How Solar Lamps Can Transform Homework Time

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Kenya Connect students picking up their solar lights, which will allow them to study at night and provide their families with a light source cleaner than kerosene lamps.

If you were especially studious in high school, you probably spent plenty of nights up late, nose in a book, pounding through heaps of homework. But imagine if you’d only had daylight hours to complete all that work, trying to cram in all that information before the last glint of sunlight fell beyond the horizon.

As noted in this recent study by the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Centre for Economic Performance, more than 1.3 billion people globally do not have access to electricity. Night time study for students without electricity can be a constant race against the sun.

Researchers found that when one group of 7th grade Kenyan students without electricity were given solar-powered lamps to take home, their grades went up. Math grades shot up .88 standard deviations, which is a big improvement in the education world! What’s even more astounding is that when access to lamps was given to 10% of students, grades for the other students went up .22 standard deviations! It seems students with the lamps were prone to share light with classmates.

Our students in Wamunyu are starting to experience the freedom to study granted by having a solar lamp at home. Thanks to a new program through Kenya Connect, students’ families are going to be able to rent-to-own these lamps for about $1 per month until they pay off the $8.00 cost for small lamps (or $36.00 for medium lamps that also include capacity for charging a mobile phone).

Our partners at Kenya Connect are working right now on getting these lamps into the hands of TSF scholarship recipients.

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The Kenya Connect team demonstrating for teachers how the solar lamps work.

Consider just how much you learned during all your nights “burning the midnight oil.” Then consider that these students will no longer be faced with a choice to put down their studies or literally burn costly lighting fuels like kerosene that their families can hardly afford. (It’s worth noting that in the Centre for Economic Performance study, families of students with solar lamps also saw a reduction in fuel expenditures of between 66 cents and $1 per week!)

This program has so much promise, and a potential to make years of impact. Kenya Connect’s solar lamps have a two-year warranty and batteries that should last five years. We’re excited to see in coming years how much difference having access to study light will make for our students.

You can meet our Kenya Connect students on TSF’s website and follow Kenya Connect on Facebook for updates on the program.

From Somaliland to Universities Abroad

The School Fund’s staff, Executive Director Elizabeth Texeira and Director of Programs Michael Childress, are on a three week trip to East Africa to meet seven of our field partners in the region. They will be writing short posts about their experience, so check back for an update soon!

(An update from Michael, with more about our partner Abaarso in Somaliland.) 

In a previous post I briefly described the work of Abaarso School.  Abaarso is currently the only school in Somaliland that has been able to admit students to universities outside of the country. I recently spent a week at Abaarso to learn more about the local education sector and why this school has been so successful.

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During my visit I spoke with the former Director General of Education, Mohamed Hassan whose own children attend Abaarso. He explained some of the challenges facing the education sector in Somaliland to me. These include a significant lack of school buildings and inadequate infrastructure at existing schools, insufficient learning materials and a growing but unregulated private sector. Mr. Hassan’s greatest concern, however, was the lack of trained teachers in the country.

These concerns are borne out in a recent report written by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF.  The report finds that only 38% of primary school teachers have the minimum required teaching qualifications. It also indicates that more than 60% of primary schools and 40% of high schools lack clean drinking water.  These barriers help to explain why less than half of all primary school aged students—and less than a quarter of high school aged students—are enrolled in school today.

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Students entering Abaarso are among the brightest in the country. In 2016, over 1,000 students took the entrance exam for just 48 available places. In addition to being bright, teachers explain that admitted students are highly motivated. Despite their enthusiasm and high performance (relative to their peers in Somaliland) newly admitted students typically have a fourth grade mathematics level and only rudimentary English skills.

To prepare students for university, Abaarso aims to increase learning by 2 to 2.5 levels per year. The school does this by keeping the student-teacher ratio low (about 13:1), encouraging student-centered learning and providing additional learning opportunities outside of class. One of the most striking features of the school is the level of access that students have to teachers. During my visit it was common to see teachers available to students until 9 o’clock in the evening.

Abaarso also involves students and parents in the creation of the school culture and integration into the local community.  Students help set classroom norms, provide feedback to administrators about school policies and assist with the day-to-day operation of the school. The board and parent committee help the school negotiate local cultural norms and advocate for the school with local stakeholders.

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The annual tuition at Abaarso is $1,800 per student. About one-third of the students receive need-based scholarships. Teachers report that the students receiving scholarships  perform better than those paying full tuition.  In the 2015/2016 school year, The School Fund help provide scholarships to 23 students at Abaarso.

