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Scholarship Students in Nigeria Win Trophy in Zonal Science Competition

Posted Tue Nov 28, 2017 by Connect To Learn

The Connect To Learn scholarship students in the Pampaida Millennium Village Project of Nigeria recently received recognition of their stellar performance in the sciences, which they credit in part to the support they receive from the Connect To Learn program.

The Anchau Zonal Education Division of the Kaduna State Ministry of Education, where the Pampaida Millennium Village is located, organizes an annual science competition involving all the government secondary schools within the zone. The competition is for students who are in their final year of senior secondary school, and is aimed at developing interest among secondary school students to study science subjects and in preparing the students for their final secondary school examinations. Many students perceive the sciences to be difficult to study, so the competition also pushes students to overcome those perceptions.

Seventeen secondary schools participated in the competition in which Government Secondary School Pampaida, represented by five female students from the Connect To Learn scholarship program, won the trophy for the first time. This success is attributed to the support the students received through the Connect To Learn scholarship, which includes the availability of learning materials and extra tutoring lessons in science subjects.

In his address during the presentation of trophy to the winners, the Zonal Education Director represented by a Schools Inspector highlighted that this initiative will not only create an enabling environment for the growth of science and technology in the zone but will also play a major role in placing the students on the same pedestal with their mates across the Kaduna State and Nigeria at large. 

CTL student earns top performance in science in Uyui District, Tanzania, credits CTL e-learning program

Posted Wed Apr 19, 2017 by Connect To Learn

At seventeen years old, Irene Tamson is among the best girl students in science subjects across the Tabora region of Tanzania. Irene attends Lolangulu Secondary School, which has been supported by the CTL program since 2011. In 2015, CTL partnered with Studi Academy to implement a curriculum-aligned e-learning program in STEM subjects. The program, which was designed by Studi in collaboration with the Tanzanian Ministry of Education and Tanzanian teachers, includes videos and assessment quizzes in physics, chemistry, biology and math for Form 1 and 2, the first two years of secondary school, with plans to expand to more grades and subjects. CTL, through partner Ericsson, provided tablets to be used to access the Studi platform. CTL has also provided the school with a Critical Links C3 server loaded with offline materials to make e-learning possible even when connectivity is limited or unavailable, as well a teacher training. Teachers have reported that the program has helped them identify where individual students are struggling, while students have reported that the program has helped them continue in their studies even in cases where teachers are absent or where certain subjects lack teachers altogether.

Studi Academy helps me to do my homework and learn new things and corrects me instantly after doing my quizzes.” - Irene Tamson

Lolangulu Secondary School is one of 18 secondary schools in Uyui District of Tabora Region. After the Form 2 examinations in 2016, Irene's performance placed her at the top among girl students in the entire district, and she alone was selected to represent the district at the Tabora Region student science competition. Irene's performance is of course a testament to her commitment to her studies, but also demonstrates the potential CTL and Studi's e-learning program has for student learning in STEM subjects, considering the reality that Lolangulu Secondary School has had no teachers for math or physics for two years, and has insufficient teachers in chemistry and biology. The headmaster of the school, Mr. Cleophas Bugombo said “The school lacks science teachers, but with availability of e-Learning Platform at the school, to some extent it has reduce the gap for science teachers.” Students like Irene are excelling in STEM subjects thanks to CTL and Studi's e-learning program.

The CTL Coordinator and Social Studies teacher at Lolangulu Secondary School, Hans Kimilike, goes above and beyond to make sure that teachers and students are registered and trained to use the technology in their teaching and learning. He explains that "We register them online and train them on how to use the e-learning platform and students are now busy, show interest and feel free to study science subjects while interacting with tablets. We also constantly use the C3 server for online and offline connection." Since Lolangulu's e-learning program has led to such impressive performance among students, Lolangulu's reputation as a school offering a quality education in the region has grown, helping to contribute to improved retention and enthusiasm among teachers. The school is currently working to recruit teachers for math and sciences.


Students in Malawi & Germany complete collaborative learning unit

Posted Wed Mar 29, 2017 by Connect To Learn

In early 2016, representatives from the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas (FAWCO) reached out to the Connect To Learn team about establishing a School-To-School Connections program with a school they worked with in Cologne, Germany and one of our CTL schools. We identified our partner school in Mwandama, Malawi, the St. Anthony Community Day School, who was ready and eager to help coordinate the exchange, called the Bridging Cultures Workshop.

