Tanzania’s complicated education success story


Photo by Andrew Moore, used with Creative Commons license (see Flickr: andryn2006).

At The School Fund, we work every day to provide scholarships to promising students in developing countries, and we see the dramatic change education makes in each student’s life. But sometimes, the problem feels overwhelming. UNICEF reports that 65 million adolescents are out of school. These students face many challenges including the cost of school and supplies, the distance to school and pressure to earn a living.

But that doesn’t mean change is impossible. The former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, recently reflected on progress in Tanzania between 2000 and 2009. During that time primary school enrollment rates doubled and the number of high school students grew from 250,000 to 1.5 million.

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The impressive growth came at a real cost — both politically and economically. During this time 20 percent of Tanzania’s annual budget was spent on education despite great pressure to invest in reliable roads, support the military and provide clean drinking water. Making the choice to invest in education took courage and confidence that a better educated population will pay dividends in future generations. In his article, Kikwete noted, “Tanzania’s experience proves that transforming a country’s education system is possible, even if that country faces severe fiscal constraints. It is not quick or easy, and it often requires difficult trade-offs.”

While Kikwete’s account is inspiring, it only tells part of the story. Enrollment in primary school has nearly reached 100 percent, but less than 65 percent of children complete primary and only 30 percent enroll in high school. Equally troubling is that just half of students who finish primary pass the primary school exit exam. (For more, check out this  UNICEF overview of Tanzania’s education sector.)

For poor students, indirect costs of schooling remain prohibitively expensive. That’s why we put so much energy into fundraising for scholarships that allow students to attend the best schools in their communities. In 2016, TSF will provide 155 scholarships for students in Tanzania. Support for these scholarships arrives through many small donations — in increments as small as five dollars a month. Each small donation is precious to the students who leverage scholarships to build a better life.

In Tanzania, many students are ready to further their education. Unfortunately the funding isn’t all there yet. Until it is, The School Fund will continue to support bright, financially needy students because each year of education matters immeasurably.



Practice What You Reach

Carolyn Malachi performing at The School Fund’s third birthday party in Palo Alto, CA.

This is a guest post from The School Fund’s friend, Grammy-nominated artist Carolyn Malachi, about our upcoming partnership to fund students’ education through sharing music.

We are what we practice. When we endeavor to greatness, the daily practice of innovation, perseverance, and collaboration is key. Playing college sports teaches you this. My basketball coach at Shepherd University was fond of a certain euphemism. Much to my chagrin, the phrase almost always preceded rounds of drills and sprints. “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships,” she would say. I disagreed with the sentiment, then. I still do. Individuals win games. Teams win championships.

For more than 115 million children in developing countries, getting an education is not a game. John Medo wants to be President of Tanzania. He comes from one of the poorest families in his community—his family of seven lives off of $45 a month. His school fees are $150 a year. The School Fund keeps John and hundreds of children like him around the world in school.

The organization, initially conceived as a Clinton Global Initiative University commitment, believes education is the most effective way for individuals to improve their own lives. Each year, school fees present an insurmountable barrier to students who hope to continue their education. The School Fund’s transparent, person-to-person internet platform links these students directly with funders thereby changing the way education development funding is both given and received.

My music inspires people to support their beautiful dreams with good information and solid effort. This is my passion, and I work at it daily. I am an independent artist. This means that I am not signed to a major record label, let alone an indie label. I have a growing team of fans, producers, managers, and musicians: my Tribe. We are partners in success.

Receiving a Grammy award nomination in 2011 ignited us all. We saw dramatic increases in website and social network traffic. Demand for my content (music and video) grew in new, exciting markets. While a curious world was watching, I was wondering. Could I add value to my content by offering an invaluable service to my global community?

“We teamed up with a single mission in mind, to use music as a means of educating students in developing countries.”

