Erna’s Recent Learnings from her 5-week Adventure in East Africa.
As I think about my recent five weeks in East Africa, there are several learning themes that ran throughout my time in Africa. I not only had the pleasure of attending a four-country board meeting, the first post-pandemic, with the boards and staff across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and USA, but I also had the joy of observing the fruits of the labor of our teams on the ground and being amongst the communities we serve side by side.
We have strong leadership at the Board level and ownership at the Country staff level. While we have been working on capacity building and skill strengthening, this is the first time that senior staff from East Africa represented 100% of the program activity and impact to the global boards. We have been working toward this moment in time and it was very rewarding to see the level of leadership and ownership in East Africa.
Paying-It-Forward is working to grow our impact: 10 years ago we set the grand vision that paying-it-forward would be critical for scaling our impact and creating change in communities well beyond the direct engagement of Asante Africa. As I moved from country to country, it was very apparent that the ethos and the culture o pay-it-forward is now a reality.
As an example, in Tanzania we met two young men, Fredrick and Iddy, both Asante Africa 2019 alumni. They were in their former middle school preparing young people for upcoming exams. It was obvious that these two young men, recently graduated from University, were the role models for several hundred young people and their teachers.
Communities and Schools are proud to be “graduating” from the 3 years of school club programming and eager to “graduate” to become the mentors for the neighboring schools and communities as their Pay It Forward commitments. This is key to efficient and affordable scaling as experienced communities and schools help their neighbors embrace Asante Africa programs.
We now offer One-Time “Bridge the Gap” Scholarships in addition to full, all-inclusive Scholarships. Another new aspect to our programming is granting one-time scholarships to needy and talented young middle schoolers who would not have the financial means to buy their materials and boarding supplies to enter into high school. This program is particularly important to ensuring a successful transition for girls.
- We met numerous young women in Uganda who shared with us that the only reason they are even in school this year was because of this one-time entry scholarship.
- While each country has a unique approach to selecting recipients, it is clear that all countries held the values of a need-based in talent-based decision process
Students are embracing digital tools and digital content with passion, desire, pride, and fun. School after school, principal after principal, and student after student were extremely proud to share with us what they have been learning. Digital technology enables us to reach children and schools that would otherwise be left behind.
- Young people understand that digital tools and digital literacy are the gateway to future opportunity.
- There is nothing more joyful than to hear a 4th grade girl hooking an HDMI cable to a laptop and LCD projector to display videos from the hard drive.
Parents that are actively involved with teachers and school principals well beyond the educational process. We met hundreds of parents eager to thank Asante Africa and to be a part of sharing thier contributions in their own children’s education.
- In Kenya, school principals and teachers offered government-provided digital devices so more students could experience the joy of African cartoons that supported their academics, knowing their rights, knowing how to save money, and knowing how to get help if they are ever in trouble.
- In Uganda, teachers came together to sponsor a few girls that would not be in school without some sort of moral encouragement and financial support.
- In Tanzania, students were very proud to show digital content they were using in their leadership clubs as well as how they were learning to run a business with the Po Up game offered by our partner Prince Trust International.
- Every school we visited celebrated how far they had come with digital tools and inquired how we could help them go even further and faster.
While every organization and every leader can point to the 20 things yet to be improved, four things were obvious:
- We have strong and enduring talent on our teams. 90% are under the age of 35 and 50% are our scholars or alumni, all with an intense ownership of how this organization will grow and thrive in the future.
- Our programs are well tested and recognized by those we serve as successful and much needed in as many communities as possible.
- While the adversity of 2020 brought local innovation, 2021 brought the ability to test those same innovations for replication and scaling. In 2022, the evidence of those innovations is becoming more broadly recognized and requested at the local, district, and national levels.
- And very proudly, as a globally-united and locally-led organization, we are well on our way to meeting the goals in our 2025 Strategic plan.