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Ongoza Program

June 2023
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IDP Foundation (IDPF), in collaboration with Dignitas and Premier Credit Limited, launched the Ongoza program in Kenya in 2022.

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).

Through Ongoza (which means ‘Lead’ in Kiswahili), Dignitas provides 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 was met with an even larger contribution of USD $2m in private financing from Premier Credit. School owners participating in the program 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 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
Barnes Orlando – Operations Manager (SME) of Premier Credit.

There are estimated to be over 2,000 non-formal schools (as low-fee private schools are often referred to) 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 work 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 14 years of funding for its flagship Rising Schools Program and is now well underway to replicating this success in Kenya through its partnership with the Ongoza Program.

Speaking about the launch of the program, 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.

Ongoza Program Impact, 2023 September

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. IDP Foundation commends this work and  believes that these schools play an important role in meeting national education goals. Therefore their integration into a connected system of education that is governed by the state and supported with tailored interventions is key to improved learning outcomes for all.


Commenting on this alignment, Deborah Kimathi, CEO 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 speed at which the program has impacted the low-fee private school market has been testament to the demand. There has been a 42% increase in loan disbursement since the first half of year one, from 203 loan disbursements in Q1-2 to 496 disbursements in Q3-4, totaling 699 to date. The number of schools who signed up to the training delivered by Dignitas doubled (130 schools) in the second cohort in 2023 and improvements seen by the first cohort (which included 233 school leaders from 68 schools) included:

Improved Instructional Leadership capacity in support for teachers.
Instructional leaders recorded 30+% growth in Professional Learning Community (PLC) planning and implementation practices, with over 80% of the instructional leaders attaining mastery in PLC implementation

Improved teaching and learning (lesson planning and delivery, classroom management, instruction)
Group work was one of the most highly used active learning strategies during lessons, with teachers showing over 70% gains in group work integration in lessons. Consequently, learner talk time increased by 27%, helping increase positive interaction between teachers and students. The proportion of teachers using lesson planning increased by 70% with key components taught, such as following the CBC format, including different ability learner activities and learner-centered methodologies. In addition, 78% of the schools had child protection guidelines by endline, a 65% increase from the baseline monitoring.

Improved financial literacy, school operation and business growth.
After training more schools began using bank, cash or M-Pesa for school fee collection, and an increased provision of varied school fee payment options, as well as fee collection rates, with the proportion of schools collecting over 50% of school fees having increased by 32%. With knowledge gained on diversifying revenue streams there has been a 59% increase in schools who set up additional sources of income such as selling school uniform, school bus hires, renting out school premises and running extracurricular activities such as school trips and swimming classes. Equally the number of leaders who started to separate school and personal finances increased with a 40% increase in school owners paying themselves and set salary and a 43% increase in schools using cash flow plans.

As the Ongoza Program enters its second year IDP Foundation, Dignitas and Premier Credit look forward to extending our support to more low-fee private schools and therefore the underserved communities of Kenya. It is the tenacity and dedication of the school owners, leaders and teachers that has made the program such a success in its first year and we are committed to continuing to support the government’s national education goals through the complementary role of non-state education provision.

The work we do with the Ongoza Program in Kenya and the Rising Schools Program in Ghana, is just one part of what IDP Foundation hopes will be a global shift that helps the affordable non-state 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.

Our Ongoza partners officially launched the program with a roundtable webinar on 29th September, a recording of which you can find here.

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