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Kepler: A New Kind of University

Kepler Rwanda is quickly becoming a model for low-cost, high-quality education that is accessible and leads to meaningful employment.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

The October 2015 report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) on Global Employment Trends for Youth noted that in sub-Saharan Africa, three in five young workers (61.4 per cent) do not have the level of education expected to make them productive on the job. The report emphasized that the incidence of long-term unemployment among youth in sub-Saharan Africa reached 48.1 per cent in 2014 and stated that providing youth the best opportunity to transition to a decent job calls for investing in education and training of the highest possible quality, providing youth with skills that match labor market demands. The Kepler model is designed to do just this. Although the number of students attending university in Rwanda has steadily risen over the last decade, statistics show that less than 20% of graduates are finding employment within three years of graduation. Investors and corporate leadership frequently reference the skills gap for graduates and non-graduates alike. While a small percentage of talented students will have access to funding and scholarships for quality higher education outside of Rwanda, the options are limited for the majority. By combining online courses with rigorous in-person seminars, leading to a U.S. accredited degree without leaving Rwanda, Kepler is quickly becoming a model for low-cost, high-quality education that is accessible to all and leads to meaningful employment.

WHO BENEFITS?

Kepler students come from Rwanda, Eastern DRC, Burundi and Uganda and largely share similar backgrounds----vulnerable populations that would struggle to pursue a quality higher education without financial support. At Kepler, students are engaged in a dynamic learning environment that is developing them into tech-savvy, creative and critical thinkers. Kepler students are earning degrees at rapid paces and being snapped up by employers as they enter the marketplace.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

Kepler is a university program that developed organically out of a scholarship organization called Generation Rwanda. Kepler's first cohort of 50 students began their learning journey in October of 2013. Today, Kepler has 410 students between its campuses in Kigali and the Kiziba Refugee Camp.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Rwanda

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

kepler: a daring global experiment using a blending learning model of online courses and local teacher support to bring top tier instruction to the neediest parts of the planet, where the number of young graduates is soaring.

History

Kepler is university program that developed organically out of an organization called Generation Rwanda (GR). Beginning a decade after the Genocide, GR raised support to send talented students who lacked financial means to the University of Rwanda and provide them with wrap around services such as technology, housing, and mentorship to make them successful.

While the GR scholars themselves were successful at earning their degrees and thriving in the workplace, the feedback from the students was that their actual university experience did not add value nor was it enjoyable. The central question became “what would an affordable, but quality program look like for those students who are likely to be the first in their families to attend university and enter the formal job sector?” With a team of creative minds engaged, the Kepler program was born.

In just three years, Kepler's student body has grown from 50 to 400. Kepler students come from Rwanda, Eastern DRC, Burundi and Uganda and largely share similar backgrounds---vulnerable populations that would struggle to pursue a quality higher education without financial support.  Students are engaged in a dynamic learning environment that is developing them into tech-savvy, creative and critical thinkers. Kepler students are earning degrees at rapid paces and being snapped up by employers as they enter the marketplace. The Kepler team is committed to continual learning and testing of the model for both refinement and increased understanding of how Kepler can have the broadest impact on the transition to employment gap for Africa’s growing youth population.


Early Indicators of Success

Research, conducted by ID Insight in 2015, shows Kepler students outperforming their peer group in every category measured. In statistically significant categories of critical thinking, English (both reading and writing), logic and computer literacy, Kepler students’ results are “particularly large in magnitude.” (For more details: www.kepler.org/results.) All Kepler graduates are meaningfully employed and employers consistently report that Kepler students are integrating easily into the workplace and are prepared to contribute and grow.

In October 2015, Kepler launched a satellite campus in the Kiziba Refugee Camp in western Rwanda providing refugees with unprecedented access to higher education. Last July, Kepler was selected as 1 of 3 organizations to participate in UNHCR’s first Humanitarian Education Accelerator (HEA) Program designed to explore transforming good pilot projects into scalable educational initiatives for refugees and mobile populations.

In November 2015, Kepler was selected into the WISE Accelerator program, an initiative of the Qatar Foundation to support and connect innovative projects with high potential for scalability and positive impact in the field of education. The Kepler program has received praise in numerous publications, including Forbes, The Chronicle for Higher Education and Scientific American.

The Need

Support for Kepler would allow us to continue to test and refine the model while serving a growing population of students on the campuses in Kigali and in the Kiziba Refugee Camp.  It would support our efforts to develop an affordable student lending mechanism in partnership with regional banks to build financial sustainability into the model.  And it would support our research into new countries and markets for Kepler expansion and our continued contribution to thought leadership in how to deliver a high-quality but affordable education that is relative to the labor market across the continent.  

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