CAMFED's close collaboration with government Ministries and research partners is looking at how we scale youth-led initiatives that drive up learning outcomes and post-school opportunities for marginalized children, especially girls.
Together with national governments and donor and advocacy partners across the globe, CAMFED is working to ensure that ALL children — especially marginalized girls — benefit from promising approaches that help them remain in school, pass their exams, and transition into lives of independence and influence.
Since 2018, we’ve been convening education stakeholders from local to national level – including the girls and young women we serve – to explore how we might achieve these shared goals by adapting and pilot scaling CAMFED innovations within national education systems.
A close partnership with local and national authorities – from the get-go
For nearly 30 years, CAMFED has developed and refined solutions to girls’ exclusion from education and opportunity in close partnership with the girls, young women and communities we serve, as well as with local and national education authorities — on whose invitation our work in the most marginalized communities commences.
Learner Guide Zuhura with students in Tanzania. Photo: Eliza Powell/CAMFED
Our holistic financial and social support structures enable vulnerable girls to go to school, learn, thrive and become leaders and changemakers in their communities and beyond.
Every step of the way, we partner with the authorities and policymakers who have the power to open doors — doors to the classroom for girls who’ve become young mothers, for example; and doors to technical training, higher education, employment and entrepreneurship for young women graduates in underserved communities. These include Ministries and agencies responsible for Gender, Youth, Employment and Agriculture, as we work together in innovative ways to advance girls’ and women’s rights and wellbeing and create employment, as well as sustainable business and leadership opportunities.
We know that leadership by those who have experienced the web of barriers that hold girls and young women back is the most effective way of transforming systems to be equitable and inclusive – it’s game-changing.
That leadership is at the heart of CAMFED’s Learner Guide program, an education innovation CAMFED first introduced in 2013 in a network of 991 government secondary schools across 35 rural districts in Tanzania and Zimbabwe. By 2018, the life skills, mentorship and social support program was running across all five CAMFED countries of operation, including Zambia, Ghana and Malawi.
Learner Guides are young women from vulnerable backgrounds, educated with CAMFED support, who train to deliver a structured life skills and wellbeing curriculum in their local schools. As mentors and big sisters to marginalized girls, they help improve students’ confidence and learning outcomes, and reduce dropout, including through home visits. Importantly, Learner Guides galvanize their school communities to address the many barriers to education girls face. This journey, and the curriculum CAMFED Learner Guides deliver, inspired the International Emmy-Award-winning My Better World multimedia series.
In return for their 12- to 18-month volunteer commitment, Learner Guides are equipped with leadership skills, professional networks, qualifications that open doors to higher education or employment, and the resources to start or grow rural businesses.
During COVID-related school closures, Learner Guides supported girls in their communities to stay safe and keep focusing on their education by setting up study groups and supporting distance learning. The value of their role was recognized by governments, which classified them as key workers. As schools reopened, the impact was evident — girls reached by Learner Guides were more likely to return to class and also less vulnerable to early marriage.
These young women embody the outcome and the power of CAMFED’s approach, and their commitment and successes generate the respect and goodwill in communities that drives ever wider activism for girls’ education.
As of June 2022, more than 11,000 Learner Guides were active across more than 3,400 partner schools in five countries.
The Learner Guide program has now been identified by Ministries of Education as a relevant and timely best practice strategy, with great potential for adoption at scale in school systems.
Bringing together researchers with policy makers and implementers
This journey to scaling — to embedding youth-led innovation in national school systems and transitioning to a point where the government budgets for and leads on the solution — started in Tanzania in 2018, when CAMFED took part in a Real-time Scaling Lab partnership with the Center for Universal Education at Brookings. The partnership brought together government and non-governmental actors to generate new levels of government buy-in.
To build on this foundation, we launched an innovative regional participatory research project in September 2021, which allowed Ministry officials to take a more active role as explorers of our approach, not just observers and decision-makers.
The partnership process began with the establishment of a stakeholder structure in each country. CAMFED recruited members for national level committees (Scaling Advisory/Technical Committees – SACs) in all three countries to advise on if and how the Learner Guide role could be adapted and integrated into government systems.
These stakeholders contribute key technical expertise and policy-making experience. The committees also include Learner Guides, teachers and other implementers. The groups meet regularly to discuss the Learner Guide program and have conducted visits to schools where the program is implemented.
Committee members are actively involved in the research process, including by identifying the information they needed to understand the Learner Guide program and how the program might be adapted by the government. Through field visits, they observed the program in action, and, supported by the research team, developed questions and conducted group discussions with teachers, parents, Learner Guides, and students to better understand the Learner Guide program. These discussions formed a core part of the data analyzed.
Together with national researchers in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the REAL Centre developed the overall research to be able to adapt to SAC members’ requirements in terms of information and availability. The researchers observed all committee meetings and school visits to gather feedback from government partners about their experience of the scaling exploration process. They also interviewed the scaling committee members in order to identify committee members’ views on scaling up the program. Through this, the research is identifying strategic and feasible pathways for governments to support the long-term scaling up of the Learner Guide program, as appropriate. It has provided the space for frank discussions about policy alignment and realistic adaptions of the program according to country contexts.
Quantitative research is also currently being conducted in Tanzania, by researchers at the University of Dar es Salaam, the REAL Centre and Altamont Group, to explore adaptation of the Learner Guide program for scale. They are gathering data to look at outcomes for students at two different groups of schools. In one group of government schools — CAMFED partner schools — the Learner Guide program is implemented with Learner Guides delivering structured life skills sessions (using CAMFED’s My Better World workbook) for classes of girls and boys. At non-partner government schools, existing Guidance and Counseling staff were oriented to the My Better World program and are sharing it with students to suit their context. Over one year, we will learn from the changes discovered by researchers among the two different student groups — looking at outcomes such as academic self-esteem, progression and drop-out rates. This information will be shared with scaling committees in each country.
