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ARM Innovation Hub
16 November, 2017 - 13:53 By Tony Quested

The world WISE’s up to Camfed female education programme

Camfed Lydia Wilbard

Camfed Tanzania’s national director, Lydia Wilbard, this week accepted a globally prestigious award at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Doha, Qatar. WISE is a leading international initiative for innovation and collaboration in education.

Camfed, the Campaign for Female Education, is a high-impact Cambridge-based charity supporting girls in impoverished communities in sub-Saharan Africa to go to school and succeed and young women to step up as leaders and entrepreneurs in their communities.

Camfed’s Learner Guide Program was one of six winning projects in the 2017 WISE Awards. Winning projects had to be scalable and replicable, demonstrating a transformative impact on individuals, communities and society.

The Learner Guide Program trains young educated women – most of whom were supported by Camfed to go to secondary school – to return to their local schools as mentors and role models.

Learner Guides volunteer to deliver a structured life skills curriculum, helping marginalised children succeed. As Learner Guides, the young women work with schools, communities and district governments to break down the barriers to girls’ education. Learner Guides can earn a vocational qualification (a Pearson-accredited BTEC) for their work and gain access to interest-free loans to grow their own businesses. They are multiplying the returns of their own education for the benefit of their communities.

Lydia (pictured above) told the inspirational story of Camfed alumna and Learner Guide, Stumai who first ran a small shop on the outskirts of her village. Now, she runs a thriving motorcycle taxi business. 

By supporting young women to stay in their communities, rather than migrate to urban centres and face exploitation, Camfed builds rural economies, empower women, and increase their authority in local decision-making, creating a virtuous cycle of development.

Lydia said: “I am so proud to accept this WISE award on behalf of more than 800 Learner Guides in Tanzania. These are young women once at the margins of society. Now they are the experts in keeping girls in school and teaching us what living and working together really means. 

“In sub-Saharan Africa, 75 per cent of girls start primary education, but only eight per cent graduate from lower secondary school. Girls not only need financial support to stay at school but also the psycho-social support to succeed. And we need to open up new pathways for young women after school. 

“Learner Guides like Stumai understand the psychology of poverty, because they have lived it. Deeply rooted in their communities, they understand the local challenges. They can take swift action to rally the resources necessary to remove the barriers keeping girls out of school.

“The curriculum Stumai and other Learner Guides deliver was developed with young people in sub-Saharan Africa. It helps students to build self-knowledge, discover their talents, set goals and learn how to achieve them.  

“Stumai reports how students gain the confidence to ask questions and see a different future for themselves. As a result, we have seen an unprecedented uplift in learning outcomes, especially among the most marginalised girls.

“Among girls who were supported by Camfed and benefited from a Learner Guide, literacy test scores showed more than double the rate of learning than among those in comparison schools – and in Maths nearly five times the rate.

Saving girls’ lives

“Desderia, a Camfed scholar in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, adds: ‘There’s a huge difference between those who have been educated and those who have not. For me, education is a light, showing me how to build my future and pursue my goals. It is this education that will save me in the future.’

“When Desderia, who comes from a child-headed household, says that education will save her in the future, she means this literally. Many of the girls Camfed supports are orphans. 

“They do the majority of household chores. They often lack the money, the time, and the energy for the long journey to school. When they get to school, it’s difficult to concentrate in class, study and pass their exams. So girls are all too easily pushed out of school and into child marriage.
“In Tanzania, 37 per cent of girls are married by age 18, and in rural areas this figure is even higher. Children get married as young as 11, subject to physical and emotional abuse, to infections like HIV, and to life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth. 

“So Learner Guides like Stumai provide vital sexual and reproductive health information in schools. And they take it on themselves (this is not part of their official role) to bring back children to school who have dropped out, and find them the support they need. During the first two years of the program, Learner Guides in Tanzania returned 870 children to school through their own initiatives.

Supporting women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship

“We not only need to ‘catch’ girls when they are at risk of dropping out, but also need to support their independence after school. Learner Guides gain access to low-risk, interest-free loans to start or grow local businesses. Through these businesses, they create jobs for young people in their communities, support their families, advance their own education, and support more children through school.”

Stumai Kaguna Village Morogoro Tanzania

Stumai’s story

Stumai lives in the rural Morogoro District in Tanzania. She lost her father when she was three.  This left her mother, who is disabled, to bring up five children on her own. Stumai’s mother was so determined to see Stumai through school that she sold her only asset – a stack of corrugated iron sheets she had saved to build a better house. 

This covered Stumai’s first term at secondary school, but after that her family simply could not afford to keep paying for her uniforms, school fees, and other school-going costs. Luckily, her Camfed Community Development Committee stepped in, and Stumai received a Camfed bursary to complete secondary school.  

Stumai joined the Learner Guide Program after school, volunteering to deliver life and study skills and mentor vulnerable children at her local school. But she did more than start a business with the loan she received. She did more than reach out to parents and bring back children to school who had dropped out. 

Stumai made sure that every skill she learned, she shared not just with students, but with the whole community. She organises training sessions for parents and community leaders, teaching practical skills that can be applied to income generating projects, such as the production of liquid soap and financial literacy training. In sharing her knowledge, Stumai has been the catalyst sparking improved living conditions for families in her community, and parents are able to support their children to stay in school.

Camfed understands that the true experts in changing the balance of power for women and girls are women and girls like Stumai. So through the Learner Guide Program these young women have the chance to prove themselves, to gain respect. They gain authority.

Stumai used this authority to do even more. She had been speaking to the head of her local primary school about the problem of children dropping out of school because they had too far to walk and suffered from hunger. The school was not providing food.

Stumai went to the village chairperson and asked him to call a village meeting to discuss the issue and come up with a plan. He did, and invited Stumai to explain the issues to the local parents attending, and to run the discussion.

Stumai has extraordinary facilitation skills. Parents responded with enthusiasm, discussing how they could come together to provide the children with porridge at school. They formed a group and now they’re providing meals at the school.

Lydia Wilbard adds: “It is because Camfed brings those once at the margins into positions of authority that we can do what we do today, changing the balance of power, ensuring girls go to school and succeed and that women lead – with respect from men, in partnership with men.”

Stumai Kaguna Secondary School Morogoro Tanzania

The clock is ticking!

Every pound donated to Camfed by individuals will be matched by the Government under the UK Aid Match scheme – but people have only until the strict January 10 deadline to make this appeal count. Every donation will make a difference.

Companies cannot donate but individual employees, their families and friends can. At the time of writing £191,089.05 had been raised but Camfed needs much more to turn its vision to reality for thousands more deprived young women in Africa and take them from poverty into education and careers. More information and donation details can be found at

Film screening and networking event

On November 28, Camfed will host a film screening and networking event at the Old Divinity School, St John’s College, in partnership with the Cambridge Judge Business School Wo+men’s Leadership Centre and Business Weekly. 

The evening (6-8pm) will include:

  • Networking drinks
  • Introductory remarks by Tracey Horn, Associate Director, Wo+Men's Leadership Centre, Cambridge Judge
  • Film screening
  • Welcome speech from Dolores Dickson, representing Camfed's African leadership.

To register for your free ticket, please visit

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