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Celebrating Young Women's Economic Empowerment for International Women's Day 2018

Posted Thu Mar 08, 2018 by Connect To Learn

On this International Women’s Day of 2018, the era of the Sustainable Development Goals in full swing, we are witnessing more and more women completing higher levels of education, and taking on more leadership roles in governments. In Rwanda, for example, women make up more than half of seats in parliament. Cultural shifts are taking place that are finally giving more credence to women’s voices and experiences. Yet when it comes to women’s economic empowerment, many barriers still persist, keeping women, especially those form poor backgrounds and remote areas, from reaching their full potential.

The international community is recognizing evermore that women’s entrepreneurship is key to helping communities and countries rise out of poverty, and accordingly, major players are beginning to prioritize the economic empowerment of women. The World Bank and UN Women have in the past year announced acceleration of women’s economic empowerment as a major focus area, while the Gates Foundation just announced a new 170 million initiative to promote women’s economic empowerment.

These initiatives address key barriers such as the digital skills gap and lack of access to financial services that limit business-minded women from starting or growing their businesses and from reaching markets outside of their immediate surroundings. Regarding digital skills, there are 250 million fewer women online than men. Of the 2 billion adults in the world without access to the formal financial sector, more than half are women. And there are other challenges that are less often addressed, like the reality that systems of formal education don’t go far enough to prepare learners with the creativity and practical skills needed to start their own businesses. Many social enterprises designed to support entrepreneurs operate in ways that improve the lives of poor people in poor countries, which is a great step, but don’t go far enough to contribute to changes in world power systems that keep rich countries rich and poor countries poor. Many development experts argue that you cannot pay workers more than their local economy dictates, otherwise you may set unrealistic expectations among workers that cannot be sustained. Yet there are examples of initiatives aiming to take on the gargantuan task of addressing these challenges.

One example of an organization taking a unique approach to economically empowering women is the Blessing Basket Project, which has developed a (patent pending) financial model that pays the women who make the baskets they sell a wage above the fair trade minimum to help push the needle on what constitutes a fair wage in the communities and countries where they operate. Another example is e-commerce site Ethical Fashion Guatemala. While numerous e-commerce sites exist to help connect artisans to international markets, this is an example of how such initiatives can go a step further, helping to stop those who infringe on the artisans’ copyrights by copying the artisans traditional styles using lower-quality, mass produced materials, selling them as the real thing, and worst of all, claiming to empower the artisans through their sales. Approaches like these aren’t only bringing economic opportunities to women artisans, they are helping to reshape the international market. Novel approaches are needed to move toward a global economy where “fair trade” doesn’t just mean fair according to a poor country’s weaker purchasing power, but where “fair trade” means putting all countries on more equal footing with each other.

With these bold approaches in mind, and with the support of Jennifer Gross from the William and Sue Gross Family Foundation, the Connect To Learn initiative is working with young women who are recent secondary school graduates to develop their vocational, business and life skills, and to help connect them to international markets. In Rwanda, Connect To Learn launched its girls’ secondary school scholarship program in 2012 to support promising students with financial need through six years of secondary school. After graduating in December 2017, it was clear that, even having completed secondary school, the options available to the girls were limited. The curriculum they learned in formal schooling prepared them for their exit exams, but offered little application to the world of entrepreneurship and employment, while the quality of education they received fell short of equipping them to perform at a level that would qualify them for higher education scholarships. To help the graduates transition to a successful life beyond secondary school, the vocational and life skills program was launched in December 2017 shortly after classes ended. To date, the graduates have received training in traditional basket weaving, financial planning and budgeting, business planning, marketing, and photography. The Connect To Learn team is working to identify distribution channels in the United States that the girls will be trained to manage directly over time. This week, the young women are working on fulfilling their first order. They describe their goals, and how they will use the earnings from their new skills to save for their career and higher education goals in the video below.

As Fidela, one of the Connect To Learn beneficiaries, explains in the video, “if I don’t have money, I can create a business, increase my skills from weaving, and increase products, then I can increase savings, and then after, I will go to study in university because I have money.” Harriet adds, “me as a girl we face many problems, we will use the money [we earn] to solve them.” The beautiful items being produced by the young women in the Connect To Learn program will be available for purchase online very soon. Big thanks to the William and Sue Gross Family Foundation for supporting this work. Stay tuned!

