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'Fire Up!' - A Refugee-Run Girls Education Programme

Support urban refugee communities to increase access to education for girls in Uganda's capital city, Kampala

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What problem does your innovation solve?

Nearly 15,000 refugee girls [between the ages of five to eighteen] from Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo live in Kampala, the largest site of refugee self-settlement in Uganda. 60% of these girls are out of school, compared to 40% of boys. These are young women who have missed multiple years of school, have lost their school certificates or transcripts or have ones that are not recognized in Uganda, and struggle to adapt to education in a new language.

Explain your innovation.

The idea—We are proposing a high-impact foundation course that uses mentoring and dual-language instruction to increase girls’ access to, and success within, education in Kampala. Our bottom-up and family-wide approach mobilizes community resources to address linguistic, cultural, and economic barriers simultaneously. How it works—We offer a year-long foundation course, divided into two levels: Level II for girls who have completed or nearly finished primary school, and Level I for girls who are three or more years away from finishing primary. The course is co-taught by a Ugandan national and a teacher from the refugee community. Classes are held at local primary schools to help students adjust to the Ugandan school schedule and curricular demands and begin to integrate into the wider school community. We will also open a library at our existing community center, to give refugee girls additional materials in English and a safe place to study after the program in the evenings. . At the same time, we will give parents whose girls are enrolled in the foundation course, access to trainings on how to save money and participate in a savings group, so that they can support their girls’ long-term success in education until graduation A holistic approach—We recruit community mentors to support our learners. The mentors have weekly home visits with refugee parents, which are pivotal to changing cultural beliefs about girls’ education, ensuring home lives are supporting students

Who benefits?

The benefits of this program will cut across both refugee and national communities, and in particular, empower the main actors who are central to the education of refugee girls. GIRLS LIKE SONA : First and foremost, this innovation will support for the pilot, 100 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 who are refugees and asylum seekers from the main countries of origin for refugees in Uganda, like Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Somalia and South Sudan. Our impact on refugee girls will be profound. PARENTS LIKE ANNIE: Parents benefit, too—parents will achieve a greater level of financial literacy and be supported to form savings groups with other parents to pool their resources and share their knowledge and experience. COMMUNITIES AND SCHOOLS LIKE IN KATWE: Schools also benefit. Ugandan teachers will be better able to understand and support their refugee students, with the help of refugee teachers and mentors and with greater support from parent

How is your innovation unique?

Our innovation is bottom-up. This idea fosters strong relationships between refugee children, parents, mentors and teachers. Since YARID is a refugee-led organization, it is the refugee community that is integrating itself directly into national structures and co-producing these solutions. It’s Human Centered and responsive to the needs of urban refugees. Our method of instruction is innovative, too. We group students by proficiency, not grade level, to meet our learners where they are, and use mentors to build self-esteem. We teach in two languages to help students progress more quickly. Best of all, these innovations are sustainable. We pair high-quality instruction with other crucial forms of support. We mentor parents and provide financial training to make a girl's education both a cultural priority and an economic reality. We partner with Ugandan teachers and host the program at Ugandan primary schools to bridge gaps between refugees and the host community.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

YARID will use its unique position as a well-known community organization to answer important, basic questions about which schools refugee students attend, how they are performing, and what support they need. At the start of our work, we would also investigate how traditional values and beliefs about education differ between nationalities and tribes among refugees. During our implementation phase, we would try to find answers to two main questions. First, is it more effective to reach refugee girls in early primary school or late primary school, or even in early secondary school? Second, how can we link income-generating activities (IGAs) with our programme so that education is an economic possibility for refugee girls ?

Tell us more about you.

Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID) is a registered, refugee-led non-profit organization operating in Uganda since 2008. The mission of YARID is to empower refugees and other displaced persons through education, women’s empowerment, ICT training, and sports for development so that they can become self-reliant and integrate into the Uganda society. YARID is the leading refugee grassroots organization in Kampala and has done a lot to help urban refugees become self-reliant.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

In Kampala, the largest refugee-hosting area outside of a settlement in Uganda, the urban refugee population is particularly heterogeneous, with very diverse and complex needs. The largest refugee groups come from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, and South Sudan. When refugees decide to settle in Kampala, they waive their rights to formal assistance from the government and most international organizations, and must meet their own basic needs, including education

Where will your innovation be implemented?

