowing that EARC is an experienced partner, and seeing most enumerators administer EGRA/EGMA with fluency and precision, I wasn’t too concerned about the technical aspects of the evaluation. What worried me was how our students would experience the assessment.

Luminos works with some of the most vulnerable children in Ashanti. A typical student enrolled in our program would be an 11-year-old who is unable to read even the simplest of words. She might have been kept out of school because her family could not afford a school uniform. She might be tired because that morning she had been working on the family farm. She might be distracted because she hadn’t had lunch before coming to class. The experiences of Luminos children are very different from those of 11-year-olds at the Bethel Methodist Primary School. Few children enjoy assessments. I was worried our students would hate them and fail to demonstrate the extent of their true knowledge.

As the day progressed, I demonstrated the behaviours that I observed and wanted to correct, celebrated behaviours I wanted to replicate, told heart-warming stories about our students, and gave passionate elevator pitches on rapport building. I might have overdone it, but that’s a small price to pay if, in return, our children showed off all their skills and had fun while doing so.

As I continued observing enumerators, I kept bringing it up – the importance of building rapport with the student, of making the assessment feel like a (granted, rather boring) game, of creating a welcoming environment, and of treating Luminos children with the same level of respect the enumerators were treating each other and me. As the day progressed, I demonstrated the behaviours that I observed and wanted to correct, celebrated behaviours I wanted to replicate, told heart-warming stories about our students, and gave passionate elevator pitches on rapport building. I might have overdone it, but that’s a small price to pay if, in return, our children showed off all their skills and had fun while doing so.

Traveling to Hamidu to observe EGRA/EGMA data collection.

Lesson 2: Get access to raw data and analyse it daily

EARC used Tangerine, a mobile data collection tool, to record EGRA/EGMA observations in our classrooms. There are numerous advantages to using tablets in data collection, including a significantly higher data quality. No more fiddling with timers or trying to decipher the overly confusing question skip logic. A wonderful side effect of using digital tools is the opportunity to analyse data daily to identify and immediately address issues in assessment administration.

A wonderful side effect of using digital tools is the opportunity to analyse data daily to identify and immediately address issues in assessment administration.

An enumerator uses a tablet during training.

In fact, raw data can be analysed even before assessments start. With practice at the Bethel Methodist Primary School completed, we walked back to the training venue for the first assessor accuracy test. All 20 enumerators completed the same assessment delivered by the two field coordinators. By the time I reached Accra the next morning, I had everything I needed to perform a quick enumerator accuracy analysis.

After three days of training, our enumerators had an average accuracy rate of 92%. With the 2015 national EGRA/EGMA accuracy goal of 90%, my initial impressions of the experience of the EARC team were confirmed. They were doing well and would do even better by the time training finished.

Digging deeper into the accuracy data, I noticed a few interesting patterns. EGRA, it turns out, is significantly more challenging to administer than EGMA (90% and 97% enumerator accuracy, respectively), with the phonemic awareness subtask, at an appalling 69% accuracy rate, giving everyone a headache. On the other hand, having worked with challenging EGRA/EGMA data before, I was pleased with the highly consistent task timings. If we are to scale the raw non-word reading scores by time-to-completion, we better trust that the time-to-completion metric is accurate – and now I knew we could.

That night, I shared my reflections and the names of the 2-3 enumerators who needed individual support with the EARC team. The next day, my feedback was incorporated into the training.

Once assessments began in our classrooms, I continued analysing the raw data. Rather than trying to gain insights into the baseline learning achievements of our students, I scoured for issues with the data that the EARC team could address right away. As I shared my reflections with field coordinators (“I rather doubt there were 256 boys present in our classroom in Aframso”), they were passing the feedback along to the assessors. We did end up with one more classroom recording the attendance of 207 boys (again, a typo), but I expect we would have seen quite a few more if not for the quick feedback loop.

Lesson 3: Don’t underestimate logistical challenges

As enumerator training finished, my “build rapport” mantra gave way to a fixation on logistics. Our classrooms are very different from a typical primary school in Ashanti. We work in some of the most marginalised communities – many don’t have a phone signal, some can only be reached by a motorbike (and it better not rain!), and few can be found on the map. Visiting 60 remote classrooms in five days is a tall order when merely finding these communities can be a challenge.

School surroundings in Hamidu, one of the remote communities our classrooms operate in.