CTL Scholar Halimatu shares her experiences from first term at University for Development Studies

Posted Thu Apr 06, 2017 by Connect To Learn


Note: Halimatu was originally enrolled as a CTL scholar at Sandema Senior High School in SADA, Ghana in 2013, and was supported on scholarship for her 3 years of senior secondary school. Upon graduation, Halimatu gained admission to the University for Development Studies, the most prestigious higher education institution in northern Ghana, but could not afford to attend without support. She made the request to the Millennium Village Project team in SADA to apply for support from CTL. Halimatu is one of the first students CTL has supported in continuing her education at the tertiary level.

My Academic Activities on University for Development Studies (UDS), WA Campus

by Halimatu Shadia

The Wa campus of the University for Development Studies is the largest among all its other University campuses in Ghana and one of the most interesting places to be, for every student aspiring to study there. A very busy campus coupled with lots of academic activities. Every day is a different experience for students of the University. The weather has been very hot and dry since the beginning of February but all the same, I have always enjoyed the beauty and cozy nature of campus especially during the periods of rainy and harmattan seasons.  

Life on Wa campus is like a new experience and adventure altogether, especially considering the lifestyle of students in terms of the cultural diversity, the environment, friends, busy schedules and the whole lot of academic activities, which brings so much inspiration to my everyday life in school. At the library

Here on Wa campus, most of the student population lives in a nearby community called Bamahu, which is about 1.5km to campus and my lecture hall. I am in a class of about 700 students. That is quite an amazing number to imagine I guess.  Even though this doesn’t provide the best of comfort with regards to the numbers and class size, it is quite an interesting experience having to imagine the noise and disturbances that cease the moment a lecture begins.

With the Department of Banking and Finance under the Faculty of School of Business and Law (SBL) studies, I am pursuing a BSc in Accounting with Finance. I have a very busy schedule as my lecture runs throughout the whole week and sometimes during weekends.

Apart from all the stresses coupled with learning or attending lectures with such a great number of students, it is interesting when suggestions, opinions, and questions are being raised and how students share ideas.

Since going to the university is a first time experience for me, I have decided to make the school library a regular place of studies. This is because my place of residence is not convenient for learning due to lack of privacy. Well, it does not seem that easy because the library is located on the old campus which is about 2-3km far from my place of residence. Also, lecturers are entitled to lecture only 75% of the course outline and the remaining 25% is then mandatory for the student to make a research on them.

At the libraryFor me, having been able to acquire my own computer to facilitate research activities is a big challenge for ensuring effective learning.

I live in a private hostel not far from the school. This is because the school hostel facilities are not enough to accommodate all the student body. The cost of accommodation near campus is high and therefore I’m currently sharing a room with two other students, even though there are less privacy and conducive atmosphere for studying.

I also happen to be part of a group of 10 students where we meet regularly to study. This has been very helpful to me, having the opportunity to compare lecture notes, share ideas, research for information and discuss topics that we didn’t quite understand better in class.

Academic performance can only be measured through examination results but it is rather unfortunate that all the first trimester results are not yet ready. This is because the school is trying to adapt a new way of disseminating results to students through the student portal, which is still having a lot of challenges.

I am aware, per the school curriculum of the Third Trimester Field Practical Programme (TTFPP), which is basically an intensive community-based field practical training, given year group students to identify a specific region, and in smaller groups live and interact with the people in the local communities during each third trimester for a period of three years. I can’t wait to be part of such a new experience.

The University for Development Studies is a wonderful place to unearth once dreams. Thanks to CTL for inspiring me to realise my dreams.

UDS Lecture Hall


CTL Scholars share on their learning experience & goals for International Women's Day 2017

Posted Wed Mar 08, 2017 by Connect To Learn


Harriet Mukashema

My Name is Harriet Mukashema, I'm 19 yeas old. I have been supported by Connect To Learn during these past 6 years on scholarship. I have learned many things within my CTL sponsorship like socializing with others, good mentorship about reproductive health, and it was gratefully that I have had the opportunity to attend the technical and vocational training in hairdressing during these past three months. My colleagues and I are going to create our own jobs for supporting our lives and we have greater plans of making an incubation center for training other youth. Thank you to CTL staff and donors for these opportunities.


Vicencie Manishimwe

My names Vicencie Manishimwe. I’m 20 years old, I study at G.S Kamabuye in Senior 6 with a languages focus (English, Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda). I live with my Mother and three brothers. Before Connect to Learn started its support to me I had not a good life. Because I didn't go to school on time, I didn't find school materials and other materials to help me in my life. When Connect to Learn started to support me, I had a good life till now. Because the scholarship helps me in more things such as: it gives me school fees, school materials, clothes, shoes, pads and others. Thank you to Connect to Learn facilitators who accompanied us during the vocational training in hairdressing. This will help me and my family to have a good life in future due to income generated through this technical career.