 

You can learn more about these students and help fund a scholarship for the next school year at The School Fund.

 

How a girls’ school in Kibera is creating a hub for change

Partner Spotlight: How a Shining Hope was Born in Two Kenyan Slums

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On the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, in the country’s two largest slums, Kibera and Mathare, deep poverty runs rampant. Gang and sexual violence are common. Clean, safe water is in short supply.

And in these two slums, our new partner Shining Hope For Communities (SHOFCO) has established schools for girls at the hub of other services, including: daily nourishment, healthcare, psychosocial support, after school programs, toilets and clean water, plus savings and loan groups. By putting educating girls at the heart of all it does, SHOFCO is a safe space that teaches families to value girls’ education and women’s empowerment.

Last year, over 72,000 parents were served through SHOFCO programs, and since 2012, its female members saw four-times the income growth of the community at large. SHOFCO helps create stability at home, while its schools—populated by students who suffer some of the greatest poverty in Kenya—consistently rank within the top three in the nation!

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Please join us in welcoming our new partner SHOFCO,
and meet a few of our new students!

 


TSF Staff Abroad

TSF’s executive director Liz Texeira and director of programs Michael Childress have headed to Kenya, Somaliland and Mozambique to visit our partners and students. For highlights from their trip, please subscribe to our blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! #tsffieldtrip
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It’s Almost MATCH DAY!

Mark your calendars! Wednesday, June 22 is TSF’s Match Day, that one magical day each year when for 24 hours we are able to double all online contributions to our students!


Supporter Spotlight: TSF’s Teen Board

The School Fund is lucky to be supported by a circle of enthusiastic supporters, but not many can rival our Teen Board, a group of Palo Alto teens who churn out a steady stream local events that get our cause out to our community—and make giving fun. Two weeks ago, our Teen Board planned a special TSF day with Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria and it was a huge success! Thanks Teen Board and all our supporters who came out for a slice!

Like the Teen Board, many of our supporters have started planning personal fundraisers! Let us know what you, your student group or favorite kid are doing to support our students, so that we can feature those efforts here!

Onward to Mozambique

The School Fund’s staff, Executive Director Elizabeth Texeira and Director of Programs Michael Childress, are on a three week trip to East Africa to meet seven of our field partners in the region. They will be writing short posts about their experience, so check back for an update soon!

(An update from Liz, who visited our partner ASEM in Mozambique)

TSF’s partner in Mozambique, ASEM, was started in 1991 by Barbara Hoffman to support vulnerable children in Mozambique after almost two decades of civil war. One of the only African countries not under British rule, (it was formerly a Portuguese colony and today the national language is Portuguese), Mozambique has struggled to recover and the country ranks among the lowest in GDP per capita, human development, measures of inequality, and average life expectancy. While there are many challenges Mozambique has also been able to maintain a relatively stable democratic government and has made primary education free and compulsory for all students.


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ASEM, our partner works to provide psycho-social support, food, transportation, uniforms, and school fees to students attending public school, and also operates a primary and secondary school funded in part by the Ministry of Education. The School Fund’s 17 ASEM students, selected based on need and performance, are located in two large communities, Beira and Vilankulos.

Beira is beautiful and hot, and children are learning! Helena, a Grade 8 student supported by TSF was put into an ASEM school by her father right before he passed away, and she says that she cannot imagine going to school anywhere else.

 

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Helena, a TSF scholarship recipient at ASEM in Mozambique. 


Helena is going to be an accountant so she can support her family. Consider supporting Helena and our other students from Mozambique
here.

TSF in Somaliland

The School Fund’s staff, Executive Director Elizabeth Texeira and Director of Programs Michael Childress, are on a three week trip to East Africa to meet seven of our field partners in the region. They will be writing short posts about their experience, so check back for an update soon!

Monday

(An update from Michael, who is visiting our partner Abaarso in Somaliland)

Somaliland is a semi-autonomous region of Somalia that declared independence in 1991. It has a separate government, currency and military, but is not recognized as an independent nation by the international community.

After the civil war in the 1990s, much of the education infrastructure in Somaliland collapsed. Today there is little reliable information on the performance of schools in Somaliland. However, anecdotal reports suggest that many children are out of school and those who are in school are learning very little.

In contrast to this rather bleak picture, there has been a growing stream of graduates from a small private high school on the outskirts of Hargeisa who are being admitted to some the world’s elite universities.  Within the walled compound at Abaarso School, a group of international teachers and Somali staff teach and live alongside about 200 students.