I needed an equally passionate and innovative partner. THE SCHOOL FUND… I heard the name while on a call with the Carmelita Group, an agency for social good, and a key player on my team. Their passion was evident. We teamed up with a single mission in mind, to use music as a means of educating students in developing countries. On March 8, 2012, we gathered in New York at the BCLC and United Nations Office for Partnership’s International Women’s Day conference, The Role of Business in Empowering Women. The experience fueled our curiosity and refined our approach.

At the time, I was writing a high-energy song called “Free Your Mind.” The refrain states, “Wherever you are, your mind put you there,” which is to say, how a person shows up in the world greatly depends on how they visualize themselves within it. We agreed this was an important message for The School Fund’s students and for my Tribe.

Just like that, the #IAM Campaign was born, and I got the partner of my dreams.

“You can change the world with a strong partner.”

You can change the world with a strong partner, and you may first notice the changes within your core team. The “Free Your Mind” song and video came to life this summer in Washington, DC. Music producers Marcus Marshall and Silvio Delis put their hearts into the song. The same goes for the Taratibu Youth Association and SunChase Media. Both groups worked diligently to execute the music video. We filmed over the course of three weeks, five, four-hour sessions, and several locations.

Earlier this month, The School Fund and I took the “Free Your Mind” song and the message of the #IAM Campaign to Silicon Valley. Audiences at Google, Chegg, and even the School Fund’s birthday party rejoiced when Matt Severson, President, shared the news. They danced when I performed the song. This partnership makes it easy for people to change the world while getting something they love, good music.

On December 6, the music video will make its debut at the BCLC Citizens Awards. What makes this video so special is that, for every view it receives, one hour of class time will be donated to students in East Africa, courtesy of The School Fund’s corporate sponsors. Our goal is to provide 10,000 class hours per month for six months. I am invigorated by the possibilities.

The BCLC Citizens Awards’ Best Partnership category recognizes 10 champions of change, five teams in pursuit of the possibilities. This is a people’s choice award. Last year, nearly 45,000 people voted to select W.W. Grainger Inc. and the American Red Cross as the Best Partnership. Click here to review this year’s finalists. Root for your favorite team and tell us what you think of their stories.

Interested in joining the #IAM Campaign? Send an email to share your interest.


Clinton Global Initiative University 2012: Follow-up

Hi reader! So I’m sure you all remember the Clinton Global Initiative University. One year ago, The School Fund’s founder Matt made this post, reflecting on his experiences at the conference, including winning the Commitment Challenge and meeting President Bill Clinton! One week ago, a number of dedicated team members traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent TSF at this year’s CGIU. They heard passionate, inspiring speakers, participated in constructive and collaborative workshops, and helped spread the word of The School Fund to other hopefuls. We asked a few of them some questions about their time at the conference, and they were kind enough to share their once-in-a-lifetime experiences with us here:

Q: Why did you want to go to CGIU? What were your expectations?

Mariana: “To promote TSF, and network with other young projects in hopes of perhaps partnering with some of them. Also to gain inspiration and motivation from all the amazing speakers!”

Q: What did you get out of the experience?

Sandra: “I loved getting to spend some quality time with some of my TSF team mates, gaining some inspiration from incredible minds like Clinton and Albright, and meeting with young students like ourselves looking to do some good in the world.”

Q: What was the atmosphere of the conference?

Christi: “Focused.”

Sandra: “Hopeful and energetic.”

Mariana: “Dynamic.”

Q: What was your favorite part of the conference?

Christi: “Having dinner with the other members of TSF after hearing Bill Clinton speak.”

Q: What commitments/organizations stood out to you (other than TSF of course!)? 

Sandra: “There were some innovative commitments highlighted by President Clinton including students making bamboo bikes and another hoping to reform the prison system to give released convicts a second chance in the work force.”

Christi: Code the Change is helping non-profits get volunteer computer programming, which is a huge need and an awesome idea.”

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to say about the trip/conference?