I thank Connect to Learn for the sponsorship. It will be better if the program will keep up supporting our school girls with mind for helping them again and I wish you a Good Women’s Day for all women donors and Connect To Learn.


Marguerite Dusabimana

I’m called Marguerite Dusabimana. I study In G S Kamabuye, my combination is English Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda. I’m 20 years old now. I fell so happy when Connect To Learn chose me and other girls for the scholarship. It helps my life to be good where firstly it gives more tools, books, pens and other materials used in our school and then paid me the school feeding from senior one up to senior six. Connect To Learn sponsored my training in hairdressing, which adds to my advanced diploma that I prepare to get very soon.

Sincerely I will help to finance my family and raise my confidence for future life. If CTL did not pay school feeding I would not go to school ever because I was trying to survive in the condition I was in. After graduation, I will start the business of hairdressing with my CTL colleagues in such kind of cooperative. Thank you Connect to Learn, I wish you blessing from God and good women’s day for everyone who support the power of females and who upkeep He for She!

A more intuitive approach to ICT integration put to the test in Rwanda

Posted Thu May 12, 2016 by Connect To Learn

Five years ago, when Connect To Learn was launched, conventional wisdom informing new ICT in education programs often assumed that with access to devices and broadband connectivity, remote, resource-poor schools could be transformed through access to the world of learning resources available online. Connect To Learn’s initial technology solution was designed accordingly by partner Ericsson, with a lab of 25-50 netbooks optimized to work on low bandwidth and with a Linux operating system intended to eliminate the work of virus protection and software updates for teachers and students with little if any experience using ICT. Early lessons taught us that even these initial design features still proved to be user-unfriendly for teachers new to ICT, and that continuous teacher professional development and support was absolutely critical for teachers to take up using ICT tools in their practice, especially if they are expected to evolve their pedagogy to facilitate more interactive lessons with students. Even as more investment in teacher training and support was built into the program, the cumbersome nature of aging devices and weak, sometimes absent connectivity discouraged teachers from finding relevant resources online, an already daunting task for many countries where we work due to the dearth of locally tailored content available online.


Now almost 5 years into the program, CTL has learned a lot about the pieces that need to be in place to effectively integrate ICT in classrooms, and has continually worked to refine our technology solution and training approach to meet the unique needs of remote schools with limited access to broadband. In April 2016, we visited 2 CTL schools in the Bugesera District of Rwanda to put some of our lessons and evolving theories of what can work to the test in collaboration with our local team and teachers at the schools. We tested a “whole-class” model informed by the innovative work being done by Cybersmart Africa. What we found showed us the potential of a technologically more complex but far more user-friendly solution for enabling teachers to engage students in interactive, ICT integrated lessons without the need to wait 10 minutes for a webpage to load or to setup a multitude of student devices.


The model put in place one teacher computer, connected to a projector and interactive whiteboard, and a local server pre-populated with locally relevant content organized according to the country curriculum, accessible without need for an Internet connection. Teachers were trained in using the interactive whiteboard to facilitate interactive lessons, and provided recommendations for additional content to be added to their schools’ offline servers. The week following the training, teachers began using the server content with the interactive whiteboard in their classes. As teachers navigated through their content and students came up to fill in answers or offer their input, the intuitiveness of this whole-class approach was clear. Even with just one computer being used in the lesson, the interactive whiteboard enabled many students to come interact with the computer interface, helping to not only build their subject content knowledge, but their ICT skills as well without requiring individual student devices. After the morning demonstration classes, the students who had participated erupted with excited questions, asking how the interactive whiteboard pen communicates with the computer, and what other content they’ll be able to find on the server.


A chemistry teacher at Kamabuye Secondary School who used the interactive whiteboard and server content to teach a lesson noted that the approach is “very attractive to the is hard to understand chemistry if nothing is shown, if we show them pictures and videos they understand more.” A biology teacher said that ICT “facilitates both the teaching and learning process...students can see exactly how certain biological processes happen.”


Now in the new era of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 4 on education calls to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Within this goal, there are targets to ensure that all girls and boys complete secondary education, and are equipped with relevant skills, including technical skills. Connect To Learn is working to make this goal a reality in the communities where we work by proving that the kind of whole-class model of ICT integrated learning demonstrated in Rwanda can be easily adopted by teachers with little ICT experience, and by developing digital resource libraries that can be easily scaled to enable more widespread access to quality, relevant content. Once teachers are up and running with the new technology and resources, our next step will be to study the evolution of student performance to determine if there is a correlation between increased teacher ICT integration and improved learning outcomes.


