IDP Foundation (IDPF), in collaboration with Dignitas and Premier Credit Limited, has today formally announced the launch of the Ongoza program in Kenya. 

With an initial commitment of three years, the program is focused on improving quality and learning outcomes in non-formal schools through a combination of financial support, school leadership training, and improving teachers’ ability to deliver Kenya’s Competency Based Curriculum (CBC). While financial support is being extended to schools across 14 counties in all, the intensive school leadership and teacher training is focused on an initial cohort of 69 schools selected from the Kasarani, Kiserian, Rongai, Ngong, Embakasi, and Kayole areas. 

Through Ongoza (which means ‘Lead’ in Kiswahili), Dignitas will provide continuous professional development support to teachers and instructional leaders on classroom culture, learner engagement, and instructional leadership. Additionally, the Foundation’s initial investment of USD $1.6m has been met with an even larger contribution of USD $2m in private financing from Premier Credit. School owners participating in the program will have access to Premier Credit’s low-interest school improvement loan, designed specifically to support the needs of these schools, as well as receive training on effective management of school finances and record keeping. This will see over 3,000 loans given out to support over 1,000 school owners, and with this, over 115,000 children from low-income communities in Kenya will continue to have access to education. “This partnership with IDP Foundation and Dignitas will help us as a financial institution to serve our people with tailor-made financial services that aim to improve the lives of not only this generation but generations to come” says Barnes Orlando - Operations Manager (SME) of Premier Credit.

There are estimated to be over 2,000 non-formal schools (also known as low-cost or low-fee private schools: LCPS or LFPS) across Kenya, which are responsible for educating over 500,000 pupils. However, many of the children attending these schools are from extremely poor backgrounds. Therefore, parents often have to make significant sacrifices to ensure that their children receive a quality education. In addition, while 90% of teachers at public schools in Kenya are certified by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), 90% of their counterparts working at LCPS are not. Finally, school infrastructure remains poor across all school settings. Through the Ongoza program, IDPF, Premier Credit and Dignitas aim to address these barriers to quality education by providing access to both in-service teacher training that is aligned with the Kenyan government and access to finance that can be used to improve school infrastructure. IDPF has successfully applied this approach in Ghana for over 13 years of funding for its flagship Rising Schools Program and is now aiming to replicate this success in Kenya through its partnership with the Ongoza Program.

Speaking about this partnership, IDPF CEO Corina Gardner said, 
“IDP Foundation has always been committed to partnerships that drive sustainable solutions to education shortfalls in low and middle-income countries. We are proud that the Ongoza program, much like our Rising Schools Program in Ghana, is centered around empowering local actors, such as the education entrepreneurs who have responded to their community’s need for more schools. Through our local partners, we are committed to improving learning outcomes in marginalized communities while complementing The Kenyan government’s education agenda.”

Non-formal schools in Kenya play a critical role in expanding access to education among marginalized communities, complementing the government’s Vision 2030 strategy. Part of this strategy included the establishment and operationalization of the National Council on Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK) “in order to promote access, retention and quality education for nomadic communities.” NACONEK has provided approval for the Ongoza training for school leaders and teachers that aligns with the Kenyan Government’s educational goals. 

Commenting on this alignment, Deborah Kimathi, Executive Director of Dignitas, said, 
“Non-formal schools in Kenya have faced enormous challenges due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is critical to get these schools back on their feet – both financially and through developing core competencies in the classroom. By focusing our training on key competencies that are aligned with the Kenyan Government’s Competency Based Curriculum – communication, collaboration, self-efficacy, and critical thinking – the Ongoza program aims to see measurable improvements in the key skills needed to improve learner outcomes, ensuring all children attend vibrant schools where they can thrive and succeed.”

The economic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have had a tremendous impact on non-formal schools throughout Kenya. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Global Development of four informal settlements in Nairobi, more than 96% of households reported a decrease in income due to the pandemic. Consequently, cost became an increased factor for parents when determining which school to send their children to when schools reopened. This led to a shift in demand from private to public schools, leaving many LCPS at risk of closure and many public classrooms at risk of being overcrowded. With less than a decade remaining to achieve SDG4, it has never been more vital to adopt an ‘all hands on deck’ approach that mobilizes both state and non-state actors to work toward the common goal of equitable access to quality education for all in cooperation with national government education agendas. 

Speaking about the need for increased financial support across all school settings, Tim Carson, CEO of Premier Credit said, 
“Premier Credit is excited to invest in the Ongoza program and extend our school improvement loans to schools and communities that we have previously not reached. As a microfinance institution dedicated to supporting small businesses in Kenya, we see non-formal schools as incredibly vital parts of their communities. These schools are not only educating the children but also providing jobs for teachers, creating demand for uniforms and school materials, and improving the infrastructure of their buildings to provide a safe space for their classes. We hope this program serves as a call to action that inspires other stakeholders to ensure that their support reaches schools in all settings.” 

As highlighted by the most recent UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report, 350 million children worldwide are educated in the non-state sector, a number that is likely to continue increasing organically in response to the demands of local communities. IDP Foundation firmly believes that when fully integrated into a mixed system of education provision, the Affordable Non-State (ANS) sector can be a tremendous tool in improving both access to quality education and learning outcomes. Coordinating these initiatives to align with government priorities on education allows investment to be even more targeted and effective. 

The Ongoza program is just one part of what IDPF hopes will be a global shift that helps the ANS sector to become increasingly recognized and supported by governments as well as private finance, and allows all actors from across the educational landscape to focus on improving educational outcomes and achieving SDG4.

A virtual roundtable will be held on Thursday, September 29th, with IDP Foundation, Dignitas and Premier Credit, to introduce the program and discuss strategies about how to leverage the shifting educational landscape. For more information and registration please click here.

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