The teachers and FAWCO mentors in Germany designed a unit to span several months beginning in September 2016. In the unit, students learned about the Sustainable Development Goals and brainstormed the challenges faced in our world today. Students also learned about the plight of young people to earn education by reading I am Malala. Equipped with this expanded awareness of the challenges faced by young people in parts of the world to completing their education, students prepared questions for their first Skype exchange with the students in Mwandama. The St. Anthony Community Day School that partnered with the school in Germany currently has 5 Connect To Learn scholarship students enrolled.

During the first Skype exchange, students asked each other questions about their daily lives both at home and in school, as well as their cultures and religion. In the next session, students shared photos exemplifying their daily lives and the environment they live and school in. After the exchanges, students expressed their appreciation for learning how much they had in common with their peers across the globe.When sharing about their experiences at the close of the unit, one student expressed that "this workshop really helped me to be a better global citizen."

Teachers' Idea Leads to 40 CTL Scholars Completing Vocational Training Certification in Rwanda

Posted Fri Mar 03, 2017 by Connect To Learn

As CTL’s scholarship beneficiaries have started graduating from secondary school, it has become increasingly apparent that, while a secondary school diploma is certainly a worthwhile qualification to pursue and complete, it does not go far enough in helping young girls become financially independent and adequately qualified to find jobs in the burgeoning but still limiting economic climates of their countries. Enrolling in university is an option which remains financially out of reach for many. While discussing these issues with CTL secondary school teachers during a visit by CTL Program Manager Tara Ocansey to CTL’s participating schools in Mayange, Rwanda in April 2016, the two CTL coordinating teachers at the schools where CTL works, Theoneste Hagenimana and Emmanuel Bagaragaza, suggested funding vocational training for the CTL scholarship students.

Not long after, Theoneste and Emmanuel, with support from the Millennium Villages Project Team Leader in Mayange, John Mugabo, submitted a proposal for the 40 CTL scholars to attend a 3-month vocational certification program during their school holidays between their 3rd and final year of secondary school. After some back-and-forth with the families and facilitators, the budget was approved for the girls to attend the program between November 2016 and January 2017.

To provide some context as to the value of technical and vocational training (TVET) in Rwanda, TVET is commonly highlighted by the government of Rwanda for accelerating the country’s “Vision 2020,” which aims to reduce people’s reliance on subsistence agriculture through investment in skill development in other sectors. Rwanda’s National Employment Program (NEP) aims to create at least new 200,000 non-agricultural jobs  per year, with special consideration given to job training for youth and women.

The implementation of the NEP has required a wide range of integrated and well- designed policy and program interventions, addressing both labor market demand and supply.  In order to create a critical mass of skilled employees built in key economic sectors, the government is targeting to have 65% of young people enrolled in TVET schools. There has therefore been increased focus in training in targeted skills through TVET programs. There has also been a shift towards the creation of incentives for investment in youth by private employers to scale up apprenticeships, internships and on-the-job training.

The 40 CTL scholarship students each enrolled in one of three vocational training programs: 19 chose to study hairdressing, 14 studied tailoring and 7 studied culinary arts and hotel operations. The girls performed to standard in their courses, though one area of struggle was in English language for business.

The CTL team is very proud of the girls for working hard during their school holidays to improve their qualifications for finding work after graduation, and is grateful to the CTL teachers in Mayange for their visionary leadership and dedication to improving outcomes for the girls they support through their teaching and mentorship. We hope that we can continue to support programs like this in the future, and invite all interested parties to work with us to support such future programs.



Girls and Women participate in International Day of the Girl events in Pampaida, Nigeria

Posted Fri Oct 16, 2015 by Connect To Learn

In celebration of International Day of the Girl, the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) Education team organized a series of community events to showcase the great academic achievements of girls, and also to spread awareness in the community for the importance of girls' education. Activities of the day included:

Mothers Forum
This activity was conducted to sensitize mothers in the community on the importance of girls’ education. Two female lecturers from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria were invited to facilitate the discussion during the forum. Attendees included 423 mothers from various settlements, village heads and religious leaders as well as the MVP and district officials.

Drama Presentation
A short drama was presented by the female students from Pampaida and Saulawa Secondary Schools highlighting the importance of girls’ education.   

There was a debate between boys and girls on why both female and male doctors are important. At the end of the debate, the girls who defended a motion on the importance of female doctors won the debate.

Quiz Competition
There was a quiz competition on core secondary subjects (English, Mathematics, Social Studies and Integrated Science) among the CTL scholars.  