While the value of a computer lab with enough devices for groups of students to conduct their own research and work cannot be denied, such solutions require near-constant technical support, frequent replacing of devices, and robust electricity on top of the critical elements of teacher training and relevant content. In short, such solutions are very expensive, and value for money is highly questionable. We believe that a more scalable and sustainable solution for classroom settings must involve simple, intuitive design, minimal number of devices, and work in the school environments for which it is intended, which often have limited electrification and access to broadband. Connect To Learn thinks we are on the right track. Check out these teacher implementation examples below and let us know what you t

Reflections on Year as a CTL Graduate Fellow

Posted Tue Mar 08, 2016 by Connect To Learn

My name is Anna Marco, I am a girl of 18 years old. I am a first child for both my mother and father, but a second child to my father. We have seven children in my family, which has 4 girls and 3 boys. My mother is from Suku ma tribe and my father is from Nyakyusa tribe. So I am a Tanzanian person.

I finished Standard Seven in 2010 at Ulimakafu Primary School. We had twelve students with 6 girls and 6 boys. All students passed to go to secondary school. Many thanks for God because after I passed Standard Seven I got a scholarship from Connect To Learn at the Mbola Millennium Village Project.

I joined at Lolangulu Secondary School in 2011 and I was one among the students who got scholarship from CTL and MVP. I studied hard because my dream was to be a doctor, but according to the problem of having no science teacher in my school my dream was changed to become a teacher.

We have 16 students which are supported by MVP under program which is called Connect To Learn (CTL). We have 13 girls and 3 boys.

After form two national examination many students failed the examination. We had 81 students, 70 failed and only 11 passed the examination. in form three, for 6 months I studied in a hard environment because boys saw me in a different way and told me women are jealous, but teachers and the MVP team helped and convinced me to study hard. After 6 months boys saw me like their sister and helped me in studies and other discussion. MVP team and teachers told me study hard and make sure your dreams succeed.

In 2014 I graduated form four and my results were average. I am very happy because MVP gave me a job. I work in MVP as a CTL Graduate Fellow for 1 year from 1/02/2015 to 31/12/2015. I love my job.

My responsibilities as a CTL graduate fellow were to make sure that all CTL students were doing well at school. if there were any problems for students I solved it if possible but if impossible, I told education team and helped students. Also I helped to convince students to study hard and to make sure their dreams would succeed. I also took their results and attendance. If there was a challenge I help the student. I also helped to convince students especially to use family planning to avoid pregnancy because it is a problem in society.

I am very happy to work with MVP team because I get many successes. First of all I have experience of work so I enjoy many activities. Also I learned more about MVP especially CTL program, for example, the meaning of CTL, the aim of starting CTL program and also importance of educating girls. Also I know how to write reports, save them and send. This was the first time I use computer in office work. My work in MVP is a now a part of my CV.

To become successful one must be experience challenges. There are some challenges I faced in the work. First, many parents have low level of education in our community. They did not know the advantages of educating especially for girls. Also there is the problem of pregnancy in society because there are some number of students who dropout before they graduate. Also when I first started to work the parents see me as a young child so the parents disobey me. If I say anything parents don’t want to listen and don’t say anything. If I ask the question or I need their opinion their say nothing. Over time though this changed, and parents began respecting my role and cooperating to help keep their girls attending school regularly.

I repeat to say thanks to god for seeing me. After finishing my work CTL is giving me a grant for going to college. In this time I will join the college called Musoma Utalii and I study the ICT course for 1 year. I hope I can do well and succeed in my dreams. I want to study up to a Masters degree.

Many thanks to the people who have helped me and given me support for my studies. God bless them and their families. I have nothing to give but god brings them good health. Also god bless all MVP team such as Gerson Nyadzi, Nemes Temba, Juliet Mgasa, Ayoub  Kiim and all the MVP and CTL team. MANY THANKS



Connect To Learn's Graduate Fellows program pilot was designed to help recent scholarship student graduates gain professional skills while earning income to save for enrollment in higher education. The program also contributes toward CTL's capacity to monitor and support progress of current scholarship students, and help facilitate girls' life and vocational skills programs. Graduate Fellows receive training in data collection, group facilitation, leadership and communications skills, earn a stipend for their work, and receive a completion grant upon completion of their year of service to support their enrollment in higher education.





