The Akilah Institute for Women is an accredited all-women’s college offering diploma programs in Entrepreneurship, Hospitality Management, and Information Systems - all high growth sectors in East Africa. In Rwanda, only 7 percent of university-aged women enroll in tertiary education. Nearly 85 percent of East African women still work in subsistence agriculture, living on less than two dollars a day. Conversely, the private sector across East Africa is experiencing rapid growth while facing an acute shortage of employees with the requisite skills and initiative. Akilah offers an accessible, affordable, and highly effective education-workforce model that empowers young women to enter and thrive in the workforce; as such, Akilah serves as a critical bridge between women, the workforce, and the economy.
At Akilah, we expect our students to be more than capable employees - we expect them to be leaders and job creators. Over half of Akilah’s current students come from rural areas, 75 percent were unemployed prior to enrolling at Akilah, and 29 percent are in Ubudehe Levels One and Two. The average Akilah student is 22 years old. We now have an alumnae network of 145 young women. In January 2017, an additional 88 students will graduate from our program. Based on a recent graduate evaluation, key impact metrics include the following:
-We have a current employment rate of 89 percent.
-58 percent of graduates have received at least one promotion in their position and/or salary since graduation.
-36 percent are supervising at least one other employee (average number of employees supervised is 2.4).
-90 percent of graduates are supporting at least one individual or family member financially.
-On average, graduates pay school fees for 1.5 other people in their families or communities and pay for the healthcare of 2 other people in their families or communities.
-82 percent of graduates are participating in at least one community group.
Our competency-based academic model combines marked-based technical instruction in a range of measurable skills with leadership and soft skill development. When students acquire the following core competencies, they are, in fact, workforce ready:
-Communication: The ability to understand and interpret complex materials, assimilate, organize, develop, and present an idea formally and informally.
-Personal Growth and Self-Confidence: The ability to focus on tasks, manage behavior, and overcome challenges.
-Leadership and Responsibility: The ability to understand, develop, and demonstrate social and emotional intelligence including interpersonal skills and ethics ,and use these characteristics to actively influence and mobilize oneself and others.
-Critical Thinking: The ability to identify and predict issues and challenges and evaluate evidence in order to reach a reasonable conclusion.
-Information Technology and Quantitative Literacy: The ability to locate, understand, evaluate, and synthesize information and data in an increasingly technological society.
-Career Navigation: The ability to explore and negotiate career options, understand and initiate the steps necessary to pursue career opportunities and the ability to self-advocate and build professional networks.
Each diploma program and course has specific competencies through which we base our assessments. Students graduate with proven proficiency or mastery in practical and soft skills that will be integral to their chosen career path. Private sector employers will benefit from more skilled employees with strong leadership skills and a keen understanding of industry demand. Furthermore, Akilah is able to streamline its academic model in order to serve significantly more young women in the coming years. As competency-based education is now a national strategy in Rwanda, Akilah is not only aligned with the government’s vision for education, but is also meeting the critical need for girls’ education and economic empowerment in the region. We began transitioning our curricula to competency-based education in July 2016 with the hire of Chief Academic Officer Rick Daniels, and have since hired a team of curriculum developers to transition all diploma programs to competency-based education.
Along with the changes to our academic model, over the next two years we will introduce evening and weekend classes and deliver content in online and offline formats, further broadening our reach and allowing for more flexible, self-paced learning. In their first year, students will spend more time in a traditional classroom setting, working collaboratively on group-based projects. In their second year, certain courses will be delivered online, with facilitated support from coaches and faculty. With proven success in educating young women, we are committed to growing our program and helping more young people develop the skills needed to thrive in today’s society.