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A Special Series for the 2015 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship

Each year at the Skoll World Forum, nearly 1,000 of the world’s most influential social entrepreneurs, key thought leaders and strategic partners gather at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School to exchange ideas, solutions and information.

We asked a number of speakers to discuss the critical issues, challenges and opportunities underpinning their sessions in advance of the Forum to ground a richer debate both online and in Oxford.

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Quality Secondary Education for Girls: How Do We Finance it at Scale?

Quality Secondary Education for Girls: How Do We Finance it at Scale?

Lucy Lake

Chief Executive Officer, Camfed

March 24, 2015 | 3970 views

The findings of the recently released Global Report on Out-of-School Children make a sobering read. Despite many achievements in providing access to primary education for children and young adults around the world, the fact remains that “around 63 million adolescents are denied their right to education.” Yet it is well documented that providing a quality secondary education, especially for girls, creates unparalleled benefits.

This is a seminal year. The UN Millennium Development Goals, an ambitious program to eradicate poverty, are about to expire. In September the UN will announce the new sustainable development agenda, and in education the emphasis will shift from primary schooling to “second generation priorities” designed to ensure that marginalized children progress to secondary education and gain the skills they need for an independent life.

As Julia Gillard, former Australian Prime Minister and now Chair of the Global Partnership for Education recently pointed out, “The true life and power of that agenda will be the political support and financial resources it receives.” Cost is by far the greatest barrier to education, and costs rise dramatically at the secondary level. If we are to deliver this basic right to the millions of young people who are excluded, the world needs to find new models for financing education.

As part of our Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment, Camfed has pledged to support one million girls in sub-Saharan Africa through secondary school and into secure livelihoods over the next five years. It’s an ambitious goal, which recognizes the urgency of getting this generation of girls into school and finding sustainable and scalable solutions to the problem of their exclusion. It builds on our recent success in expanding our programs across five countries and 5,270 school communities, and sets out to show the world what can be achieved.

So, how do we finance this ambitious goal? Where do we find the resources to send one million girls to school, when the costs of secondary education are beyond the means of their families?

The solution lies at the core of Camfed’s approach. Our model is premised on accountability to girls as our clients. It mobilizes an entire social infrastructure to secure girls’ entitlement to education and, by so doing, unlocks the latent capital in their communities, which we then expand and match with additional resources.

This capital takes a number of forms – knowledge capital on the local barriers to girls’ education and how to dismantle them; institutional capital that resides in community, school and district structures; and social capital in the form of networks of committed activists – among them local government officials, parents, and traditional leaders – working to transform the status quo for girls.

At the forefront of this initiative is the CAMA network of Camfed school graduates, a new association of educated young women that is over 33,000 strong and will grow to 130,000 over the next few years.

Combine these powerful sources of capital, and you have an unrivalled infrastructure from which to unlock new resources for education. Data we have collected on local philanthropy shows that the focused deployment of resources from Camfed has led to substantial monetary and in-kind contributions from our partner communities. This has radically expanded the resources available to support marginalized girls. On average, CAMA members finance two to three other children in their communities to go to school. Last year alone, more than 263,000 children received support for their education through local philanthropic initiatives.

Camfed is now pioneering a matched funding model, inviting donors to match the contributions being made by communities to support girls’ education. This financing model will provide a new benchmark for the delivery of programs that target girls’ secondary education.

As Julia Gillard said, “2015 is a year of decision. The status quo is unacceptable. We need to raise our level of ambition and rapidly accelerate progress towards achieving our goals.”

If the international community can match the resources being deployed by local communities in support of girls’ secondary education, then the impact will be transformational.


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