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Tune in to Learning: Radio-Based Education for Girls Living in Conflict

War Child Canada is using a method of radio-based learning to provide access to education for out-of-school girls living in conflict-areas.

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What problem does your innovation solve?

Due to the ongoing conflict, over 7.3 million children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are not in school, 3.9 million of whom are girls. Only 60% of girls complete primary school and 35% complete lower secondary school. Reasons include inability to pay school fees, lack of sanitation facilities, early marriage, and safety risks for girls involved in travelling long distances to reach schools. War Child Canada believes that using radio-based education can address these barriers.

Explain your innovation.

War Child Canada has tested an innovative approach to secondary level education using Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) for vulnerable girls aged 12-16 in conflict-affected environments. While IRI is traditionally used to supplement formal education within schools, War Child Canada adapted IRI for distance education. Students gather in their communities five times a week to participate in the lessons, reducing barriers to girls’ education. Classes are facilitated by Education Assistants (all from local communities) who completed training in IRI teaching methodology, child protection, and facilitation techniques. Community Education Committees provide ongoing classroom support, promote girls’ right to education and aid in the monitoring and evaluation of classes. This community-driven approach creates a supportive environment where girls can receive quality education. An external evaluation concluded that this model encourages enrolling girls in school and increasing mobilization of community support for girls' education. The pilot reached 300 learners, with over 80% successfully completing the program and receiving transcripts for Standards 1 and 2 (the first two grades of high/secondary school) from the DRC’s Ministry of Education, allowing them to re-enroll into the formal school system at the next level, where possible. Students and parents voiced their support of the project, “This is my daughter’s last chance to finish high school and get her diploma."

Who benefits?

Meet Maggy, a 16 year old girl and student participating in War Child Canada’s IRI program. ”I dropped out of my studies since my father had decided to enroll my brothers first. My salvation was the arrival of War Child Canada’s radio-program in my village. I’m impatiently waiting for the reopening of the IRI centre.” Girls depend on the free and safe educational approach to learn and will not be able to continue their studies unless the IRI program includes all grades of high school (Standards 1-6). This project will target 1,000 out-of-school girls aged 12-18 in eastern DRC, a population that, due to their age and gender, is among the most vulnerable in the country. During the feedback phase, experts and communities expressed the desire to include boys in the programming as well. While this project will still focus on girls' education, moving forward the needs of boys will also be considered and incorporated into project design to ensure increased access to education for all.

How is your innovation unique?

This project promotes a community-based education approach to increasing girls’ access to education. Firstly, it will provide educational opportunities within communities and supported by communities, eliminating the need for girls to walk long distances. Secondly, it will operate on a flexible schedule that has been designed - through community assessments - around the girls’ daily schedules and seasonal calendars. Thirdly, it will work directly with communities to identify not only safe spaces for girls’ education but also local Education Assistants whom the community will play a role in selecting. Additionally, as classes are radio based, if conflict escalates and communities/families are displaced, they can continue listening to the classes from their new location. Finally, to ensure sustainability and to address root causes of gender inequality in education, communities are engaged in the importance of education, particularly for girls, through extensive outreach.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

While the initial piloting of the innovative approach has been extremely successful, War Child Canada is still working on different methods for increased community engagement in non-formal education. While there was wide-spread support for this method in targeted communities, there were still families/community members who believe that education must take place in a formal school and that alternative methods are not as effective and/or socially acceptable.

Tell us more about you.

Founded in 1999, War Child Canada is a registered Canadian charity based in Toronto and is currently operational in the DRC, Afghanistan, Jordan, Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda. The organization has over 250 staff working across country field offices and headquarters. War Child Canada focuses on three programming areas of education, livelihoods and access to legal justice. Meet Melanie, our Program Officer who has been an integral part of piloting IRI. See video

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

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Continuous insecurity has led to the DRC being called the worse place in the world to be a girl, with 3.9 million girls out of school. War Child Canada's research revealed 42% of students dropped out of secondary school due to high cost of school fees, early pregnancy, and/or parents opting to send boys to school over girls. Many girls are out of school because it is simply too dangerous to walk there. This unique approach keeps girls safe while increasing their access to education.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

The proposed project will be implemented in Uvira, South Kivu, a territory in eastern DRC. Ten centres in eight communities will run the IRI program weekly – Kabimba, Kagando, Kala, Kalungqe, Kavinvira Centre, Kavinvira Projct I, Kavinvira Project II, Kigongo, Kiliba, and Kilomoni.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

War Child Canada is a member of the Child Protection Working Group in the DRC, as well as the Global Child Protection Working Group and a participating member of the International Child Protection Network of Canada (ICPNC). The organization sits on the global Standards and Practices Working Group for the InterAgency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE). War Child Canada has actively engaged the Ministries of Education and Social Affairs in the development and piloting of this project.