There were also speeches from individuals delivered at the occasion on the importance of girls’ education. Notable among the speakers were the Project Team Leader, the Education Secretary of the Ikara Local Government Authority and the Principal Saulawa Secondary School.

Award Presentation
Prizes and awards were finally presented to the winners of the debate, quiz competition and female students identified by the schools’ heads as having outstanding academic performance and attendance.

CTL Scholars celebrate International Day of the Girl by encouraging peers to return to school

Posted Thu Oct 16, 2014 by Connect To Learn

Last week, on October 11th, girls and boys, women and men across the globe came together to celebrate International Day of the Girl, a day dedicated to raising awareness for issues relating to gender inequality. In honor of this day, CTL Scholars in Mayange, Rwanda and their facilitators/teachers organized an event to encourage their peers who have dropped out of school to return and complete their secondary education. The event involved several of the CTL Scholars visiting the homes of two girls who had recently dropped out of school because their (single) mothers could not support them with the school supplies necessary for attending school.

To overcome this barrier, the Scholars came prepared with book bags, shoes for the girls' uniforms, exercise books and pencils, soap, and other items. The girls and their mothers were thrilled to receive these items. After presenting the girls with the supplies, the girls enjoyed playing ball together while the CTL Facilitators spoke with the mothers. By the end of the two visits, the girls and their mothers had confirmed that the girls would return to school at the start of the new school year in January. The CTL Scholars and their Facilitators plan to check in with the girls in the interim to ensure that they follow through.

When the Scholars returned after their visits, they joined their Facilitators and parents for a workshop focused on exploring child rights, including the right to an education, and discussing challenges in their community that lead to school dropout. After brainstorming possible solutions to this challenge, the parents decided to start a cooperative savings effort whereby the parents who are able will contribute 100 Rwandan Francs to a fund that can be accessed in cases where a child is faced with dropout due to her or his family's lack of funds.

Each year of additional schooling can add 10 percent to a girl's future earnings. UNESCO estimates that in Africa, 1.8 million children's lives could be saved if their mothers had at least a secondary education. With the recent news of Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize, it is clear that the time is now to ensure all girls have a chance to receive a quality education, and that the voices of girls from Rwanda to Pakistan and across the world can make it happen. CTL is proud of these efforts made by the CTL Scholars and their communities, and looks forward to continuing to provide support to help ensure that these community-driven solutions are implemented successfully so that all girls can complete their secondary education.

Connecting the Unconnected: CTL partner, Ericsson, wins 2014 award

Posted Tue Feb 25, 2014 by Connect To Learn
Connect To Learn's lead technology partner, Ericsson, this week won the 2014 industry award for connecting the unconnected.
Ericsson received the award in recognition for providing connectivity to address basic human needs in the Millennium Villages Project and through the Connect To Learn initiative
  • Over 500,000 people in 14 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have benefited from mobile connectivity improving access to healthcare, education and livelihoods
  • 40,000 students around the world have received access to quality education resources through Connect To Learn, enabled by Ericsson's cloud-based solution deployed in schools

Ericsson was recognized for "Connecting the Unconnected" by in their 2014 Industry Awards for the company's involvement in the Millennium Villages Project and Connect To Learn initiative.

At the awards ceremony, Ericsson was given special mention for the part it has played towards improving access to healthcare, education and livelihoods through use of technology and the expertise of its employees.

Ericsson is the lead technology partner in the Millennium Villages Project and works with the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Millennium Promise, the organizations that run the integrated development project throughout Africa. Since Ericsson became part of the initiative in 2007, more than 500,000 people in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have benefitted from mobile connectivity.

Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Ericsson's VP Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, said of the achievement:"Affordable and accessible mobile broadband can help break the cycle of poverty for millions of people around the world. The Millennium Villages project is a long term commitment for us, and we have seen the transformation over time that mobile brings to even the most remote parts of Africa. We are honored to be recognized for the work we have done with our partners."

Through Connect To Learn - a global education initiative led by Columbia University with Millennium Promise, Ericsson combines mobility, broadband and cloud services to promote access to and quality of secondary-school education, with a focus on ensuring that girls complete their full education. The public-private partnership also provides scholarships for girls in the Millennium Villages Project secondary schools. In three years, 40,000 students have received access to quality educational resources enabled by the cloud based ICT solution deployed.  Ericsson also contributes the technical expertise of its employees to support this initiative.

