The stifling October heat did not stop us breaking our last activity record by a whopping 25%! Our 3’342 active learners logged more than 38’000 hours this month, a 8’000 hour increase on the last Edulution record. Most of our 15 centres operate in very challenging and impoverished environments, like inner city townships in Lusaka or deep rural areas where there is no grid electricity or running water and searing dusty heat in the mid 40’s. 95% of our learners are from disadvantaged or impoverished backgrounds. Looking back, we certainly come a long way in the last 12 months.
And how effective are we being? So far we’re observing an average of a 45% improvement in a 4 month test cycle across all our centres (~1400 data points) in our foundational numeracy courses. Averages don’t tell the whole story, the frequency distribution graph gives a more accurate picture.
So although there are many challenges still to overcome, we’re proud of the real and significant impact we are delivering to vulnerable children in very challenging environments. And don’t forget the employment, empowerment and entrepreneurial opportunities to our 35 aspiring coaches, most of whom are themselves from disadvantaged backgrounds. So many individuals and organisations have made this possible, so a big thank you all from all of us for helping us get this far!
We are proud to have 3 new Mobile Learning Centres now fully operating in Luangwa, this is our completely rural solar solution about 3 hours drive from Lusaka which is being sponsored by PestalozziWorld. We are reaching about 800 learners at 4 different sites with 7 Pestalozzi alumni as coaches, many of whom originated from this area when they were selected for Pestalozzi scholarship. It is a neat virtuous circle and great that these alumni are now involved in the education of others from their own local rural area. The local community have been incredibly supportive in getting the show off the ground, Pestalozzi’s good standing and existing relationships helped. I spent a few days out in Luangwa living with the coaches, I learnt a lot walking a mile in their shoes. This rural deployment has taken a lot of effort to get off the ground but have been pleasantly surprised at how well it is going (please touch wood now!). We have learnt a great deal and the next deployments should be easier. The bare thread internet is a challenge as is the English level but neither insurmountable and we’re finding solutions. To be honest, almost everything is challenge from power, to clean drinking water, getting money there, providing technical support, transport between centres, training and monitoring – the list goes on, but for each we have found solutions that are working. It’s an incredible testament to everyone involved, a massive thank you to all. A genuine example of one of our core values ‘Alone we cannot but together we can!’
2016 got off to a great start! We’re living in exciting times, growing fast and reaching more and more children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our ‘tribe’ is also expanding; we have signed on several new international NGO partners and also agreed a collaboration with the Ministry of Education.
In February we set yet another record with over 1,900 active students logging more than 14,000 hours, a 56% increase from January’s record of 9,000 hours. Our goal is 5,000 students by year end.
New Partners: The beginning of the year has seen us sign on several new partners. We were delighted to start at SOS Children Villages International (600 students) and RHO Appleseed (60 students) as new location partners. Children International became a sponsor partner to their 3 sites across Lusaka. Family Legacy have also signed on as a location partner with a 1,000 students across 3 sites around Lusaka commencing May. An information sharing arrangement has been agreed with the Department of Distance and Opening Education (DODE) at the Ministry of Education in Zambia. We are collaborating with them on the work we are doing at Community Schools around the country.
Sponsored Bike Scheme: The Hulbert family is sponsoring this great and very popular initiative. Many of our coaches have to commute by foot (up to 12 km a day) to reach their class locations and this bike scheme was introduced to provide transport. Coaches either rent the bikes for a small fee which goes towards bike maintenance or they participate in a ‘rent to own’ scheme paying 50% of the bike price off over a year.
In August, we officially began a tripart relationship with our sponsor partners PestalozziWorld and location partners Children International. While PestalozziWorld offers a ‘head, heart and hands’ education for disadvantaged youth, particularly from rural areas, Children International works through individual child sponsorships to educate, empower and employ disadvantaged people in urban areas. Throwing Edulution into the mix, creates an incredible combination for children of all ages to step up their own educational ladder and provide employment to the coaches facilitating it.
With Children International’s three sites across Lusaka we are aiming in the first phase to give 1000 children the opportunity to gain foundational proficiency in maths. About 75% of these students will start functionally illiterate in maths and will emerge sufficient to function in society – no mean feat! We’ve done a lot of work in 2015 honing this process – from course design, evaluation techniques, coach training and student incentive schemes. Our results from our pilot sites have been very encouraging, more on this in a later blog.
What is also exciting is Children International are considering becoming a sponsorship partner as well a location partner in 2016. This in turn will open the door for PestalozziWorld to reach other children in need. We are expecting to reach 3000 students by early 2016. We are enthusiastic about the progress we have made so far. Reaching out to partners such as PestalozziWorld and Children International has been an integral step to developing Edulution’s goals. 2015 is so far promising us to get closer to our goal of changing how Africa learns!
Well it has been a roller coaster getting everything set up and ready for our first deployments but we have lift off! There have been a lot of firsts. Coach selection, then their training and now their deployment into the field with their own mobile learning centres. The process has been challenging with bumps in the road but overall it’s been incredibly powerful and rewarding. Although our mission and focus is changing how Africa learns, another great benefit of this project is the employment opportunities that have been created for very abled, passionate people seeking an avenue to express their talents. There is so much untapped potential here and not enough places for people to employ it. The last week of training was incredible, we focused a lot on psychological development, getting our coaches to believe in themselves and feel part of something bigger, to be part of the Edulution Change Tribe. In the closing out ceremony there was not a dry eye in the house and a lot of hugging – transformational for me and everyone else. Yes, we want to do things in a new way, we want to change how we learn and change how we do things in Africa. It’s time to depart from the shackles of our past and let the next generation, the Change Tribe generation come through.
Now we have our first coaches out in the field we will focus on getting them effectively deployed. There is a desperate demand for effective, affordable education here – we believe we have something capable of delivering this. We are pioneers and there going to be a lot more firsts; we have taken the next important step.
Welcome to Edulution and our official launch of the website. Since January we have been running a series of forerunner projects in Zambia working in partnership with the PestalozziWorld Foundation. These projects have already delivered a lot of impact but probably more importantly have given us the opportunity to research, develop and test a whole lot of new ideas. It’s been a really fascinating journey and we’ve all learnt an incredible amount. This year I wanted to get into the trenches and feel every aspect at the grassroots level. I wanted to appreciate all the challenges first hand and try figure out ways to tap into the incredible opportunity that now exists, particularly for Africa.
I think most people realise there is an opportunity for a radical and disruptive change in how we learn and teach. In many ways, that’s the easy part – the real question is what to do about it? Most efforts I see try and implement changes onto an existing and already broken system. To me this seems a bit like fitting a satnav onto an old car which does not work very well – is that really going to make that much difference? So we’ve tried to look at this with fresh eyes and our suggested solutions use quite radical (but well researched) ideas to challenge the existing norms. Maybe we can invent a plane to replace that broken car?
We hope all our work and hard won experience will translate into something meaningful that seeds much greater things for Africa. Our next step is bringing to the warm people of Zambia something that we believe will make learning much more effective and affordable in ways that have not been tried before.
To all those that are following or supporting this thanks for reading!