My Journey to Midwifery School

Posted Fri Oct 09, 2015 by Connect To Learn

I am Ramatu Seidu, a girl of 22 years of age from Manso Watreso, one of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) Bonsaaso Cluster communities in the Amansie West District of Ashanti Region of Ghana.

Coming from a very poor home, my parents could not have been able to cater for me at the Senior High School (SHS) level even though I was able to pass the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) at the Junior High School (JHS), in the year 2010, which is the basis of selection to a Secondary Education.  Thanks be to God almighty and CTL, I had the opportunity to benefit from the scholarship scheme which has brought me to this far.Ramatu and her peers CTL enrolled me into Mansoman SHS in the year 2010 immediately after my success in the BECE.

Upon guidance, motivation, and encouragement from the CTL team both in Bonsaaso and NY, I developed interest in Nursing as a profession. This kept ringing in my mind all the time and served as a spring board for me in all my dealings in the school as a student. In order for me to achieve the objective of becoming a professional Nurse, I decided to study hard so as to make my dream come to pass and also not to waist the resources and time spent on me.

Ramatu focusing during her secondary school completion examsI completed Mansoman Senior High School in May 2013 as one of the CTL first batch of scholarship beneficiaries in Bonsaaso. I worked with the Millennium Villages Project from September, 2013 to July, 2014 as a Community Health Worker (CHW).  During my service as a Community Health Worker, I had the chance of feeling like a Nurse because of experience through the training I had from home visits and health education to the pregnant women.  I was doing household visits to educate mothers and the community as a whole on prevention of diseases, family planning, malnutrition and the importance of National Health Insurance Scheme.

My experience as a CHW deepened my focus and shifted from being an ordinary Nurse to becoming a Midwife.  Fortunately for me I had admission to enter into a Midwifery Training Institution in the Northern Region which I have completed my first year, level 100 and now at level 200.

My interest in Midwifery came in as a result of meeting malnourished children in their various homes during my home visits as a CHW.  I felt like always making myself available Ramatu performing her student midwifery dutiesto educate parents specifically mothers to feed their children well to avoid the dangers of malnutrition.  It is my wish to go to that far to be able to help mothers especially those from the small towns and villages.

Again, it is my wish to serve as a role model in my small community, the entire MVP Cluster communities, my District and the nation as a whole to encourage people especially student girls to let them know that it does not matter where one comes from but what s/he can do.  Even though from a village disadvantaged with basic social amenities with poor parental background, with seriousness and hard work success is assured.

I am very grateful to CTL for all your concentration and mercy on me.  Without CTL, I may have been a school dropout.  May the good Lord richly bless and reward you abundantly so as to extend your kindness and generosity to others who are in the same situation as mine.  I am indeed grateful to you.  MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL and replenish accordingly, for all what you have spent me till this time even at the tertiary level.  Once again, God richly bless you all.  BIG THANK YOU.

Highlighting Progress in Nigeria for International Literacy Day

Posted Tue Sep 08, 2015 by Connect To Learn

As you begin to read this article, take a moment to consider the skill that enables you to do so – literacy. For many of us, it’s something we have long taken for granted. Something we started to learn as babies when our literate parents read to us at bedtime, with the print and visual media surrounding us all produced in our native language. Now imagine a child learning to read in an environment where her mother never had the opportunity to learn to read, living in a society where multiple languages are spoken, and few media exist in the language most familiar to the child. These challenges are a big part of why 757 million adults in the world remain illiterate today, two-thirds of them women. Even as more and more children worldwide are enrolled in primary schools, 250 million children of elementary school age still fail to acquire basic literacy skills.

On September 8th, International Literacy Day is calling attention to this issue with the theme Literacy and Sustainable Societies. Whether or not a person can read and write underpins that person’s access to the many other basic necessities and opportunities that make up sustainable societies. The ability to read and write can enable someone to fill out a job application, to learn the policy positions of candidates running for office and fill out a ballot, to understand the dosage instructions when taking medication, and to read bedtime stories to their children, building a foundation of strong literacy skills for the next generation. It is no coincidence that many countries and communities with the lowest literacy levels are also those with the highest instances of violence – South Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mali and Burkina Faso are among those countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world. Without the economic opportunities that literacy skills bring, individuals are more likely to turn to desperate measures to ensure survival.

While much work remains to be done, there are great examples of organizations doing the complex work of improving the quality and reach of literacy instruction in their communities. In Nigeria, where 21.4% of the population is still illiterate - about 37 million people – the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) team working in the Pampaida community of Kaduna State is honing more efficient and effective methods for building students’ literacy skills.