Mariana: “It was definitely a worthwhile experience. It was a great opportunity to learn from other organizations and from the challenges that other young change-makers have faced (and how they have overcome such barriers).”

A great time was had by all and we were happy to attend another year at CGI U!

Doing Good is Only A Click Away!

All of us here at The School Fund are super excited for a new opportunity that came along through Chegg, our first corporate sponsor! Chegg for Good is currently sponsoring four different nonprofit organizations, including The School Fund, in a friendly competition. The catch is: all organizations will receive funding, but whichever organization gets the most votes gets the most funding! Exciting, right?

Want in? All you need to do is hop over to the Chegg blog, vote for The School Fund now until November 17 as many times as you want, and know with each vote you’re helping us get one step closer to changing the world for the good.

So, vote away and share with your friends and family! Thanks so much for your support!

The Real Motivation Behind Going Public in Philanthropy


Could there be another reason beside constant craving for publicity, for both giant philanthropists as well as us small givers? Just maybe, intention has more impact than zeros.

Carlos Slim just found himself on the short list of the world’s biggest philanthropists. The richest man on the planet at a net worth of $74 billion, Slim has long touted job creation over charitable giving, yet passed the $4 billion mark himself in donations to this spring, according to Forbes.

That puts him on the recently published list of the 19 individual World’s Biggest Givers, currently topped by Bill Gates ($28 billion) and Warren Buffet ($8.3 billion), a cozy little sub-club of the far larger Giving Pledge challenged by the two top contenders, along with Gates Foundation co-founder Melinda Gates. The Giving Pledge currently lists 69 couples and individuals, some renowned for their philanthropic generosity, others notorious for flaunting their amassed wealth.

Glancing through the list, one wonders whether any of these folks seek to boost their public image or secular power by pledging their intent to donate half their wealth. What do Paul Allen (Microsoft), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Vinod and Neeru Khosla (Kleiner Perkins/Khosla Ventures), Ted Turner (CNN), and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) stand to gain by taking a public stand?

Perhaps they hope for something we all crave: human connection. We’ve all known the feeling of joy that surges inside when we’ve held the door for someone, paid the toll for the car behind, or hosted a holiday dinner worth all that cooking.

A hundred years ago, we called philanthropy “charity,” and it looked very much like human connection. Men would gather to labor all day and raise a barn for a young family in need; women would cook extra stew to ladle some onto the plate of a hungry neighbor. The direct sharing from one hand into another conveyed the feeling that we’re all in this life together.

As our attention becomes more split and our daily lives become more solo–I, like many of you, work from my kitchen at home unless out at meetings–we seek new ways to feel part of something bigger than us.

The wish to connect motivated the Skees Family Foundation to “go public” this spring with our first-ever website that reveals details how we’ve given for the past 7 years. We created an online forum not because we have a lot of money for funding (we’re tiny) or because we think we know more than anybody else how to give hours and dollars (we don’t).
Going public, for this tiny giver, feels really vulnerable. It’s our version of a party photo on Facebook, because it shows the accounting, biases, hopes, and dreams of one small team run by volunteers working from the kitchen, the café, and the car.

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School Fund High School Case Competition

the school fund, education, developing world, high school case competition, upenn

Teams waiting to present at The High School Case Competition

On April 9th six eager teams sat in Huntsman Hall at the University of Pennsylvania ready to present their idea- a challenge presented to them by the first annual School Fund High School Case Competition, initiated by TSF’s newest branch at the University of Pennsylvania. The intention of this competition was to give students the opportunity to combine skills learned in the classroom with creative visionary thinking to create a tangible plan that will improve the effectiveness of TSF, hence improving the lives of students in Tanzania. Furthermore, it exposed the participants to a wide array of topics such as education, international relations, and non-profit work. Each team was presented with a “case de-briefing” with background information on the topic and the ultimate prompt they tackled was:
The School Fund currently provides students with the funding needed in order to attend school. What other action or initiative can this organization take to ensure that these students’ education is of high quality?