A regional convening for sharing learning and charting progress
At our first regional convening in Dar es Salaam on November 9-10, 2022, CAMFED brought together 77 key technical advisory officials and Ministry decision-makers from Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as CAMFED colleagues, teachers, Learner Guides, and students, including representative members of the scaling committees.
Advisors arrived with well-informed qualitative and quantitative data, and deeply considered reflections on the promise of the Learner Guide model for their respective countries. A representative from each government provided a broad overview of their education sector and priorities, which enriched the research-focused discussions, as well as offering an important opportunity for cross-country learning about the individual contexts, challenges and innovations.
Ministry officials actively engaged in breakout groups with peers from different countries who had similar technical and policy backgrounds, responding to questions around the promises and challenges of the Learner Guide model; and the opportunities for further integration in formal systems to address national priorities.
A workgroup at CAMFED’s regional scaling advisory committee convening including students in Dar es Salaam in November 2022
CAMFED Learner Guides themselves, as well as students supported by the young women, joined the convening to share their experiences, including in how the program is implemented, and how it has benefited them. Their presence and testimony in Dar es Salaam were key for government officials who had been unable to travel to rural schools to observe Learner Guide sessions and speak to members of school communities. The girls and young women responded to questions and clarifications alongside heads of schools and Teacher Mentors (government teachers who have received additional child protection training from CAMFED, and play an active role in safeguarding vulnerable girls), who also joined the group discussions.
Participants voiced their common appreciation for the value of the Learner Guide role, while acknowledging policy and structural differences across countries. The meeting included practical recommendations for implementation, and clearly demonstrated the power of engaging government and implementing partners in participatory action research, bringing together expertise, strong ideas and deep collaboration in support of education innovation.
A continuous cycle of learning
A scaling and systems transformation process of this magnitude, involving a plethora of partners, is never linear. It represents a continuous cycle of gathering information and sharing valuable findings with school communities, governments, donors and implementers. What is so exciting about this journey, including the latest research project, is the enthusiasm of all parties for co-creation and collaboration, and the willingness of more funding collaboratives to come behind programs that are structured, from the start, to create long-term, sustainable systemic change.
Read more about CAMFED's scaling journey
How civil society is helping transform education in Tanzania
November 14, 2023
In this Global Partnership for Education (GPE) blog, CAMFED Tanzania, the Tanzania Education Network (TEN/MET) and HakiElimu explain how they partner with the government and others through GPE processes to transform the education sector. CAMFED’s Lydia Wilbard: “We talk with communities about how we can serve each individual child and support the system to do better. We work with the government, provide resources, contribute to the government agenda, stimulate community-driven accountability and bring learning from the community to inform what is needed.”
This blog by Dr. Nkanileka Mgonda from the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr. Luisa Ciampi and Professor Pauline Rose from the REAL Centre at the University of Cambridge, and Dr. Loveness Chimuka and Oberty Maambo from Altamont Group describes the research carried out in collaboration with CAMFED to understand if and how our Learner Guide Program can be scaled up in Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The blog provides some key findings and links to country-level briefs, as well as a regional overview.
GPE KIX: Essential elements of knowledge mobilization to scale a youth-led education innovation
June 23, 2023
In their latest blog, CAMFED’s Lydia Wilbard and Sandra Spence highlight lessons drawn from the applied research projects of the Global Partnership for Education Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (GPE KIX). They discuss the essential elements required to effectively mobilize knowledge in order to scale programs that work to keep the most marginalized children in school and learning, and equip them with the skills they need to succeed in later life.
CAMFED and the REAL Centre: Reflections on effective research & implementation partnerships
December 15, 2022
In their blog on the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE) website, Dr Luisa Ciampi, Research Associate at the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge; and Lilla Oliver, Evaluation and Learning Adviser at CAMFED discuss what effective collaboration between researchers and implementing organizations looks like, and share their learnings and insights – expanding on their presentation at the BAICE 2022 conference.
GPE KIX: Decision-makers explore equitable education through the “Learner Guide” program
December 9, 2022
In her blog on the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Knowledge Innovation Exchange (KIX) website, Lydia Wilbard describes the recent regional convening in Dar es Salaam of technical advisory committee members and Ministry decision-makers as we work together to explore national adoption of our Learner Guide program to increase school completion rates for girls and achieve lasting improvements in public school systems.
Girls can be the catalyst for change in their communities
The REAL Centre at the University of Cambridge has announced new research working collaboratively with CAMFED and the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. It will explore how young women who have benefited from CAMFED’s grassroots-led Learner Guide program become catalysts for change within their communities.
Confidence, courage, compassion, collaboration: How girls’ education is boosting a sisterhood of game changers
CAMFED Tanzania's Anna Sawaki and Stumai Kaguna look back over a decade that has changed the lives of more than 277,000 young women in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe thanks to investment under the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) funded through UK Aid. By way of Stumai's own story, they explain how CAMFED's program, developed under the GEC, is helping girls in marginalized communities to build confidence and become a new generation of change leaders.
Government underscores support for scaling the Learner Guide Program across Tanzania
At an Education Sector Stakeholder Meeting held on September 23 in Dar es Salaam, co-hosted by CAMFED Tanzania and the Tanzania Education Network/Mtandao wa Elimu Tanzania (TEN/MET), Professor Caroline Nombo — Deputy Permanent Secretary at Tanzania’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology — underscored support for scaling CAMFED’s award-winning Learner Guide Program across the government school system.