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Our flagship program: Supporting young women to lead and girls to succeed, at the same time

The Learner Guide Program is CAMFED’s flagship program and is central to scaling our impact across Africa. It sees young women in the CAMFED Association—once themselves supported by CAMFED—return to their local school as mentors and role models.

Trained in delivering life and learning skills, as well as vital sexual and reproductive health information and psycho-social support, these young leaders work with schools, communities and district governments to keep vulnerable children in school, and help them overcome their challenges.

Beyond the classroom, Learner Guides 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 abuse.

What do Learner Guides deliver?

  • Quality education and 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, work to prevent HIV/AIDS and keep girls safe from exploitation. Learner Guides introduce students to new learning techniques, supporting them to form study groups and make the time to study, for example.
  • Support and 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 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 and 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 and 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.
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As a Learner Guide I am...

  • …a “big sister,” friend, and relatable example for vulnerable girls – my success and status show girls the possibilities for the future if they stay in school and concentrate on their studies.
  • …a “first responder,” noticing if a girl’s attendance becomes erratic, and following up with children displaying early warning signs before they drop out of school.
  • …a support for girls outside of school if they do drop out, working with other stakeholders to keep them connected to education, and offer a route back to school or other training opportunities.
  • …a voice for “invisible” children, who might never have made it into the school system in the first place, working with others to help them overcome the challenges that keep them out of school.
  • …a convener, galvanizing my community to help children tackle all the barriers, not just the financial ones, that are limiting their access to — or progress in — school; whether they’re facing hunger, pressure to work, or child marriage.

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The impact of CAMFED's Learner Guide Program

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.

Meet a few CAMFED Learner Guides

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StoryTanzania

Sophia

Sophia trained as a Learner Guide, a para-educator and life skills mentor, delivering CAMFED’s My Better World curriculum, as well as vital sexual and reproductive health information, to secondary school students. Having faced the same challenges at home and in school as many of the students, Sophia understands their needs and is expertly placed to help overcome these barriers.

Website_story_-_landscape_ROSE

StoryMalawi

Rose

Rose was selected by the Neno District Community Development Committee as a Core Trainer to help manage a CAMFED program to reduce child and early marriages among girls and young women in her district. As part of her role she trains CAMFED Learner Guides to deliver a life skills, sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and wellbeing curriculum in schools.

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Dyness on why we can't afford to lose our future leaders

If I had not been selected as a CAMFED scholar by my community, I might have been married at a young age.
Instead, I completed my secondary education and became a Learner Guide (a peer educator and life skills mentor) at the same school I attended. I am known as a role model and a “focuser” — someone who helps children focus on their futures, set goals, and learn how to achieve them.

Why are Learner Guides important?

Mitigating crisis situations

Soon after the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, Learner Guides were lauded by governments as an essential service. When schools started to close, our long-established reporting systems, structures and connections meant that CAMFED could support Learner Guides to quickly pivot their outreach to students at home, acutely aware of the additional threats to girls’ wellbeing as families lost their livelihoods and faced increasing food insecurity.

“At the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, we worked with teachers to visit girls at home, dividing them into groups for study circles. We provided them with sanitizers, masks, hand wash, buckets, and COVID-19 guidance. We also met with girls and their parents to advise them to avoid child marriage. Lastly, we did a radio advocacy campaign, having a program on air that was guiding girls to continue studying.” – Winnie, Malawi

Tackling child marriage

Child marriage — though illegal in most of the countries where we work — is widespread, particularly in the rural communities that CAMFED serves. Where intergenerational poverty, exacerbated by climate change, leads to failing crops and increasing desperation, child marriage is seen as a coping strategy. This is where Learner Guides step in, as ambassadors for the life changing power of education, to keep girls in school.

“After delivering the sessions I always encourage the pupils by telling my own story. I also sensitize the learners on the importance of not involving themselves in early marriage. We work to bring child brides back to school. Because they’ve appreciated what Learner Guides are doing, the parents have committed to building a house for the Learner Guides at a school that is too far to travel to.” – Angela, Zambia

Achieving community buy-in

Learner Guides run advocacy sessions in their villages, using role play to illustrate child protection issues including early marriage. Learner Guides are closely connected to local authorities, and have child abuse reporting systems, procedures and mechanisms in place. They join forces with CAMFED district officers, teachers, traditional leaders, social workers and the police to protect child rights, and get to the bottom of abuse cases.

“I work closely with the head teacher, the CAMFED-trained Teacher Mentor, and the School-based Committee, to understand in detail the day-to-day challenges that learners and teachers encounter, and what needs to be done to address them. The approach is different from that of a teacher, whose main focus is academic performance. As Learner Guides, we take an interest in every child’s life as a whole.” – Petronella, Zimbabwe

Going the extra mile

Learner Guides are tuned into the needs and social challenges of children in their communities, and possess the tools and resources to support children academically as well as socially. Beyond the classroom, they provide a bridge between schools, families and local authorities. They take action for “invisible” children and where others may lack time or resources, they go above and beyond to keep girls in school.

“The Learner Guide yields positive results for the students because she stands as a caregiver and as a problem solver. There are children who cannot directly present their challenges to the teacher, but through the Learner Guide the children have been able to explain their problems. I have been by contributing the little I have and meeting the various needs that can help them to attend school.” – Stumai, Tanzania

Leading for a better world

Learner Guides deliver the My Better World curriculum in weekly sessions as part of the school timetable, providing support to 40-50 children. The curriculum is designed to improve students’ confidence, resilience, and autonomy, encouraging children to become more aware of their rights, responsibilities, and values. It is tailored to local needs, including life skills, sexual and reproductive health, literacy and study skills.