Sector Expertise

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

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Education, including Accelerated Learning Programming, is an area in which War Child Canada has extensive experience. The initial pilot of the new approach, as detailed above, has shown impressive results. An external evaluation was conducted of the model which found that students who had completed the IRI program performed equally on a supervised test as peers enrolled the formal school system. War Child Canada has worked in the DRC since 2005 on education-focused initiatives.

Innovation Maturity

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.

Organization Status

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

Organization Location

War Child Canada is registered and based in Toronto, Canada, and is operational in the DRC, Jordan, Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and Afghanistan.


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

Expert, user and OpenIDEO community feedback shaped our idea in two key ways: Targeted communities and experts articulated the need for increased access to education for boys, as well as girls. While the focus will remain on girls (there are significantly more girls out of school than boys in the DRC), boys will be actively included moving forward. The community shared that our target age of 12-16 was too low and should be raised upwards of 18 years of age to account for the extensive need.

Who will implement this Idea?

War Child Canada’s staff in the DRC have been involved at all stages of the development and piloting of this innovation, garnering expertise and knowledge through trial and error in testing this new model. They are well-positioned to develop the remaining IRI scripts and pilot them in targeted communities, while also testing the approach in new communities. There are four full-time staff dedicated to this project who have garnered longstanding relationships developed with local NGOs and Ministry officials and built trust with our targeted communities.

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?

The biggest challenge facing girls is their parents’ preference to send boys to school, especially when the family is facing financial strain. This project works to address this issue by provide free, quality education. One parent shared, “This project has restored the meaning to our lives. There is a disease that attacks corn, hurting my crop. Today a bag of corn cannot pay a single month of school for my child.” The system-level challenge facing girls is high levels of insecurity. The perilous walk to school can lead parents to keep their children home from school rather than put their children at risk. Alleviating parents' financial burden to pay for school and providing a safe community approach to girls’ education ensures girls have the education and knowledge to succeed.

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

The Ministry of Education (MoE) is actively involved in the piloting of this initiative, opening options for national scale-up led by MoE not War Child Canada Communities are engaged through outreach to embrace the importance of education, particularly for girls. They strongly voiced their support for this project, wish to see it continue and donate their time and local spaces to make the project a reality. The costs of IRI are front loaded at the start-up phase (curriculum development, etc) but drop significantly afterwards, making the model extremely financially viable long-term.

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?

Impact: By 2021, the accelerated learning program using IRI will be developed for all secondary school levels and rolled out nationally across the DRC, led by the Ministry of Education, and reaching at least 500,000 girls. Question: How do we continue to engage the Ministry of Education to ensure they take ownership of the curriculum and commit to its roll out and continued implementation?

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

Outcome: pilot IRI for the entire secondary school curriculum for out-of-school children aged 12-18 Outputs: remaining national curriculum (standards 3-6) adapted for radio; 600 IRI lessons written, recorded and broadcast; 1,000 girls have increased access to education; 1,000 girls graduate with Ministry-approved transcripts; IRI accelerated learning model documented/published. War Child Canada has a robust monitoring and evaluation framework that will be used to measure progress in learning.

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

Within the next three years, War Child Canada will have developed and piloted the complete secondary school curriculum (standards 1-6) in a minimum of 10 communities in eastern DRC. Key steps include adapting the current curriculum for accelerated and radio-based learning, training education assistants to facilitate classes, continued community outreach to garner acceptance of girls’ education, and ongoing engagement with the MoE lay groundwork for the national roll-out of this innovative model.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Above $1,000,000 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 5-10 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?

  • More than 2 years

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

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support
  • Other Technical Expertise
  • Other


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dave Hughes

Hi, this is a great idea! My name is David Hughes and I am the Project Director for the Bendigo Inventor Awards.

Now in our 7th year, the Bendigo Inventor awards have as our focus inventions that address needs in the Emergency Services and Disaster Management space, and we offer a AUD$10,000 prize for the winning entry. The Bendigo Inventor Awards has also created an environment for inventors to obtain support for their ideas by bringing together a coalition of partners with the knowledge, skills and networks to accelerate the progression of ideas from concept through to commercialisation. Major Program Partners include Engineers Australia who are providing technical feedback, KPMG who are offering advice on commercial viability and the path to commercialisation and Red Cross, who are providing their perspective on the relevance of many inventions to disaster relief efforts. Our judging panel also contains representatives from Emergency Management Victoria, who are able to provide similar feedback on the applicability of inventions to the emergency services.

I believe your idea would be a fantastic entry into the awards. Applying is easy and can be done through our website Simply select the category that your invention applies to – ‘Concept’ or ‘Product and Prototype’, and answer some questions about your invention. All judges are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so your idea is protected. Entries close 5pm Friday 29th September 2017 AEST.

I very much look forward to seeing your invention go on to great success, and hope we are able to assist you in enabling that to happen. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch on the phone number above, or via my email at

David Hughes
Project Director
Bendigo Inventor Awards

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