Nigeria started to monitor student learning in 1996. Students’ learning was monitored and assessed through a Monitoring Learning Achievement (MLA) tool conducted for children in Grade 4 to determine their performance in literacy, numeracy and life-skills. The results from the MLA exercise showed low achievement across the board. In 2011, ASER learning tests were used to determine the reading capabilities of primary school children in Pampaida. The reading results showed that only 19% of children were able to read a simple paragraph. In 2014, the Pampaida Education team collaborated with the Ikara Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) to develop standard literacy and learning assessment tools using the UWEZO guidelines. The tools are used in measuring children’s learning achievement on a monthly basis. The result of the first learning assessment conducted in September 2014 indicated that only 12% of Pampaida children acquired basic reading skills. These disappointing results called for more consolidated effort by all stakeholders.

In Pampaida, a stakeholder meeting involving parents, teachers and government education staff is held monthly to discuss progress in education. Following the dismal results, the group emphasized identifying the key factors responsible for children’s poor performance in reading and how to address them. It was discovered that children’s poor or irregular attendance, inadequate and unqualified teachers especially for English and mathematics were major factors behind the children’s poor performance in literacy and numeracy. It was also discovered that teachers were teaching based on the curriculum with little or no consideration to whether the children were capable of learning at the prescribed level, therefore many of the things taught were a time waste because the content were beyond the level of students' abilities to grasp.

Having identified the impediments to children’s literacy and numeracy development, the following strategies were developed and implemented:

  1. The community education workers (CEWs) were asked to support teaching activities to address the shortage of teachers in schools. Because all the CEWs are secondary school graduates and they have not acquired the required teaching qualification and skills, their capacity was developed through a number of in-house trainings while some of them were admitted to undergo a distance learning training with the National Teachers Institute (NTI) and the Federal College of Education Zaria (FCE). After completing this training they become professional teachers with the required teaching skills and experience.
  2. Following the realization that most of the reading materials provided by the schools were too difficult for children to read, the Education team developed and produced localized, short supplemental reading materials. The supplemental reading books were developed in both Hausa and English providing opportunities to children to obtain the most rudimentary reading skills, beginning with letter identification and letter sounds, using letters to form words, to sentences and then paragraphs.
  3. The CEWs were requested to organize reading clubs in various settlements and identify convenient meeting places and time (after school) for all the club members to meet and help one another in reading their supplemental reading books.  This has helped in inculcating a culture of reading among students and has helped in improving their reading capabilities.
  4. To ensure that children get the required support for education from their parents, younger brothers and sisters, we partnered with the LGA coordinator for adult education Ikara to establish more adult literacy classes in many communities. The idea behind this initiative is that when the parents in households are literate, they will encourage their children to go to school and will support their learning progress.

Having put all the strategies discussed above into practice for the past several months, the team in Pampaida has started to record a very remarkable improvement in children’s reading capabilities. In the last learning assessment conducted in June 2015, it was recorded that 96% of the children have attained basic reading skills.  

Developing Youth Skills for a Global Economy

Posted Wed Jul 15, 2015 by Connect To Learn

On July 15th, we celebrate the first annual World Youth Skills Day, which recognizes that young people need technical and vocational education to excel at both the local and global level. For the past 5 years Connect to Learn has been working throughout sub-Saharan Africa helping girls to get a quality education and connecting them to the global community using the latest technology. Now Connect to Learn is expanding its scope and working to ensure that young people have the skills they’ll need to succeed in our ever-changing and globalizing economy.


Across the world, young people face unprecedented rates of unemployment and underemployment, and if business continues as usual, those rates are set to rise. Earlier this year, the International Labor Organization released a report showing that the unemployment rate among 15-24 year olds worldwide is 13%, or 74 million young people. This number -- already 3x higher than the general population’s unemployment -- masks an even harsher reality where many youth in poorer countries are underemployed or underpaid. Their experiences are not documented in the 13% figure. 


The ILO estimates that the real figure is likely 6-7 times higher. This issue is compounded by the rapid rate at which youth populations are soaring in many of the world’s poorer regions. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, the population of youth aged 15-24 is predicted to grow from 205 to 302 million by 2030.


The solution to this challenge is complicated. Youth need practical opportunities for technical and vocational education, yet many schools lack access to computers and the Internet for teaching and learning.  When schools do have the tools, they often lack teachers trained in how to effectively use them in teaching. Youth also need a strong foundation in basic literacy and math skills to learn effectively in other areas.