“The Learner Guide Program is a means through which the CAMFED Association, CAMA, is addressing needs of students in my community and across Ghana. Through the life skills curriculum we are able to address or tackle issues of the students. Success to me, is making others feel important, feel valued, and helping them achieve greater heights in life.” – Pearl, Ghana

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Discover a television series based on the My Better World curriculum delivered by Learner Guides

Our partner at Impact(Ed) International has produced 55 My Better World episodes, featuring footage of CAMFED Learner Guides, Association members and supported students.

 

Keeping more than 200 million students in Africa engaged during school closures in 2020/2021

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the My Better World multimedia series, created by Impact(Ed) International with support from CAMFED and based around the themes of CAMFED’s life skills curriculum, expanded to more African TV channels, and was adapted by Impact(Ed) International for radio to support national distance learning efforts during school closures, with a combined broadcast reach of more than 200 million children.

How many girls and young women can we reach directly?

The Learner Guide Program represents a sustainable model with enormous potential, as the CAMFED Association of young women leaders continues to grow rapidly. Scaling it up is one of three pillars of our ambitious 2021-2025 strategic plan to support five million girls to attend and thrive in school. In doing this, we will partner with government ministries building on the reach achieved to date:

  • 10.8K

    10,806 young women have been trained as CAMFED Learner Guides

  • >1M

    More than 1 million students have already been reached by Learner Guides

  • 2,474

    2,474 partner schools/communities currently implement the Learner Guide Program

  • 4,020

    4,020 Learner Guides were active in 2020

Who else backs our Learner Guides?

With international donor partners coming behind the Learner Guide Program, we are on track to rolling it out even beyond our partner communities. Its ability to solve the dual challenge of girls’ success in school, and their transition to a secure livelihood beyond school has led to high-profile awards:

The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) named CAMFED Tanzania’s Learner Guide Program as one of the six winning projects of the 2017 WISE Awards. Winning projects had to be scalable and replicable, demonstrating a transformative impact on individuals, communities, and society.

In 2020, CAMFED’s Co-Executives Angeline Murimirwa and Lucy Lake were awarded the Yidan Prize for Education Development, which particularly recognized the contribution to equitable, quality education delivered through the Learner Guide Program. The prize money is being used to create a resource hub for Learner Guides, supporting our initial aim of training 20,000 new Guides.

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Learn more about CAMFED's award-winning, woman-led, evidence-based program.

Created for the 2020 Yidan Prize Summit, this video highlights the importance of women’s leadership for quality education through the Learner Guide Program.

How do Learner Guides benefit?

In return for their commitment—volunteering at least 2 ½ hours per week for 12 to 18 months—Learner Guides can gain access to interest-free loans through the online lending platform Kiva, enabling them to start or grow local businesses. Learner Guides can also achieve a vocational (BTEC) qualification through our partnership with Pearson, helping them stand out in future job applications including as teachers and healthcare professionals. 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 entire communities.

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Paying "social interest" while gaining vocational qualifications and business training

The Learner Guide commitment is incentivized by an innovative and sustainable scheme that supports young women in making their own next steps at the same time as helping children at school: in return for their 18-month volunteer commitment, Learner Guides gain access to interest-free loans to start local businesses (recognizing their volunteering as “social interest”) and the opportunity to secure a vocational (BTEC) qualification as a stepping stone to formal teacher training or employment.

CAMFED Executive Director Angeline Murimirwa explains the model in her TED Talk.

Watch Angie's talk on TED.com

Meet a few CAMFED Learner Guides

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Judith on why she'll never stop protecting children from abuse

I know what it means to be scared, alone and vulnerable. So I have never stopped fighting for justice for girls and women facing gender based violence. I used to be unable to control my emotions, especially when I discovered instances of abuse. My training as a CAMFED Learner Guide (supporting vulnerable children to learn and thrive in school) and a CAMFED Transition Guide (supporting young women into independence and leadership) has helped me to channel my passion into collective activism for children.

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StoryZambia

Chise

In 2020, I chose to train as a CAMFED Association Learner Guide. I wanted to interact with girls in my community and help them overcome their challenges. When I looked around me I saw many young people who were vulnerable — to early marriages, to being trapped in the cycle of poverty, and to having no voice in community matters. By becoming a peer mentor and role model, I have the chance to speak about the importance of education, to pass on my knowledge and skills. I particularly wanted to help girls to understand the dangers of child marriage.

Saviour-website-story-homepage

StoryGhana

Saviour

When she completed school, Saviour was determined to give back to her community what she had gained from the support received. For this reason she trained as a CAMFED Learner Guide, returning to her school to lead students through the My Better World life skills program and establishing a study group to help her learners prepare for exams. Through the program, she says, she underwent a transformation: “I gained so much courage and confidence that opportunities opened up as a result.”

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Sharing best practice with government partners for scaling

Meet the Permanent Secretary for Education in Zambia

In his speech celebrating the arrival of bicycles for Learner Guides in 20 Districts in March 2019, the Permanent Secretary for Education in Zambia promised to raise scaling possibilities of the Learner Guide Program with the Minister and said:

“We will stand with you to support this programme, we will stand with you to make sure that it is launched at national level.”

Thank you to our generous recent donors

Together we are breaking the cycle of poverty

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