Our goal was to ensure that the EARC team completes the assessment in five days. That weekend, Angie Thadani (Luminos Senior Director of Programs) and I sat down and listed all the different ways data collection might go wrong, from enumerators not being able to reach teachers over the phone (definitely happened) to them failing to reach the assigned communities (also definitely happened). For each issue, no matter how outlandish, we identified a solution (or three). By the end of the day, we had a Plan B, a Plan C, and a set of simple mechanisms to improve the chances of Plan A succeeding.

The single most effective solution was connecting people. Nothing beats a phone call (once it finally goes through) in which the supervisor tells the enumerator how to get to the community, where to stop and ask for directions, and what kind of vehicle is needed to traverse the terrain. In low-connectivity contexts, WhatsApp is another must-have tool, great for planning the next day’s classroom visits once everyone’s back at the base.

The single most effective solution was connecting people. Nothing beats a phone call (once it finally goes through) in which the supervisor tells the enumerator how to get to the community, where to stop and ask for directions, and what kind of vehicle is needed to traverse the terrain.

Flexibility is another key ingredient. For example, our teachers and supervisors worked together to start teaching earlier in the day where possible (in Ghana, Luminos classes take place in formal school buildings and thus start in the afternoon once the other students have departed) so that EARC assessors would not have to travel after dark. As assessors became more familiar with the landscape, data collection schedules changed as well – on some days, a single team might assess two classrooms, while on others, reaching a single community could take hours and hours.

Finally, when all else fails, there’s luck. I planned to observe the first day of assessments, arranging to meet EARC assessors in Abotreye at midday. Abotreye is not the hardest-to-reach community we work in. Nevertheless, to get there in time, I had to get up at 3AM, spend hours in a (thankfully air-conditioned) car, and even push it on a particularly bad strip of the road. But I made it to Abotreye in time. The assessors, however, didn’t. Luck came afterwards – I ran into them a few hours later, alone with their backpacks (with no vehicle in sight), seemingly pondering their options. We picked them up, drove them to the nearest classroom, and left a few hours later as they were finishing the day’s work.

On the road to Abotreye we came across a particularly bad strip of road.

What’s next

Working with such a strong evaluation partner was an incredible experience. The Luminos Fund knew we could trust EARC to deliver high-quality EGRA and EGMA in our classrooms in Ghana. But we also knew that the context we work in is unusual.

Informed by our understanding of the unique features of our classrooms and guided by their extensive experiences of administering learning assessments in Ghana, EARC completed the Luminos EGRA/EGMA baseline in time. We are yet to receive the final dataset and the accompanying report, but the raw data is already telling a story – one that we will share next time.

Bringing Out the Light in Ghana: Ethel Sakitey

Bringing Out the Light in Ghana: Ethel Sakitey

This month, Luminos expanded our catch-up education programs to Ghana, serving 1,500 formerly out-of-school children in the Ashanti region. In the second installment of the series, “Luminos Leaders,” we are sharing the story of Ghana Country Director, Ethel Sakitey, who led our program launch in Ghana. You can read part one of the series featuring Liberia Country Manager, James Earl Kiawoin, here.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background. Did you grow up in Ghana? What was your own education like?

I grew up here and I’ve had all my education in Ghana. My mother was a teacher, and my father worked for the Ministry of Education—I come from a teaching kind of family. I completed my secondary education and then went on to university. I really love languages. In my first university program, I wanted to study French, Spanish, and then International Relations.

Later, I changed to pursue Social Work and Sociology where I had the opportunity to serve a number of organizations through internships and learnt about supporting underprivileged or marginalized groups. That was how I began working within the not-for-profit/NGO sector. My experience working within the sector has taught me and helped me to understand the fact that people are authors of their own development. People already know what to do to change their situation, but sometimes they just need a little bit of a push. “A little light” can push them forward in life.

My experience working within the [NGO] sector has taught me and helped me to understand the fact that people are authors of their own development. People already know what to do to change their situation, but sometimes they just need a little bit of a push.

Ethel Sakitey

“For me, education is about transformation. It’s about the development of people. When people become aware of their own situation and their circumstances, they are better able to address them when they have an education.”
– Ethel Sakitey

Q: The core of our mission at the Luminos Fund is education. Why is education important to you?

