1. Tell us about your mission.
Educate!’s mission is to develop young leaders and entrepreneurs in Africa.
Nearly 50% of all Africans are younger than 18, and that number is growing. These demographics, along with a scarcity of jobs, have led to dramatic rates of youth unemployment. Education systems in Africa already face challenges — current curricula and teaching methods are designed for a 1900s economy, consisting of rote memorization and exam-driven learning which do not prepare students to succeed in today’s economy. The current status quo perpetuates lack of opportunity and cycles of poverty — allowing the enormous potential of youth to remain untapped.
Educate! believes that by transforming educational pathways in East Africa, we can equip youth with the skills to disrupt the systemic problem of youth unemployment and realize their full potential. We believe post-primary education is the most untapped resource across the continent for cultivating talent and for development more broadly, and we aim to work both within the existing educational infrastructure and outside of the system to impact youth life outcomes at scale.
Our mission therefore aims to prepare youth in Africa with the skills to succeed in today’s economy. We tackle youth unemployment by partnering with schools and governments to reform what schools teach and how they teach it, so that students in Africa have the skills to attain further education, overcome gender inequities, start businesses, get jobs, and drive development in their communities. Our goal is to make this practical, skills-based model part of national education systems across Africa.
2. How is The West Foundation supporting your mission?
Since our inception in 2009, Educate! has worked to build a replicable and cost-effective solution to prepare youth with the skills to attain further education, overcome gender inequities, start businesses, get jobs, and drive development in their communities. We started in 24 schools and reached 830 youth, and today, Educate! has dramatically scaled our program by nearly 40x and has directly impacted more than 100,000 secondary youth across 1,000 schools. This has been achieved over the years due to the support of partners like The West Foundation that have contributed to making us the largest youth skills provider in East Africa! Additionally, urging us on through our commitment to deepening our impact in Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya, while expanding our reach to out-of-school youth for the first time and developing a strategy to support education reforms in other countries in the future.
3. Considering your impactful work to eliminate poverty, how is the West Foundation’s philanthropic support providing you with sustainability and mobility?
Educate! aims to design solutions that measurably impact millions of youth across Africa each year. Long term, we aim to fully incorporate our skills-based education model into national education systems across Africa. With the support of the West Foundation, we are able to experiment with different ways to sustainably and cost-effectively deliver and scale our evidence-based solutions as we grow towards that goal and position ourselves for greater and more sustainable impact each year.
The West Foundation’s philanthropic support goes further to aid project implementation, including training and empowering teachers and youth Mentors – who are at the core of delivering our model to Scholars. Through the Educate! Experience – our flagship program, Scholars are taught an entrepreneurship, leadership, and workforce readiness course, which includes practical experience starting a business or community project in each secondary school.
4. How are you realizing your potential?
Our impact philosophy relies on periodic, rigorous external evaluations to measure medium- and long-term outcomes, coupled with ongoing monitoring to continuously manage program quality and track immediate impact for students.
Rigorous evaluations of our solution, including a randomized controlled trial (RCT), found that participants earn nearly 2x the income of their peers towards the end of secondary school. A follow-up RCT in Uganda assessed medium-term outcomes for students four years after they graduated from the Educate! program. The evaluation looked at the same student cohort as the prior RCT and found strong impacts on: 1) soft skills—improved grit, creativity, and self-efficacy; 2) gender-related outcomes—less domestic violence, fewer sexual partners, fewer children, and more egalitarian views; and 3) educational attainment—increased secondary school completion, increased tertiary enrollment for women, and greater likelihood of selecting higher-earning-potential majors (business and STEM areas of study). Importantly, after Educate!, girls were essentially as likely to graduate from secondary school as boys.
5. What’s one important thing you want others to know about your organization?
Educate! prepares youth in Africa with the skills to succeed in today’s economy through an innovative model with proven impact. Our model is built on best scaling practices and constant self-evaluation and was specifically designed to scale having spent the last 10 years building the most replicable and cost-effective solution possible that can reach massive scale. We are now the largest youth skills provider in East Africa. We reach a large number of youth at a low cost by delivering our model using existing infrastructure, engaging exceptional Educate! graduates as mentors, and implementing innovative technologies to manage and monitor our programs across great distances. While doing this, we work hand-in-hand with governments towards system-level adoption of our solution to sustainably integrate our model into national education systems.
6. How can people reading this help you?
With over ten years of experience operating our flagship program in schools, we’ve tested, refined, and continually strengthened our model to ensure the maximum impact on youth – impact that is both cost-effective and sustainable. We’ve developed our capacity to provide technical advisory services and support to national education systems, actively working with the governments of three countries to facilitate practical, skills-based secondary education that prepares youth to succeed in today’s economy.
Incredible partners like the West Foundation and other friends and champions allow us to continue to work towards a world where all youth receive the skills they need to succeed in life after school. We so appreciate anyone who is able to invest in youth. Your support will propel us forward into our next decade of work. It’s especially critical now, when a lot is changing and amidst the uncertainty created by COVID-19, we see opportunities for adaptation and innovation.
7. What are your deepest needs as an organization?
Over next two years, Educate! is continuing to work towards our vision of measurably impacting millions of youth across Africa each year by (1) scaling our direct delivery model to drive towards our goal of achieving full scale in Uganda as we iterate for long-term sustainability, (2) continuing to build education system capacity to implement Rwanda’s Competency-Based Curriculum while testing innovative school sustainability and incentive strategies that can sustain the reform, and (3) deepening our government partnerships in Kenya to support the ongoing national curriculum reform, while experimenting with a new model that brings Educate!’s impact to out-of-school youth.