This idea will be implemented in Kampala, Uganda. An increasing number of refugees are opting to self-settle in urban areas—by the end of 2016, UNHCR recorded a total of 87,956 refugees and asylum seekers living in Kampala. That number is expected to grow to more than 125,000 by the end of 2017, as escalating conflicts in the region force more and more people from their homes.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

YARID is an active member of the Forum for Education NGOs in Uganda (FENU) and is a contributor to the Education in Emergency and Refugee Education working groups. We convene periodic meetings among refugee organizations via our Refugee Grassroots Network. We work closely with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Uganda and the International Organization for Migration.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID) is a registered refugee led non-profit organization operating in Uganda since 2008. The mission of YARID is to empower refugees and other displaced Persons through, education, women’s empowerment, ICT and sport for development so that they can become self-reliant and integrate into the Uganda society. YARID is the leading refugee grassroots organization in Kampala and has done a lot to support refugees become self-reliant

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

YARID is based on Kampala Kirombe Road, Off Kabega Lane, Nsambya, Kampala, Uganda


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

Our community has encouraged us to think bigger. For the 18 refugee girls we interviewed, this program offers more than education: it offers hope, it offers knowledge, and it offers protection. Rather than thinking of this as an accelerated learning program, which are common and fairly narrow programs, we now see our idea as a foundation course that forms an innovative support system for a girl's entire education. Specific changes to the library and mentoring components reflect these ideas.

Who will implement this Idea?

The YARID Education team would contribute full-time support to the implementation of this idea. The first year pilot, at least four staff will manage the programme, working closely with at least 4 mentors and a committee of 20 parents per class. Our partner, Katwe Primary School, is right beside our education center and we have strong relationships with Katwe Primary's teachers and school administrators. They will contribute classroom space and some materials. Four teachers, one Ugandan and one refugee per class, will be hired for the program and will report directly to the Education Manager.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

Each refugee girl faces numerous daily challenges related to her gender. Conservative cultural beliefs about women mean that a girl is burdened with housework and kept home from school. When she is idle, she is vulnerable to early marriage and SGBV. She lacks positive role models and emotional support. The most significant systems-level challenge is a lack of educational equivalency between Uganda and its neighbors. Different languages, required documents, core competencies and school schedules make it very difficult for refugee girls to re-start their education at the appropriate level. Most girls are asked to repeat two or three years of school, if not more. This delays their progress and, since they join classes with much younger girls, demoralizes them and lowers their self-esteem.

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

For many years, YARID operated with very few resources, relying on the contributions of volunteers to deliver low-cost programs. To us, sustainability does not require making our programs more complicated or resource intensive; rather, we want to continue to operate efficiently, while providing steady income for our volunteers/teachers, most of whom are refugees. We have used two recent injections of funding to train our Education volunteers as full-time staff and to expand our livelihoods programs. We plan to continue to build these two program areas by training and employing refugees.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact that you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question/hurdle you need to address to get there?

VISION: By 2021, we plan to operate in Kampala's four refugee-dense areas at scale, reaching 3,240 refugee girls from 7 countries in partnership with parents and teachers at 81 schools. KEY QUESTION: How do we scale our participatory, community-driven model in heterogeneous refugee communities around Kampala and create pathways for various refugee communities to take ownership of the projects and support themselves?

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

During the program, YARID's education team will use established systems to measure output indicators like attendance and performance on monthly exams. Then, to measure outcomes after the program ends, we leverage our strong relationships with our partners: parents, teachers, and primary school administrators. Parents report monthly about the progress of their savings group; teachers report about student attendance; school administrators share our students' exam scores and official records.

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

The first key step is to launch the program with 40 refugee girls at Katwe Primary, where we have strong relationships. Then, we will leverage that proof-of-concept to partner with primary schools in two other areas with concentrated refugee communities, Lubaga and Kisenyi. Each pilot program also creates built-in pathways for mentors to become YARID staff who continue to manage the program in their local community. After three years, we will have a replicable and sustainable way to scale.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $50,000 and $100,000 USD

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed Idea live?

  • Between 10-20 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country that you intend to implement your Idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this Idea together?

  • Between 1 and 2 years

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support
  • Organizational Design


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