Investments in Girls, Connect To Learn Highlighted by Global Leaders at WEF 2014

Posted Mon Jan 27, 2014 by Connect To Learn

Connect To Learn is honored to have been featured at a World Economic Forum event in Davos, Switzerland last week. Headlined as "Scaling Up Success: Investing in Girl Empowerment for MDG Acceleration" and hosted by the UN Secretary General and the UN Foundation, the event brought together cross-sector global leaders to focus on the importance of investment in adolescent girls as a key to ending poverty and accelerating progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The discussion, viewable at right, highlighted smart initiatives and creative partnerships to mobilize and scale investments in girls.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "This is more than a philanthropic issue. This is a challenge to do business better. It is a chance to change institutions so they reflect more enlightened attitudes about girls and include strategies to improve their lives."

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute and Hans Vestberg, Ericsson President & CEO, participated and debuted a new Connect To Learn video at the event, joining UN Foundation President & CEO, Kathy Calvin and speakers including H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, H.E. Ms. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, Tina Brown, President of Tina Brown Live Media, and HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, First Lady of Qatar.

Connect To Learn's short new video, also accessible directly below, features our work being carried out across Africa as an example of the tremendous breakthroughs possible when young girls get the opportunity to attend secondary school. It introduces CTL scholarship beneficiaries and their teachers in Ghana, including one of our first graduates, Ramatu Seidu, who is now working as a Community Health Worker in her home village. They share how the opportunity of secondary schooling is giving them the ability to pursue their dreams, serve as role models to younger girls, and contribute to their communities and national economies.

An expanding body of research tells us that educating and empowering adolescent girls and promoting the rights of girls and women results in life-changing benefits for families, communities, and countries, among them healthier children and families, higher personal incomes, and economic growth.

By providing girls with access to secondary schooling through scholarships and, in tandem, equipping the schools they attend with technology-enabled access to information and learning resources, Connect To Learn is forging practical solutions to help shape the future of learning as an important key to ending global poverty. With latest figures indicating that mobile broadband subscriptions will exceed 9.3 billion by 2019, students and teachers with a mobile device anywhere—even in the most remote and impoverished villages of the world—can access information on every imaginable subject.

Connect To Learn's lead technology partner, Ericsson, and a host of other contributing partners such as Spin Master Toys, the Sanchez-Palm Girls Scholarship Fund, JM Eagle, John Legend's Show Me Campaign, Raising Malawi and WNBA star Tina Charles, and Author/Actor Jamie Lee Curtis, plus many more organizations and individuals are helping to enable access to learning for thousands of girls and their male peers in resource-deprived communities around the world.

Of 12 Connect To Learn program sites now located across 10 countries in Africa, the Bonsaaso community in Ghana is one of Connect To Learn's first scholarship program sites launched in late 2010, and was one of the first ICT installations completed in cooperation with Ericsson, Connect To Learn's chief technology partner, in early 2011. Since that time, additional computers and equipment upgrades have been provided and several intensive teacher training and professional development courses have been conducted at the two schools in this Millennium Village Project site. Bonsaaso is located in the Amansie-West District of the Ashanti Region of Ghana. It is a hot and humid tropical region where villages are spread out and separated from one another by thick rainforest. Across two Millennium Village Project sites now present in Ghana, Connect To Learn has provided 100 students with three-year secondary school scholarships and 94 of them are girls. Thousands more girls and boys and their teachers are served in the schools where CTL Scholars are enrolled through the ICT investments made by Connect To Learn partners.



Jamie Lee Curtis Makes an Audacious Proposal for Connect To Learn

Posted Wed Dec 18, 2013 by Connect To Learn

Jamie Lee Curtis— actor, author, and committed activist for children—has teamed up with Connect To Learn to advocate for the education of girls and all young people globally. In a new animated video, she lends her powerful voice to share Connect To Learn’s mission.

Connect To Learn has produced and released this fundraising and awareness-building animated video for its’ end-of-year campaign, raising funds for multiple new girls’ scholarships in the new year. Connect To learn Director, Kara Nichols, recruited the pro-bono support of actor/author/advocate Jamie Lee Curtis to record the narration, music producer CJ Vanston to produce original music for the video, and west coast design firm, XPLANE, for illustration and scripting support. The video can be viewed and shared at

Education is an essential human right and a key to ending poverty. Evidence is piling up that investing in education and quality learning, especially for girls, can have dramatic effects in every nation. Yet around the world, there are 69 million adolescents who are not enrolled in school. More than half of them are girls, and of the 774 million illiterate adults in the world, nearly 64% of them are women.

Connect To learn urges supporters to use this video as a tool for raising our voices and our commitment to ensuring that all children across the world have access to a quality education.

