So They Can, Nominee for The Change-Maker Award, 2023 Africa Awards
By AAMEG | 5 September 2023
So They Can is fully accredited by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), responsible for managing the Australian Government’s Development Program.
This is a significant recognition, which based on rigorous assessment is given to less than 1% of Australia’s 60,000 charities. It acknowledges that the organisation operates at the highest standard, and delivers sustainable development outcomes.
So They Can’s CEO and Co-Founder, Cassandra Treadwell, has been the driving force behind So They Can. Her passion and commitment to educating vulnerable children in Africa began when she first visited Kenya in 2009 and met some of the 600,000 Kenyans who were internally displaced because of the 2007 election violence.
They were forced to live in makeshift tents, in extreme poverty. The community directly requested her, ‘we need a school for our children – an education is the only inheritance we can give them’ and thus began So They Can.
From establishing one primary school in Kenya – Aberdare Ranges Primary School – the organisation has grown to support 51 government schools in Kenya and Tanzania, empowering 32,000 children and their families every year.
Treadwell lives and leads by the African philosophy of ‘Ubuntu’ – our personal wellbeing is deeply connected to the wellbeing of others. It has been the spirit of Ubuntu that has brought together individuals, schools, companies, and government bodies in Australia and beyond.
So They Can is now a leading Australian charity that transforms the lives of tens of thousands of children in Africa every year.
So They Can works in areas where education outcomes are lower than the national average, poverty rates are high, and girls and women face disproportionate challenges due to harmful cultural norms.
At present, the Tanzania national education systems are severely under-resourced – a lack of teachers, resources, and infrastructure – makes primary schools inaccessible. In the rural communities where So They Can works student enrolment, attendance, performance and transition rates are lower than national averages. Children face poor education outcomes, and consequently remain stuck in intergenerational poverty cycles.
INITIATIVE: PROVIDING QUALITY EDUCATION FOR 32,000 CHILDREN IN EAST AFRICA
- Babati District, Manyara Region, Tanzania | Located 160 km southwest of Arusha. It is a rural area, more than 95% of inhabitants rely on agriculture, and survive on subsistence farming. Recent drought has brought instability to the region. Education outcomes in the Manyara region are low, as reported in the Government’s 2020 Regional Education Data.
- Baringo, Kenya | Located 252 km northwest of Nairobi. 89% of the citizens inhabit rural areas, and despite the harsh semi-arid conditions, agriculture is the main source of livelihoods. 59% of the population live in extreme poverty. Severe drought, after more than 5 failed rainy seasons, has put communities in a ‘crisis’ state.
- Nakuru, Kenya| Located 160 km northwest of Nairobi. So They Can first started working here to support the informal settlement of 600,000 internally displaced Kenyans, following post-election violence. In Kenya, the primary NER is 78% and the pupil: teacher ratio is 43:1 (World Bank). The Government of Kenya does not publish regional data. UNICEF reports that high dropout rates reflect a perceived lack of value of schooling, long distances to schools and high rates of child marriage in rural Kenya.
- So They Can’s holistic Education Program improves access, quality and inclusion in education. It is implemented in 51 government primary and secondary schools, to reach 32,000 children and 750 teachers every year.
- So They Can specialises in quality education through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). Their Education Program was established and is steered by a unique PPP between the Ministry of Education and the District Councils in each country; the Board of Management of each participating school and So They Can. It ensures that projects are delivered within the national education framework to systematically improve education outcomes.
- The organisation works directly in schools to provide school infrastructure; resources; teacher training and development; school governance support and community development.
- To ensure sustainability, the local Education Departments, councils, community leaders, School Management Committees, parents, teachers and students are involved in all stages of programs from design to implementation and evaluation.
LONGEVITY AND LOYALTY LEADS TO RESULTS
- So They Can partners with each school for an agreed number of years, through a 3-stage School Sustainable Development Process. During that time, they improve the learning and teaching conditions and build the school’s capacity to independently deliver inclusive, quality education in safe school environments when support is transitioned out.
- The school community’s involvement in education has increased significantly through partnership. Typically, when So They Can first enters a school around 30-50 parents are present, through our parents’ sensitisation sessions this increases to over 600. They become actively involved in the school, its activities and their child’s education.
- So They Can has worked in its project areas for numerous years, over which time the organisation has been established as a trusted partner. So They Can is one of the few NGOs that operation in both Babati and Baringo.
HIGH IMPACT THROUGH RESOURCES PROVISION
- Every school-based project is delivered in accordance with a project plan – which includes detailed outcomes, outputs and activities to achieve results.
- So They Can Education Program has increased student enrolment by 42%
- There is an equal number of girls enrolled in partner schools
- 88% of schools have improved academic performance in the Tanzanian Primary School Leaving Exam, with 50% of schools improving the school’s average result by more than 20 points.
- 54% of schools have improved academic performance in the Kenyan Certificate in Primary Education in the past 12 months – more than 70% increased the school’s average result by more than 15 points.
- School infrastructure improvements in Tanzania: 96 classrooms renovated; 12 new classrooms constructed; 23 water tanks donated; 10 boreholes drilled and operationalised.
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