the school fund, education, developing world, high school case competition,upenn

Students present at the High School Case Competition

The teams represented J.R. Masterman School, Kensington Urban High School, Parkway Center City High School, and Tacony Academy Charter School. Teachers, parents and staff members also attended to support these students and listen to their creative solutions. Furthermore, a panel of three judges, Courtney Henry, Samir Malik and James Wilson brought real world experience to share with the students. Participants ranged from freshmen to seniors, each bringing with them years in public Philadelphia high schools that gave them invaluable insight on the identification of necessary resources to create quality education. They then had to take this insight and creatively implement it to a third world country, which they had done a plethora of research on.
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The School Fund Gala at Brown University

On April 28, the air hummed with energy and excitement as the guests entered Maddock Alumni Center at Brown University to join The School Fund team in celebrating education and a year of tremendous growth. Music wafted through the air, providing a backdrop for the mingling and engaged conversation of the guest. Over 80 guests attended including such distinguished individials as Katherine Bergeron, Dean of the College, Peter Weber, Dean of the Graduate School, Roger Nozaki, Associate Dean and Director of the Swearer Center, and Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar, Special Assistant to the President.   Professors who have advised our project such as Professor Barrett Hazeltine and Professor Josef Mittlemann also came to support The School Fund.

Sandra Hartkopf, Ally Chi, and Paul Hlatky came from Boston University to join the Brown School Fund team.

The evening began with a brief presentation by Laila Handoo, Saeed Hassan, Macon McLean, and Matt Severson on The School Fund: our history, website, partners, and hopes for the future.  We have had an exciting year; The School Fund is now funding students in 8 countries (Haiti, India, Kenya, Malawi, Panama, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zimbabwe) and working with 13 partner organizations.  We share with audience, our video of President Bill Clinton announcing our commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting to scale to 500 students in 11 countries.
As always, we had several computers open to www.theschoolfund.org, and over the course of the evening raised over $500, 100% goes to students’ school fees.

the school fund, team, brown university, education developing world

The School Fund Team at Brown University

The School Fund at Brown Gala was a success! We appreciate the support of everyone who came and everyone who was there in spirit. It was great to see so many people interested in supporting our efforts to make education more accessible and funding education more accountable and transparent.

Why fund the education of a secondary school student in Malawi?

Malawi, a landlocked country in southeast Africa, ranks among the worlds most populated and least developed countries.1 With relatively limited finances, the Malawian government faces challenges in growing the economy, improving health care, and making education accessible to all. As of 2005, Malawi received 575.3 million in economic aid.2 This developing nation relies on partnerships with foreign aid agencies and non-profit organizations, to invest in all aspects of the country including its education system.3

In 1994 Malawi established free primary school education.4 Although this provides all children with the opportunity to receive at least an eighth grade education, fewer than 25% of eligible Malawian children stay in school for the duration of primary school. This may be due in part to Malawi’s pupil to teacher ratio which is an astounding 80:1, one of the highest in the world.5

Receiving a secondary school degree in Malawi is a rare privilege. As in primary school, few Malwians enroll in secondary school and from that small pool even fewer, about 3.4% of the national population, earn a secondary school degree.6 The School Fund hopes through fostering relationships with nonprofit organizations committed to improving the efficacy and accessibility of education in Malawi, the country known as the “Warm Heart of Africa” can see positive growth in education and the economy, and experience an upward trend in development.

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The School Fund at the Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting

On April 1, President Bill Clinton convened over 1000 university students in San Diego for the 4th Annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) meeting.  The conference ran from Fri through Sun on sunny UCSD’s campus with discussion ranging from improving global health to generating inter-cultural dialogue to providing education to the world’s most impoverished youth.  It’s always thrilling and inspiring to be alongside so many peers itching to make a positive impression on the world.