2013 East African ICT in Education Study published

Posted Sun Nov 17, 2013 by Connect To Learn

Findings from the Earth Institute’s one-year collaborative action research study in conjunction with Columbia University Teachers College, University of Nairobi, and Kampala University showed significant potential for improved teaching and learning with Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) when the technology strategy is appropriately designed for its intended environment and adequately supported with infrastructure and ongoing professional development for teachers.

Partnering university faculty and secondary school teachers working in close collaboration at four rural schools in Kenya and Uganda, investigators worked for one year to understand the effects, opportunities and challenges of integrating ICT into schools and teaching routines.

Interviews, training workshops, surveys and observations conducted indicate significant improvements in teaching and learning when ICT tools and resources are well-designed with the school infrastructure and environment in mind, and when teachers are provided with thorough training and professional development in how to optimize these resources in their classrooms.

Research findings show that over the course of the year, guided use, training and professional development workshops offered essential support for teachers focusing on using ICT in their classrooms. There were significant increases both in teachers’ reported skill and comfort with using ICT for educational purposes, as well as in the observed use of ICT in their classrooms. For example, where only 21% of teachers considered themselves to be “advanced” users of ICT at the beginning of the project, by the end, 45% of teachers were reporting themselves to be advanced users. There was also an 18% increase in reported use of ICT in the classroom over the course of the project.

Researchers compiled recommendations in several categories, including:

  • Physical infrastructure, calling for policies for open access to hardware, electrical outlets throughout all classrooms and security;
  • ICT infrastructure, where Wi-Fi networks, adequate airtime, and computers and projectors are basic needs;
  • Teacher pedagogical skills and knowledge development along with basic ICT training, where professional development should be facilitated in partnership with local universities or Non-Governmental Organizations, among other steps;
  • Open source teaching and learning resources, including use of Connect To Learn’s  online resource library and expanding the availability of locally relevant online resources;
  • Student ICT participation and knowledge, which encourages teachers to assign online research and computer-based projects; and
  • Public-Private partnership implementation, urging each site to hire local facilitators to provide ongoing support to administrators and teachers, and forging partnerships with local decision-makers and telecommunications industry leaders to institutionalize the integration of ICT at all levels of education.

Professor Jeffery Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, said: "Education is at the very core of economic development and a key to ending poverty. In the world economy today, every nation’s success depends on the education of its people, ICT will increasingly be at the center of the education process. ICT offers new and creative ways to combine classroom experience, home learning, global outreach, and connectivity of students and teachers to the burgeoning network of online learning now accessible throughout the world. Classrooms everywhere, from primary schools to higher education, will be dramatically transformed in exciting and enriching ways. 

"Effectively integrating technology into teaching practices in resource-poor settings requires bringing many key elements together to enable ICT to fulfill its great potential for improving student learning outcomes,” continued Sachs. "Reliable connectivity, a consistent energy supply, and teacher training are among the key elements for getting started. Designing new curricula that combine online and classroom learning is another high priority.  Through broad-based investment and dynamic partnerships with the telecommunications leaders of the world, there is a huge and thrilling opportunity at hand."

 “It's been thrilling to enable and track the teachers’ embrace of ICT to bolster their teaching practices through the course of this collaborative research,” said Connect To Learn Executive Director, Kara Nichols.  “The possibilities are enormous to bring a world of information and learning resources into our remote rural schools through broadband connectivity.  I commend our university partners and local teachers for their extraordinary commitment to this important work, and I’m deeply grateful to Ericsson for making the study possible with funding and technical support. It is my hope that public and private partners will join us to replicate and scale this work across schools in all Connect To Learn sites across Africa and globally.”

Says Dr. Ronald Semyalo, Director of Research from Kampala University and Lead Researcher in the study “A major obstacle to the overall improvement of Uganda’s educational system is a lack of a comprehensive education policy regarding ICT. There is a definite need for training in ICT. A well-informed curriculum is required to train a new crop of teachers with the ability to improve the ICT proficiency of secondary school students. Such a curriculum would also provide critical information to the development of a general educational policy for the country.”

Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Ericsson, said: “A world where all girls and boys have access to secondary schooling and all teachers and students are connected to quality learning resources through internet access is the vision on which Connect To Learn was founded. In the 21st century, mobile broadband means that access to quality education should no longer be an obstacle – it is increasingly possible to deliver this fundamental human right.”

The ICT in Education Study was designed, commissioned and managed by the Connect To Learn team, based at the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Millennium Promise. The study was conducted with funding and technical support from Ericsson.

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