Though poor countries worldwide have made huge strides in enrolling more young people in schools over the past decade, adequate provision of trained teachers and quality learning materials has lagged behind, and student learning has suffered as a result. It is estimated that 250 million young people globally are unable to read, write, or do basic math, with 130 million of them already enrolled in school (Education For All Global Monitoring Report, 2014). Finally, young people, especially girls, from remote areas need more exposure to a greater array of career paths beyond those traditional modes of employment common in their communities.


That is why Connect To Learn is equipping young people with a foundation of strong literacy skills by training teachers in teaching methods based in cognitive neuroscience. We’re also availing rural, resource-poor schools with technology tools, quality educational content and teacher training, and providing extra-curricular programming in vocational and life skills that are targeted to the needs of local communities.


In the communities where we work, we’ve recently begun hiring young high school graduates and training them in mobile data collection and community outreach to help us collect program impact data, and to recruit local entrepreneurs to provide vocational skills trainings to students.


In Kenya and Tanzania, recent graduates working for our program are reaching out to local professionals to organize in person and virtual career guidance Q&A sessions for students. In Nigeria, students are already earning income from newly acquired skills in soap making, candle making and textiles that they are using to help pay for their school fees and support their families, while at the same time continuing to improve their academic performance.


There are many other examples of organizations doing great work to advocate for greater access to and quality of technical and vocational education globally, and to implement programs for young people to build their technical and vocational skills, but more work needs to be done.


For the post-2015 development agenda, the Open Working Group of the United Nations has proposed a goal for education to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Within this proposed goal, there are specific targets to increase the number of young people equipped with technical and vocational skills, and to ensure that all youth achieve literacy and numeracy.


We hope that this first annual World Youth Skills Day will help rally governments, civil society and the private sector to come together to enthusiastically embrace this goal and back it up with adequate funding to implement programs that are relevant to the needs of local economies and to the education readiness levels of the young people they are intended to benefit.


Join this campaign today by sharing examples of how you’re helping to promote youth skills with the hashtags #wysd and #worldskills, and learn more about Connect To Learn’s work building youth literacy, technical and life skills at




Breaking Down The Basics: A Community Based Local Language Literacy Program in Mwandama, Malawi

Posted Mon Jun 01, 2015 by Connect To Learn

Global attention is increasingly being drawn to learning levels of students in school, particularly literacy.  Students in low income countries often drop out of school early, and leave either illiterate or with very limited reading abilities.[1] For those who do remain in school, they are often found to have very poor reading skills, even in later grades. Reading fluency is a skill that is related to academic performance, and acquiring this skill in early grades is crucial.[2] Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, reading levels of students are far below grade level, and Malawi is no exception. Recent results of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) used by USAID and the Ministry of Education Science and Technology indicate that student reading levels are very weak, with 72.8% of grade 2 students unable to read a basic story, and 41.9% of grade 4 students unable to read a story.[3]


The MVP Education team has paired up with education psychologist Dr. Helen Abadzi, to try and resolve these challenges in literacy by breaking down the basics. MVP Education team will be using Dr. Abadzi’s prescribed methodology for teaching literacy, which focuses on local language and uses strategies and tactics informed by neuroscience.  This methodology has been tried and tested in other places like the Gambia with successful results. Therefore it is nothing new or innovative, but stresses on steps that are backed by the science of learning. This method explicitly teaches students one letter at a time, with letters spaced out and in big font, allowing students to differentiate between different letters and symbols. According to Dr. Abadzi’s methodology, literacy instruction needs to happen everyday, with one new letter introduced per day, focusing on the sound the letter makes, and slowly incorporating other letters to form two, three, and four letter words. By the end of 100 days, students should be able to identify letters and decode, at the very least, with continuous practice to increase speed, fluency and vocabulary.

MVP Mwandama is piloting this initiative through its village learning center program[4], which is run by a group of volunteer community education workers (CEWs). Twenty seven CEWs will pilot these materials over the course of the next three months, focusing on teaching students the proper sounds each letter of the Chichewa[5] alphabet in order to equip them with the skills to decode short words. The idea is that these decoding skills will also translate later into English reading, when the identification of letters and the sounds they make can be added onto with the additional phonetic rules in English.


So far, an adapted version of the EGRA test implemented nationally has been piloted and vetted, and four of its subtests are being used to gather a baseline of the literacy levels of the students in the selected sample. The subtests will be conducted in Chichewa, and will test student knowledge of letter names, letter sounds, familiar words, and reading comprehension, in a series of timed tests. Knowledge of letter sounds, reading fluency, and comprehension will all be measured from baseline to end line.