For me, education is about transformation. It’s about the development of people. When people become aware of their own situation and their circumstances, they are better able to address them when they have an education. I’ve realized that when people have even a little education, they can take care of themselves better. If we can provide education to all our girls and women, we can reduce the number of maternal deaths and teenage pregnancies. People who get an education can earn better incomes and come back and support their respective communities.

If we can get all our children in school from now on, I believe the next 10 or 20 years will bring a lot of transformation to the way we think about and address so many issues in Ghana; whether it’s nutrition, road safety, child protection, or care for individuals living with disabilities. Education will help us to be more empathetic towards one another and therefore resolve these issues much quicker. Education makes us better people irrespective of who we are or where we are coming from. That’s how I feel about education.

I believe every child in Ghana should be given the opportunity to have an education in line with our Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) policy. Let’s not forget the marginalized ones and our gifted or talented children who may have dropped out of school because they couldn’t fit into our current system of education. Some of them may have learning differences and other challenges that made them drop out. We need to better understand these children and support them. We all must make it a point to get every child an education. If they get better, Ghana will become even better in the future.

Education makes us better people irrespective of who we are or where we are coming from.

Ethel Sakitey

Q: What makes Ghana special? What do you love about the country?

Oh, I love Ghana! I love our culture. I think Ghanaians just love people, we have a good sense of humor and are very peaceful as well. We are very hard working. Ghana is a bit unique because we place a lot of emphasis on our culture. In Ghana, a child doesn’t just belong to their biological parents alone: the child belongs to the community and communities support each other in raising children, although this is changing in modern times. Ghanaians are religious, and I hope we can use our fear of God to transform our communities and eradicate poverty and illiteracy. In Ghana, we love our food, and our visitors love it too. We love fabrics and fashion—and we love to add a lot of color to everything, that is Ghana for you!

Village chiefs attending Luminos’ launch event in Ghana on March 8, 2022.

Q: Why did you decide to join the Luminos Fund team?

I attended a webinar talking about work that Luminos was doing and the fact that they were going to start in Ghana. After that presentation, I decided to read a little bit about the organization. I know we [Ghana] are struggling when it comes to reading and numeracy at the lower grade levels, but it’s even worse for children who have dropped out or who have never been to school.

Looking at all the stages in my career, I have had the opportunity to learn a lot within the education ecosystem (early childhood education, girls’ education, child protection, school health education programs, play-based learning, teacher professional development, etc.), but interventions focused on out-of-school children and children who have never been to school is a new area for me. I wanted to learn a bit more about how these children are supported to get back to school. I believe education can transform the lives of these children and give them a second chance in life. I know education can help them identify their God-given talents and use them effectively for the growth and development of our country. I thought that this is one area that I would like to learn and understand more. How do we help these children? How do we better support them?

I like the approach that Luminos has used while moving into Ghana: trying to understand what Ghana was already doing and not reinventing the wheel. I also like the fact that Luminos started off by partnering with the Ministry of Education at the policy level and engaging with actors on the ground, right down to the villages, to understand what the local needs are. I am glad we are working with the existing system. We are not changing anything; we are only bringing innovations and additional elements that would enrich what Ghana as a country is already doing through the Complementary Basic Education policy and programs.

Mr. Francis Asumadu, Executive Director of Ghana’s Complementary Education Agency, greets Angie Thadani (right, Luminos Senior Director of Programs), Ethel Sakitey (middle, Luminos Ghana Country Director), and Wedad Sayibu (left, Program Director of School for Life, one of Luminos’ partners in Ghana) at the March 8th program launch event.

Q: What is your favorite part of your role?

I’m looking forward to monitoring classes in the communities! We’ve just launched classes and I’m looking forward to learning how it’s going to go. I want to see how young teachers are supporting learners. I also want to see how best to help the teachers better incorporate play-based learning, social and emotional learning, and a sense of personal and social responsibility in classroom activities. These elements should be incorporated in the learning so that we are not just building an individual with knowledge, but we are also building a complete human being; people who have respect for themselves and for others as well.

I’m also looking forward to engaging with parents to see how they can support these children. I am excited that we are looking at our work using a socio-ecological approach: building an effective ecosystem of support for the child. So, we have teachers, supervisors, coordinators, parents, and community leaders, and then we have other stakeholders—NGOs, etc.—all the influencers working together to support that out-of-school child who is at the center of this ecosystem. All those touchpoints need to intervene collectively so we can have a better impact on the child.

