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Global Activism: Elizabeth Powley delivers secondary education to kids in Burundi and Rwanda

(Courtesy of Elizabeth Powley/Every Child is My Child)

It’s time for our Global Activism series. Each Thursday, we hear about a person who’s decided to work to make the world a better place.

And former high school teacher, Elizabeth Powley, believes that “every child has the right to learn.” And she has a special love for the children of Africa’s Great Lakes region. Elizabeth is founder of Every Child is My Child, an all-volunteer non-profit organization that funds education for children in Burundi and Rwanda. And she envisions a world in which “every girl and boy in Africa has access to secondary school.”

Elizabeth is also very busy as executive director of Heartland Alliance International, and they’re part of Heartland Alliance, the Chicago-based group that for well over a century has helped endangered populations — particularly the poor, the isolated, and the displaced.

Elizabeth Powley shares how her group is making a difference:

More than 70% of the students we’re working with are the first in their families to go beyond 6th grade. When they graduate, more than 90% of them will be first in their families to graduate from high school.

By guaranteeing that all qualified students from a partner community can get a secondary education, we are changing the way children and their families plan for and envision their future. Families can redirect limited resources to other needs (housing, food, agriculture). Children can relax and study, knowing that their scholastic efforts will bring results. Communities will see an entire generation of students educated – for the first time – beyond the elementary school level.

We’re creating a community-based model that we hope will advance the policy conversation about education in Africa from “universal primary” to “universal secondary.” Rwanda is already headed in that direction; it recently made “basic 9” the new standard. We’d like to be a part of a movement that sees all of Africa adopt “basic 12” as the new standard.

Since 2007, we’ve funded hundreds of years of secondary education. Graduates of Ngenda, Nyacyonga, and Mageyo are now studying at secondary schools (boarding schools) all over Rwanda and Burundi. In just a couple years, the first class from Mageyo School that Every Child started with will be graduating high school.

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