Learner Guides return to rural schools as mentors and role models, helping marginalized children succeed, and creating a better world for themselves and their communities.

Learner Guides are young women in the CAMFED Association, CAMA. Once themselves supported by CAMFED, they use their lived experience to return to their local school, volunteering at least 2 ½ hours per week for 12 to 18 months. Trained in delivering life and learning skills, as well as vital sexual and reproductive health information and psycho-social support, Learner Guides work with schools, communities and district governments to keep vulnerable children in school, and help them overcome their challenges. Beyond the classroom, they create an important home-school link, following up with children who drop out of school and working with communities to keep vulnerable girls safe from child marriage.

In return for their commitment, Learner Guides can gain access to interest-free loans to grow their own businesses, on the basis that they are paying 'social interest' as role models and mentors. Learner Guides can also achieve a vocational (BTEC) qualification to fast-track them into teacher training colleges. Respected for their expertise at every level, these young women - who themselves were once among the most excluded - are multiplying the returns of their own education for the benefit of their communities.

Meet the young women of the CAMFED Association, CAMA, now spearheading our programs. Narrated by CAMFED Tanzania National Director, Lydia Wilbard, and Diris Martin (a former CAMFED client, Learner Guide and now core trainer of Learner Guides) this short documentary brings to life the impact of the program through the eyes of Learner Guide Dotto, her mother, and the teacher and students she supports.  CAMFED is partnering with the government of Tanzania and the Center for Universal Education at Brookings to explore ways of scaling the program nationally.

Learner Guides deliver

Quality education & learning

Learner Guides use resources developed by CAMFED and Pearson with young people in sub-Saharan Africa, speaking directly to the experience of marginalized youth. The My Better World curriculum and workbook help students to build self-knowledge, discover their talents, build resilience, select role models, set goals and learn how to achieve them. They also provide vital health information, working to prevent HIV/AIDS and keep girls safe from exploitation. Learner Guides introduce students to new learning techniques, supporting them to form groups and make the time to study, for example. 

Support & a link to services

Learner Guides have a profound understanding of the psychology of poverty, because they have lived it.  Deeply rooted and respected in their school and community, Learner Guides understand the local challenges, including issues and pressures behind early pregnancy and child marriage. They are ideally placed to provide emotional support and information to vulnerable students more likely to confide in empathetic peers. And they and can link students and families to services, taking swift action to rally the resources necessary to remove the barriers keeping girls out of school.

New jobs & philanthropy

Learner Guides benefit from access to low-risk interest-free loans through the online lending platform Kiva, enabling them to start or grow local businesses, on the basis that they are paying “social interest” by assisting children at local schools. Through these businesses, Learner Guides are creating jobs for young people in their communities, supporting their families, advancing their own education, and supporting more children through school.

Leadership & female teachers

Learner Guides are highly respected by students, the school administration, family members, and their communities. The young women grow in confidence and ability every day. They are asked for advice, to monitor local elections, and to stand for public office. New vocational qualifications (BTECs) earned through the program will enable Learner Guides to fast track into the teaching profession, providing badly-needed female teachers and role models in poor rural communities.

A scalable model for transforming young people’s prospects

When a girl in rural Africa graduates from lower secondary school, she enters a period of extreme vulnerability, waiting for months for exam results, which may determine her future. There is pressure to move to town to find work, or to marry early in order to make ends meet, putting girls at risk of exploitation and illness. Often, there are no parents to offer guidance, and few female role models. The award-winning Learner Guide Program steps in to support young women during this critical time, while empowering communities to address the learning crisis, the job crisis, and the teaching crisis in rural areas. It represents a scalable and sustainable model, with enormous potential, as the CAMFED Association of young women leaders continues to grow rapidly.

Learner Guides were active in 2020

Students were reached by Learner Guides in 2020

partner schools have currently implemented the Learner Guide Program

Jenipher dropped out of primary school at age eight, working to support herself. When the government dropped primary school fees she returned, supported by CAMFED graduates with school supplies. Jenipher worked as a maid to fund her secondary education before CAMFED stepped in. When her mother became ill and had to move to town, Jenipher went days without food. She sought help and was transferred to a boarding school. On joining the CAMFED Association (CAMA), Jenipher became the District Secretary, a health activist, and a Learner Guide. Now she supervises CAMFED’s work across two districts, volunteers, supports her sibling through school, and has built her mother a house.

“I am the living example of why educating a girl is important. My family decided that my brother would be the one to go to school, but they couldn’t even afford for him to finish. I paid myself, and today I care for the family. Most Learner Guides are the bread-winners of their families. We are changing the community by showing what happens when you educate a girl.”

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Fortunata joined the CAMFED Association in 2006. She served as the District Chairperson for four years, as well as the National Chairperson. She started working as a Learner Guide in 2014. Fortunata made it her mission to return a girl to school who had dropped out after her parents had separated. The girl was living with a man in the streets. Fortunata succeeded where the girl’s teachers had failed, paying her home visits and encouraging her. Now the girl is back in school with a place in the hostel.  Fortunata also runs a business selling charcoal, phone cards, ice cream, water and other goods. As a business trainer, she helps other young women succeed.

“My favorite thing about CAMA (the CAMFED Association) is the spirit of volunteerism. One of the benefits of being a Learner Guide is the personal recognition I receive in my community. I am respected like any other teacher. The program has helped bring more discipline to the school, and this includes respect toward other people.”

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Floriana looked after herself and her three siblings since she was six years old, when her mother became ill, and was selected for CAMFED support through secondary school. Floriana became a Learner Guide the year she graduated and joined the CAMFED Association (CAMA). As the only female teaching assistant at her school, she has become more of a matron, dealing with vulnerable girls’ issues, and working with teachers to generate enthusiasm for the My Better World Program, making sure boys, as well as girls, engage with the curriculum. Floriana supports her three siblings with school going costs and wants to be a qualified teacher.

“In the school where I serve as a Learner Guide, there are no female teachers. People consult with me about education issues in the village. When opportunities to serve come from the government, people nominate me first. I was asked to lead the initiative to obtain national identification cards for everyone in my village.”

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Learner Guides in the media

Andrew Wight, Forbes

Girls in rural Zimbabwe still learning during the pandemic

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Malaka Gharib, NPR

Has Pandemic Made You Think Of Quitting School? Call Your Mentor

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Diris Martin and Doris Mponji, Childhood Education Innovations

We are building a nation

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Julia Gillard, Teacher Magazine

The lasting effect of educating girls

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Dr Louise Walsh, University of Cambridge

Education is everything

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Professor Pauline Rose, Director, REAL Centre

How effective is your donation?

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Jordan Shapiro, Forbes

Exactly the education they need

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Barbara Chilangwa and Patrick Hannahan, Brookings Millions Learning

Improving learning while developing future women leaders in Tanzania

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Joanna Martin, AllAfrica

E-Reader Technology Boosts Girls' Education

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Kate Sweeney, Business Weekly

Hollywood star hails CAMFED’s film premiere

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Fiona Mavhinga, Huffington Post

No Justice without Girls' Education

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ZUHURA, Learner Guide, Tanzania

Now I am a role model and mentor. I have found my path.

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