Q: What are you most excited for in the year ahead as the program rolls forward in Ghana?

We have a few reading goals because children enter the Luminos program essentially unable to read. I’m also looking forward to incorporating other elements—parental engagement, formative and regular assessments, and supportive monitoring are all very important to me. And, of course, making sure the children are enjoying and loving their classes.

Ethel, Angie, and Kolande, the Field Coordinator for School for Life, celebrate the launch of classes together.

Q: Can you describe your favorite moment from the Luminos launch events this month?

One of my favorite moments was when the Board Chair of School for Life [one of Luminos’ partners in Ghana] talked about how he was also out of school as a child. It took an intervention—just like Luminos—to help him get back to school. If it had not been for that intervention, he didn’t think he would have had an education, let alone become the Board Chair of School for Life. For me that story is very inspiring.

Q: What else inspires you?

I get inspired when I see people making an effort to improve their lives. Where possible, we should all support one another so we can all continue to learn, grow, and become better people. I get inspired when I put myself in the shoes of others to see how difficult their situation is sometimes, and this urges me to help. I believe that’s what gives me the passion to work for and with disadvantaged and marginalized groups.

I get inspired when I see people making an effort to improve their lives. Where possible, we should all support one another so we can all continue to learn, grow, and become better people.

Ethel Sakitey

Q: What inspires you about the Luminos Fund?

A lot inspires me about Luminos. I like the mission in itself: that everybody deserves a second chance at education. I believe God has a purpose for every individual, and we therefore don’t have to give up on any human being. Every individual has something to offer to planet Earth. Everyone has something to contribute if given the opportunity and the chance to learn, to sharpen their skills as well as their God-given talents. Some children are excited to read, and others just want to listen. Others just want to do things with their hands. All these different learning styles should be taken into consideration in order to really support our learners to stay in school and to enjoy learning. God has provided a talent to every child. At Luminos, we bring out the light in that child. It’s a big gift to Ghana.

Everybody has the capability to learn, and they just need a little push. That’s why we are here.

God has provided a talent to every child. At Luminos, we bring out the light in that child. It’s a big gift to Ghana.

Ethel Sakitey

To learn more about Luminos’ work in Ghana, visit our Ghana page.

Luminos Launches in Ghana

Luminos Launches in Ghana

Last week on March 8, the Luminos Fund launched in Ghana. Our new classrooms serve 1,500 formerly out-of-school children in the Ashanti region and will scale to serve tens of thousands more in the years ahead. Our team is overjoyed. We could not have done this without all our generous supporters and advisors!

 “A catch-up program just like this changed my life as a young boy and it will change yours, too. Among you are future nurses, doctors, and teachers.”
Fungal Naa Abdulai Alhassan, Board Chair of School for Life

Ashanti is home to the second largest population of primary-school-aged out-of-school children in Ghana but has received little support historically. Child labor in the cocoa sector, in addition to other socio-economic factors and COVID-19, has kept many children out of school. Our mission is to ensure that vulnerable children everywhere can experience joyful learning and catch up. In places like Ashanti, this has never been more relevant. 

The Luminos program in Ghana marries the Ghanaian Ministry of Education’s Complementary Basic Education curriculum with core Luminos classroom methods to deliver transformative education for children who have been kept out of school. In nine months, our students will learn to read, write, and do math. Luminos will support their transition to continue their education at local government schools.

We look forward to giving Ghana’s out-of-school children a second chance at education. Please follow us along this journey! Thank you for supporting Luminos in our mission to create a world no child is denied the chance to learn.

Highlights from our Ghana launch events:

“It is all the more special that we are launching our program on International Women’s Day. Today we are ensuring that girls, along with boys, have a second chance at education.”

Ethel Sakitey, Ghana Country Director, the Luminos Fund

“Luminos is honored to partner with Ghana’s Ministry of Education and outstanding local organizations, while leveraging our team’s expertise in international best practice in education, to deliver transformational results for children in Ghana.”

Caitlin Baron, CEO, the Luminos Fund

“There are no greater riches than education. Your land can burn down. But no one can take away your education.”

Community elder in Bosome Freho, Ghana

To learn more about our Ghana program, click here.

To support our programs, click here.

71 Commercial Street, #232 | Boston, MA 02109 |  USA
+1 781 333 8317   info@luminosfund.org

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

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