As an attendee in past years, I was incredibly excited just to be in the same auditorium as President Clinton.  This year was a particular treat as we, and our commitment to scale The School Fund, were presented on stage to the entire CGIU student body and invited to a special luncheon with President Clinton.

CGIU, Matt Severson, The School Fund, Bill Clinton

The School Funds Matt Severson shows members of the Project Rishi team. San Diego, CA . TSF 2011

I traveled to CGIU this year with my team mate Saeed Hassan a (lucky :D) freshman at Brown University who joined The School Fund Team last fall.  Like me, he had a personal encounter with the lack of access to education in the developing world that nudged him into action.  His cousins, in Kenya, were unable to afford secondary school fees, and their journey to a better life was therefore cut short.

Saeed has joined the team, and brought with him energy and passion for this work, and is now helping Tim Eisen (Brown ’11) manage new partnerships.  We have a growing team of 22 university students from Boston University, Brown University, Cornell University and the Unniversity of Pennsylvania.

The three-day conference began with a networking session and opening remarks by Mandy Moore (who tweeted about us by the way!).  We had the iPad out, and were actively showing our peers the website.  People our age tend to get it really quick, and many people were excited about the prospect of partnering with us, and putting students they work with on the site.

We were told to arrive one hour early to the RIMAC Auditorium, where the Opening Plenary was.  We got there right on time, practiced going up on stage, and were told where to stand (complete with those little tape markers all over the floor).  Then about 15 minutes before the start of the session, we were ushered back stage where secret service paced about, and technicians whispered in hushed voices through headsets.  We were stationed in a small room off to the side of the stage, waiting for President Clinton to announce our commitment.  We were the first ones up.

Clinton, Saeed Hassan, Matt Severson, The School Fund, CGIU

The School Funds Matt Severson and Saeed Hassan are recognized by President Clinton. San Diego, CA . TSF 201

As he read our names, “I’d like to invite up to the stage Matt Severson and Saeed Hassan from Brown University, for their commitment called The School Fund,” we walked up the steps to an auditorium packed with over 3000 people.  It was quite the moment, standing there besides President Clinton.  We were probably meant to look straight ahead, but I couldn’t help and steal a few glances backwards, to watch one of the people I admire most in the world talk about The School Fund, what we have accomplished to date, our plans for the future, and why education is such a critical issue.

The rest of the weekend was a blur.

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Why fund the education of a secondary school student in Haiti?

haiti, the school fund, developing world, education,

A student in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Image by Paul Franz. Haiti, 2010.

On January 12, 2010 Haiti suffered one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. The small island nation was struck by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, leaving the poorest nation in the western hemisphere in a state of devastation. Wide spread damage, the collapse of the government, along with hundreds of thousands of deaths, grabbed the world’s attention and inspired people and nations to give billions of dollars in aid.


Despite the influx of capital, the country lacked the resources, coordination, and logistical foresight to manage this mammoth and rapid aid response. So, although progress has been made, more than a year later many still live in tents, rubble still litter the streets, and little has been done to reform and resurrect Haiti’s schools.

Historically education in Haiti has not been accessible. Because Haiti does not have a universal public education system, even a primary school education is considered a privilege.1 This lack of accessible education is reflected in Haiti’s literacy rate. Compared to the 90 percent average literacy rate for Latin American and Caribbean countries, Haiti’s is estimated at 53%.2.

The Earthquake destroyed more than 80 percent of the country’s schools, greatly exacerbating the already abysmal condition of Haiti’s education system. Along with widespread school collapse, school records were lost, the Ministry of Education was destroyed, and more than 1,300 teachers and some 38,000 students died.3

Education is vital to Haiti’s future development. The School Fund will help young people prepare for the task of rebuilding by funding secondary school education. This simple but crucial step will help the next generation of leaders establish Haiti as country not characterized by its shortcomings and misfortunes but by its determination and perseverance.

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