Although few of the teachers have formal training, their dedication and the students drive to learn are producing some extraordinary results, including sending students to Harvard and MIT.

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In the 2015/2016 school year, The School Fund provided scholarships for 23 students to attend Abaarso School.  Mustafa was one of these students.

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Mustafa, TSF scholarship recipient!

Mustafa is currently finishing his final exams at Abaarso.  In July he leaves Somaliland for the first time to attend University of Rochester, where he hopes to become a mathematician.  He says that going to school allowed him the opportunity to see the world in a different way, and to question and have different opinions.

TSF in Kenya – Day 2, meeting Mary Brenda

The School Fund’s staff, Executive Director Elizabeth Texeira and Director of Programs Michael Childress, are on a three week trip to East Africa to meet seven of our field partners in the region. They will be writing short posts about their experience, so check back for an update soon!

Tuesday

(A note from Michael)

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Determining who gets to go to high school, and which school they can attend, is a high stakes game in Kenya.  In 8th grade, students take a national exam called the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education.  The exam has a total of 500 possible points.  Students earning less than 200 points are not eligible for high school while students with 350 points or more are admitted to elite national schools.  

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Mary Brenda, a SHOFCO student currently crowdfunding a scholarship TSF’s website.

In 2016, more than 200,000 students were not admitted to high schools because they scored less than 200 points. Even when students pass the KCPE, many cannot afford to attend secondary school because of school fees, which typically range from $500 to $700 per year.

The School Fund works with Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) to provide scholarships to students living in the Kibera slum who have scored at least 300 points (in the top 25% nationally) on the KCPE.

Today we had the chance to speak with Mary Brenda who is attending a good quality secondary school where she currently has a B+ average.  When she graduates she hope to enroll in university and become an accountant. Meeting her, hearing about her plans and knowing how hard she’s working in school, I can’t help but be excited about her future.

TSF in Nairobi – A Visit to Kibera

The School Fund’s staff, Executive Director Elizabeth Texeira and Director of Programs Michael Childress, are on a three week trip to East Africa to meet seven of our field partners in the region. They will be writing short posts about their experience, so check back for an update soon!

Monday

(A note from Liz)

The School Fund staff has hit the ground running! And at altitude! We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday morning after about 27 hours of travel from SFO and were VERY excited to see 1) that the intense rains of the past few weeks were no longer falling, and 2) the sights of Nairobi—Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Nairobi National Park—as we valiantly fought jetlag in anticipation of starting work today.

We were up bright and early to prepare our materials for our first (and newest) partner of the trip, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). SHOFCO operates a program in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, with over 1 million people living in an area consisting of 1.3 square miles. As SHOFCO says,

“Kenya’s government, which owns the land upon which Kibera stands, does not formally recognize the settlement, regarding its residents as squatters. Thus, the people of Kibera’s 13 villages are denied basic social services—education, healthcare and sanitation, clean water, electricity, roads—and the basic human dignity that accompanies them.” Learn more on their site here

 

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View of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya

SHOFCO, developed with a mission to turn urban poverty into urban promise has four main pillars: education, with their wildly covered Kibera School for Girls (check out this video for a day in the life and some serious inspiration); health, they run a community clinic that serves all of Kibera; community empowerment, with savings and micro- loan clubs and vocational training; and water and sanitation/hygiene programs, providing low cost, clean water and eco-friendly latrines to a community that does not have any other access to these services.

Today was spent buzzing around the community meeting program staff, volunteers, members of the student selection committee, a group of proud parents, and even a Mr. and Mrs. SHOFCO—young people selected by the community to be role models who receive an internship working with the organization for the year.

Over the din of construction, the singing of an elementary school classroom, and the sounds and smells of the communal kitchen, the parents described the situation in Kenya, how the school fee structure changes every year, and they never know if they will be able to find the money to keep their sons and daughters in school. In a place like Kibera, sending their children away to boarding school is often the best option. Roger, one of the parents in our group whose daughter is now at the top-ranked national high school in Kenya said, “I can see the sun through my window. Without this scholarship I could never have managed her school. For the first time there will be a graduate in my house.”  

 

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Roger, whose daughter is in school, thanks to a scholarship!

 

And that folks, is what it’s all about.

The School Fund is proud to partner with SHOFCO to send 50 of their students to secondary school this year. We are honored to be a part of this amazing organization changing lives every day. YOU can be a part of this magic too—meet some of our amazing SHOFCO students here.

