We’re thrilled to be recognized once again by HundrED.org as one of the top 100 global innovations in education. Shortly after we received the news, HundrED featured us in an article on their website. You can view the original article here.
Speed School Students Complete School At Twice The Rate of Government-Run Institutions
Children on Speed School’s programme complete elementary school at twice the rate of their government school peers, a new report by the University of Sussex has discovered! The results show how the approach taken by Luminos, creator of Speed School, is proving more effective in tackling the widespread issue of children dropping out of school and not receiving a quality education in rural Ethiopia.
Speed School has been so successful that they are now also in operation in Liberia, where they are called Second Chance. The program in Liberia is the same as in Ethiopia, with a few adaptations to suit the local context – a key ingredient in making sure that an innovation still works when it is scaled to a new location, after all, no two cultures or countries are exactly the same!
Luminos credits its success to its holistic pedagogy. Children receive individualized instruction, are continually assessed to make sure they are all are on track and aren’t falling behind, their lessons are activity-based and are on multiple subject areas, and they learn the fundamentals of how to learn, a skill set that sets children up for a life of learning. Children in these programmes also read four times as much as those in government-run schools.
The success of Luminos’ programmes aren’t just down to their contemporary pedagogical approach, they take this one step further by engaging whole communities in their work. Along with programmes like Speed Schools and Second Chance that make sure children can re-enter education and receive a better education, Luminos also actively engages parents through self-help groups and community mobilization, and they build the capacity of the community by getting teachers and school leaders up to speed. Together, this multi-stakeholder approach helps to make sure no child is left behind.
So what’s next for Luminos? There’s no slowing down, as Caitlin Baron, CEO at Luminos, told us their next goal is, “to bring Second Chance to another 140,000 children across five critical countries in Africa.”
Want to learn more about Speed School and Luminos’ impactful work? Head to their project page for more information.
There’s nothing more important to us at Luminos than safely shepherding our children towards their full potential. Making that a reality, especially in the difficult environments in which we work, takes real commitment.
Earlier this year, Luminos embarked on a six-month process of exploration and program development to identify proactive yet practical ways to improve the safety of the children we serve. I am writing this blog now to share news of our new practices, and to invite the global community to be a part of our collective, continuous improvement on the journey to ensure the safety of every child.
Luminos has had a child protection policy in place since inception. All staff who work on our programs are required to sign it. Every teacher in our program attends a specific training on putting the policy into action in their classrooms. As a fairly new organization, we’ve not yet had a reported case of abuse within our programs.
Nonetheless, for any program working with children, anywhere in the world, the risk of abuse is always present. As an organization that works with some of the world’s most vulnerable children, that risk is especially pronounced for us. In Liberia, 20% of students of both genders have reported being sexually abused by teachers or school staff (UNESCO, 2015). In Ethiopia, where corporal punishment is prohibited by law, about 75% of students report witnessing a teacher administer corporal punishment in the classroom in the last week (UNICEF, 2015). In Lebanon, Syrian refugees are at risk for trafficking and exploitation, with Lebanese NGO’s reporting the increasing prevalence of child marriages and forced child labor (US State Department, 2017).
Many of the easy ways to help keep children safe are simply not available in contexts without phone service, with weak legal systems, and with traditions of child rearing that can sometimes put the needs of adults ahead of children.
So, we’re up against a hard reality. But the challenges of the context cannot allow us as the global aid community to be complacent. On the contrary, the difficult environments we operate in need to drive us to think with new levels of creativity around how to truly protect the children we serve.
Excerpt from child protection presentation for our students
Luminos worked with a child safeguarding and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) specialist to review our child protection policy and practices. For this academic year, we have added some important new elements to our program in Liberia that seek to empower both children and their parents to know their rights and create avenues for confidential reporting of any incidents of abuse.
Children receive direct instruction on their rights to a safe classroom and are taught how to report abuse from an independent specialist in child protection. Child protection practices at classroom level are also reviewed by field supervisors.
Parents receive training from program staff on children’s rights and the importance of reporting abuse.
A local phone number for reporting abuse, which connects to our trained specialist, is posted in every classroom.
As the CEO of Luminos, I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken this year to strengthen our child protection practices. The shift we’ve made from a reactive to a proactive stance on child protection is vitally important. We know however, that there’s still more work to be done. We are eager to engage with the global aid community in pushing all of us to be better, and we invite all suggestions and ideas on how we might further strengthen our systems.
The crises in Bangladesh and Biafra in the seventies drove the creation of the modern humanitarian sector, with the realization of how much good could be done when millions are made vulnerable by conflict. The crisis in Goma twenty years later drove a revolution in the humanitarian community’s understanding of the potential to do real harm, as well as good, when stepping into complex emergencies. The crises of Oxfam and other organizations must serve as a wake-up call for all of us on the urgency of upping our game in keeping children safe. Let this be the challenge that spurs us to true breakthroughs in child protection across the humanitarian system.
In Liberia, the ratio of students to textbooks is 28:1.
Beautiful beaches, thanks to a 360 mile-long Atlantic coastline, moderate tropical weather, and a lush green cover to boast about. But unfortunately these are not the reasons Liberia is known for in the world. Liberia is famous for having one of the poorest capital cities of Monrovia, of ranking 177th out of 188 countries in the global HDI index, and for having one of the highest rates of out-of-school children in the world.
It takes a lot of work to get to Liberia – four separate flights, depending on where you’re traveling from in the US. But as you circle over Roberts International Airport, named after the first president of Liberia, you are greeted with a green cover extending for miles, not something many countries can boast about anymore. Once in the city, you can’t help but notice the many, once-grand structures now lying in ruins, all signs of the brutal 14 years of civil war the country endured. This, combined with the signs warning about Ebola, makes you realize exactly how star crossed a country can be. With many families having lost loved ones in the war or to Ebola, the resilience and strength of the people in Liberia to be able to rise-up and start building their lives again is nothing less than extraordinary.
The former President of Liberia’s house, now in ruins following 14 years of civil war.
Under the leadership of President Sirleaf, the first woman president on the continent, the country is finally seeing some stability for the first time in years. The education sector, like everything else in Liberia, is being re-imagined. The current Minister of Education, George Werner, has been in the international spotlight for the Partnership Schools Liberia (PSL) initiative – a pilot allowing private players to manage a small number of public schools with the aim to scale to dramatically improve learning outcomes for children.
Liberia has one of the highest rates of out-of-school children in the world. While the Partnership Schools initiative works to improve learning levels of children in school, the Luminos Fund, through its Speed School program, is looking to provide out-of-school children and over-age children in public schools a chance to get back to school together with children their own age.
The Ebola outbreak caused government schools to shut down from June 2014-February 2015, exacerbating the country’s out-of-school problem.
The Luminos Fund is humbled to be starting operations in Liberia with the support of the UBS Optimus Foundation and Dubai Cares. We aim to bring 40,000 children back to school over the course of 7 years and, in the process, we hope to develop an accelerated learning model for the country which can be adopted by the government or any other organization wishing to work in this space. On February 20th, we open classrooms in Bomi and Montserrado county with the help of 4 local implementing partners. In 2017, we will enable 2,000 children to become functionally literate and numerate and help their transition into their local government schools.
On my last trip to Liberia, I visited a school with no furniture where children carried their chairs to and from home each day in order to have a place to sit and work. That kind of hunger for learning has to be honored. It’s a true privilege to have the chance to contribute to the rebuilding of this spirited country by helping its youngest citizens attain the knowledge for a brighter future.