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Leaders of Learning

Equip and support community champions of learning and well-being for children in marginalized communities.

Photo of Deborah Kimathi
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Education gains can help young people escape poverty, and it is for this reason that Dignitas invests in the quality of education to ensure a generation of young people have the opportunity to learn, thrive, and reach their potential. Dignitas delivers innovative training and coaching programs to school leadership teams to improve instructional leadership, learner engagement and classroom culture so that all schools can become vibrant places for children to thrive and succeed. Dignitas’ programs build the capacity of school leaders and teachers to transform children’s opportunities. To date, Dignitas has partnered with 300 schools, 1500 educators and impacted the learning of 87,000 children.

Like many other countries around the world, schools in Kenya have been closed since March 16th, leaving many children at home and desperate to have basic needs met. For the 60% of Nairobi’s population who are currently marginalized in urban informal settlements, this was the first in a series of steps that, whilst necessary, have significantly threatened the well-being of children and families.

Many children living in poverty are reliant on school not just for learning; but for protection, nutrition and many other aspects of their well-being.  These children also tend to be furthest behind in learning metrics, and get no support from government to improve their schools.  They now risk being left even further behind or dropping out of school altogether; their future in jeopardy. Risks to child well-being have significantly increased with concerns over basic provisions such as food and livelihoods, and additional risks such as child and domestic abuse.

Urgent action must be taken to secure the learning and well-being of these children.

In an effort to reach and protect these children, we immediately thought of our amazing community of School Leaders and Teacher Leaders. Dignitas has trained over 1,000 educators, and have another 450 educators enrolled for 2020. Dignitas School Leaders have already benefited from Dignitas training and coaching and they are also leaders who are rooted in, and passionate about the needs of their communities. This lays an ideal foundation for them to be further equipped to respond in these times of crisis as community champions of well-being and learning.

Dignitas is working tirelessly to protect and promote the learning and well-being of children living in poverty.  Whilst everything else is disrupted, our vision to ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive and succeed remains core to our COVID19 response.

In response to COVID19 school closures, Dignitas is remotely training and coaching School Leaders and Teachers as Community Champions who can work in household clusters to protect and promote children’s learning and well-being towards the following outcomes:

Children have access to quality care that ensures child safety and well-being

Children stay engaged in learning whilst at home

Parents are empowered and equipped to support learning at home

Community Champions are equipped to support households and ensure the well-being and safety of children

What is the need are you focusing on?

Children in marginalized communities like urban informal settlements are already furthest behind in learning metrics, and risk being left even further behind. Risks to child well-being have significantly increased with concerns over basic provisions like food, livelihoods, and child/domestic abuse.  Many households do not have access to internet for online learning because of poor infrastructure or connectivity, or a lack of devices. In addition, parents often lack the confidence, know-how, and literacy to support their learners at home.  When school reopens, beyond the questions of exams, progression, catchup and assessment, students may have disengaged from learning completely –because of lack of access to learning resources, parental support, or because they’ve been starving and fighting for survival. Students in marginalized communities may need to help their families recover economically as a priority over education, potentially leading to high drop-out rates.

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing an actual pivot your organization has already made

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

Dignitas is working with the school leadership teams from our partner schools in marginalized communities to equip and support Leaders of Learning – educators who will take on the role of community champions, and support learning and well-being for the children furthest behind, remotely and at a household level. The response is designed for low-tech and no-tech environments, and leverages the education workforce who are rooted in, and passionate about, their communities. By promoting and protecting children's well-being and learning during school closures, Dignitas can ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

This solution will ensure that at least 12,000 children from Nairobi's informal settlements are able to keep their learning and well-being on track so that they can thrive and succeed by equipping 300 Community Champions. We are currently piloting this program in the informal settlements of Kawangware and Dandora, and intend to expand to Kangemi, Kayole, Huruma, Kiambiu and other communities in need. We also believe that the tools, training and coaching packages we are developing could be used by other actors to reach more households. With that, replication and scale is possible. We intend to track the following outcomes: 1.Children have access to quality care that ensures child safeguarding and well-being 2.Children stay engaged in learning whilst at home 3.Parents are empowered and equipped to support learning at home 4.Community Champions are equipped to support households and ensure the well-being and safety of children Activities: 1. Dignitas will leverage digital tools to deliver training to Community Champions on a weekly basis. This will ensure these Community Champions are equipped with critical new competencies that will allow them to deliver the best quality of support to children and families in need. A newly developed ChatBot will support the digital delivery of training and coaching. 2. Dignitas Leadership Coaches will support the Community Champions to practice their new competencies using specially designed tools to conduct weekly well-being and learning support at a household level. Coaching will offer individualized support and nurture peer learning and collaboration. 3. Community Champions will deliver weekly learning packets to each household, with content targeted to the appropriate age/grade level. For households with smart devices, these learning packets will be delivered digitally and leverage online learning tools. For households with basis phones, these learning packets will be delivered via SMS and USSD shortcodes. For households with TV and Radio, learning packets will rely on national education broadcasts. Finally, for households with no device, we will rely on printed materials and where possible provide a solar-powered radio. Evaluation will be conducted via the ChatBot, and by the use of USSD protocols. We expect to be able to track child safeguarding interventions, time that children are engaged in learning, and ways in which parents are able to support that learning. We expect to see positive impact within the first month of interaction, as the support is designed to see immediate results. We further expect to be able to track how many of these children are able to return to school once schools reopen (and offer support to those who seem to be left behind), and how many can keep pace with their peers in learning metrics. In summary, by protecting and promoting the well-being and learning of children, particularly those most marginalized, they will be able to thrive and succeed in this season and beyond. We believe that by offering support for well-being and keeping them positively engaged in learning, we will ensure these children return to school in due course, and leverage education as a means to reach their full potential. Finally, Dignitas recognizes the particular vulnerabilities of girls in this crisis. Community Champions will be equipped to recognize and act on these risks. Whilst Community Champions will likely impact a similar number of boys and girls, they will receive critical training on how to identify and mitigate risks to girls' safety and well-being.

What is the name of your business or organization?


What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

Dignitas is a leading education development organization. We use an innovative training and coaching approach to empower schools and educators in marginalized communities to transform students’ opportunities.  We imagine a world where schools are a vibrant place for all children to develop the skills and strength of character to thrive and succeed.

What is your profession?

Executive Director (Background in Education and Child Protection)

Where are you located (country)?


Where are you located (region)?

  • Eastern Africa

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Education

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 11-49

How old is your business/company?

  • 10 or more years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Nonprofit/NGO

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

We would like help to develop the rigor of the evaluation framework for this solution so that we can learn quickly what works and iterate to improve the model. We would like to identify partners who can support this solution with the right skills, experience and expertise.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

The main barriers are: 1. Resource - we need to raise funds to implement this solution at the scale as which it is needed. 2. The size of population who have no or limited access to tech, and the cost of delivering support in such environments whilst maintaining the protective physical distancing.

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

This is the time to innovate! The world needs solutions fast, and we have to think outside the box. There is no normal, no business as usual, and perhaps no box anymore. This offers us great opportunity to find critical, creative solutions. Now is the time to collaborate, and be generous with ideas, insights and resources. With strategic partnerships, we can help more children and families.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

We are collaborating with other local nonprofits, tech companies and government agencies.

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1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Great reading through your idea Deborah Kimathi . Do you have any insights from the pilot program that you are running? How do you see this evolving long term beyond the current pandemic?