How Your Company Can Fund Scholarships

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The School Fund connects donors around the globe with students in the developing world, to fund their educations.

 

Smart business people know how to get the most for their investment. At The School Fund, our model of crowdfunding relatively small scholarships means that even a few dollars can help go a long way. Since our founding in 2009, we have supported over 1,200 students and funded over 1,550 years of education for students in 15 developing countries from Ecuador to India to Tanzania. We have partnered with 11 trusted Field Partners and built a website where 100% of donations go straight to students’ school fees. When corporate partners help seed our scholarships through grants, we make it a point to demonstrate those corporate partners’ commitments to our crowd.

One of our biggest fundraising events of the year is our annual Match Day. This year, for the first time, we are reaching out to local businesses, corporations, and foundations to partner with us on our Match Day campaign. We see this as one more opportunity to tout our corporate partners, and we are soliciting challenge grants to develop an external matching fund for this year’s Match Day, to be held on June 22nd.

Match Day is a 24 hour period in which TSF matches all online donations that go to students through a matching fund. Field partners activate their networks to take advantage of the matching money, leading to a large increase in visibility for our 500+ students across the developing world.

In 2015 The School Fund put up a $25,000 match and brought in over $45,000 from external supporters! The matching pot was a large incentive to our donor base, nearly doubling our impact—Match Day’s total fundraising came to more than $70,000 raised in 24 hours, enough to keep over 200 students in school.

Participating in The School Fund’s Match Day is a huge opportunity to leverage your charitable contribution (double it!) raise visibility using our platform, incentivize donors around the country, and help keep students in school around the world.

We have set a fundraising goal of $25,000 and are actively seeking a coalition of organizations and supporters to help us reach this goal. Please consider joining us!

Match Day Statistics from 2015

  • $42,375 raised from 194 donors for 199 students
  • $4,010 raised from 172 donors for unrestricted use
  • $25,000 Matching Fund from The School Fund
  • Day-of Social Media: 283 likes, 37 shares,  6 posts from celebrities and Field Partners
  • 1290 visits, spending an average of 5 minutes on the site (75% higher than June, 2014)
  • 343 unique donations
  • We leveraged the following channels for visibility:
    • Facebook—TSF: 2k followers; Chegg: 540k followers
    • Twitter/Instagram—Finn Harries: 1.1M followers; TSF: 2.8k
    • Newsletters—TSF: 4k, Field Partner combined reach +25k

Please contact The School Fund’s Executive Director Liz Texeira at (413) 313-9033 or elizabeth@theschoolfund.org to discuss this opportunity.

TSF Night at Amici’s!

We love our teen board. These smart, dedicated young people are a crucial part of The School Fund—because they donate their time to manage fundraisers and because they are a model for everything The School Fund represents. We started with one young person helping another stay in school. Every day on our website, that act of generosity is replicated. And every few months in our community, the teen board mirrors that same act of giving. They contribute the time and funds they have and then multiply it by drawing a crowd to our efforts.

We love our teen board. And next Monday, May 16, our teen board is giving all of our local supporters a chance to support our work while enjoying an amazing meal! From 11 am – 10 pm, when anyone shows the flyer below, Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria in Menlo Park, CA will donate 25% of your drink and food purchase total!

So get a pie at the best place in town, and know that while you eat, you’re supporting local teens in service and helping students stay in school a world away.

Mangia bene!

 

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Thank your mother!

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Paulina with her mom.

We recently saw this post from Paulina, a seventh grade student at our partner Indigenous Education Fund of Tanzania‘s Okeeswa School:

“My mother has taught me to work hard. She has always worked very hard to take care of my family. I love my mother because she has always taken care of me. She brought me to school so that I could get an education and have a good life. When I grow up I hope to become a teacher. I will work hard so I can help my mother. I want to take care of her.”

It’s the time of year when we each consider the impact of a strong female role model. For many of us, it’s mom. (For others, it’s an aunt, grandmother, even a teacher, who boldly insists we can surpass our own expectations.) It’s Mother’s Day Sunday, and time to send flowers, make a sweet trinket to thank these special women.

Mothers are caretakers. Mothers pour their days into the labor of caring for and supporting growing families. They deserve our thanks.

So go, now, and thank your mother, aunt, grandma, stern but loving next door neighbor or teacher. Seriously, thank her now!

And if you want to send a gift that represents those same elements of care and belief in human potential that so many mothers invest in their children, please consider establishing a monthly scholarship in your mother’s name.