A supplemental textbook introducing one letter at a time includes blended sounds, short words, and basic sentences has been developed by the MVP education team in conjunction with the Primary Education Advisor in the district. The MVP team in collaboration with the local education government staff in Malawi created this supplemental textbook. This material was also field piloted with students, with necessary adjustments made based on student reactions. The goal behind this program is to see if students improve in their basic reading skills after three months of instruction with this supplemental textbook. Such projects have been previously tested in other contexts such as the Gambia. Conducting it in Malawi, in a non-formal setting, during school vacation with a mix of students from different grades is a unique opportunity to test out this method in a community setting.

A training for community education workers is scheduled for July, along with close monitoring from the MVP Mwandama team throughout the next few months. An end line survey is scheduled for September, to measure the progress the students made. Stay tuned for further updates.


[1] Abadzi, H. (2011). “Reading Fluency Measurements in EFA Partner Countries: Outcomes and Prospective Improvements.” EFA FTI Secretariat, World Bank: Washington DC.

[2] Abdazi, 2011

[3] USAID Malawi Teacher Professional Development Activity (2010). “2010 Early Grade Reading Assessment: National Baseline Report.” file:///Users/Alia/Downloads/Malawi%20National%20Baseline%20EGRA%202010.pdf


[5] local language spoken in Malawi

Girl Rising screening May 9th to benefit CTL Scholarship Fund

Posted Wed May 01, 2013 by Connect To Learn

You are invited to attend a discussion and film screening of Girl Rising in New York, details below. Connect To Learn's School-To-School Connections partner Friends Seminary School is hosting the event, with all proceeds from the suggested donation entry fee going toward Connect To Learn multi-year scholarships for girls in Uganda. At the screening, you'll have an opportunity to learn from local students about the Friends Seminary 9th grade service learning project and learn  about Friends' collaboration with Kisyoro Secondary School in Uganda and Connect To Learn. If you have already seen the film or can’t make this screening time, you can still make a contribution toward Connect To Learn scholarships for girls in Africa here on our site.

The film, directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins, tells the stories of nine girls from nine countries who have all overcome extraordinary odds to stay in school.

Girls' Education

Through its' scholarship program, Connect To Learn offers a practical solution to the chilling facts presented in the Girl Rising film. For every additional year of education a girl receives, her income as an adult increases as much as 20% (World Bank). Today, approximately 67 million young people remain out of school, more than half of them girls. Connect To Learn puts young people in secondary school on scholarship and provides a window to the world of information through broadband connectivity – for our scholarship beneficiaries, their classmates, and their teachers. Since Connect To Learn’s first deployment of 37 scholarships in the spring of 2011, Connect To Learn has helped 732 students in need enroll in secondary school - 715 of them girls – and installed 771 netbook computers in 25 schools globally.

School-To-School Connections partnership with Friends Seminary School

Scene from Kisyoro Secondary School in UgandaConnect To Learn is grateful to our partners at Friends Seminary School working to raise the number of girls benefiting from Connect To Learn scholarships even higher. The partnership between Connect To Learn and Friends Seminary centers around a School-To-School Connections program between Friends Seminary and Kisyoro Secondary School in Ruhiira, Uganda. These two schools have collaborated on learning projects through the Learning Management Platform Moodle for almost two years now, and the friendships formed have inspired the student at Friends Seminary to host this screening event to raise money for their peers across the globe.

Kisyoro Headmaster Agrace Mugizi speaks to teachers during an ICT Integration workshop

CTL at Kisyoro Secondary School in Uganda

CTL supports 50 girl scholars at Kisyoro Secondary School, about half of which are newly enrolled this academic year. Agrace Mugizi, the Headteacher at Kisyoro and a passionate advocate for girls’ education, has said that the steady support provided to her school through the additional enrollment have enabled her to achieve her long-awaited goal of building new girl’s dormitories to make consistent attendance possible for the many girls who live in remote areas of the school’s jurisdiction. The Kisyoro Secondary School teachers are also participating in monthly professional development workshops focused on integrating ICT into their teaching practices as part of Connect To Learn’s year-long ICT in Education Impact Study. The collaboration with Friends Seminary School is a great opportunity for these teachers to continue practicing their emerging ICT integrated teaching skills.

To learn more about the film, click here. We thank Friends Seminary for their deepening partnership with Connect To Learn, and we encourage all of our supporters in the New York City area to attend the screening on May 9th at 6:00pm. For those who cannot attend, we encourage you to show your support by contributing to Connect To Learn’s scholarship Fund here. We look forward to seeing you on May 9th!

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