Group of women smiling
VSO/Paul Wambugu

Education Summit 2021: volunteers transforming girls’ education in Kenya, Malawi and Nepal

Delivered by local and international volunteers, our flagship programmes– from tablet learning in classrooms to peer mentoring outside school – are helping some of the most marginalised girls to overcome the barriers to education.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will co-host the Global Education Summit with Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, on 28-29 July 2021. The summit aims to encourage investment into education projects in the world's most vulnerable countries. Our flagship girls’ education projects, in Kenya, Malawi and Nepal have been helping girls to access the education that they deserve.

Our flagship programmes

VSO has been a leader in global education for the past sixty years. We have transformed the learning experiences and educational prospects of millions of children around the globe, focusing on barriers to education as well as outcomes.

At the recent summit, the G7 set new goals to get 40 million more girls in school and 20 million more girls reading by the age of 10 by 2026, following a commitment from the UK government to increase funding to girls’ education. VSO has experts and volunteers on the ground available to speak about its tried-and-tested approaches to ensuring all girls get a high-quality education.

Volunteer Peter helps some pupils at a VSO-supported learning centre
VSO/Paul Wambugu


Classes and mentoring help out-of-school girls reclaim a better future

In Kenya, a high proportion of girls drop out of school before reaching secondary school, often due to poverty and child marriage. The UK-Aid-funded Education for Life project targets out-of-school girls, including those with disabilities, from marginalised communities and low-income households. 

Through the programme, girls can attend catch-up centres three days a week, where they access basic literacy, numeracy and life-skills training. For many of the girls who have babies, childcare is provided during classes, so the girls can focus on learning. Each girl is also paired with a mentor – a local woman who supports them with their studies and helps them through any problems they face outside of school.

Never too late to learn

Two young schoolchildren sit on the floor at Mdzobwe Primary School and use their tablets to learn
VSO/Jeff DeKock


Education app closes gender gap in maths

Unlocking Talent is a highly successful, award-winning tablet education programme that uses innovative education technology to help overcome the education challenges that hold children back. Run in partnership by VSO, onebillion and the University of Nottingham, it is the most researched EdTech programme in the world. 
Since its launch in 2013, Unlocking Talent has helped over 260,000 kids in Malawi to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. Research from the University of Nottingham has also revealed that using the technology closes the gender attainment gap in maths. In Malawi, boys typically make faster progress in maths than girls do in conventional schooling, but where Unlocking Talent is introduced at the start of primary school, the gap between girls and boys does not emerge.

Using technology to develop high quality education

girls smiling at camera outside
Guilhem Alandry


Supporting girls with disabilities to get back into school.

Deep-seated social prejudices in the Terai region of Nepal mean that many don’t see the value in girls getting an education and many girls are married before the legal minimum age of 20. Through peer mentoring and classes, the ENGAGE programme helps the most marginalised girls to get a great education, develop the skills they need to earn a decent living, and become empowered to control their own sexual and reproductive health.

The project builds on VSO’s pioneering Sisters for Sisters peer mentoring project, which supported nearly 10,000 girls from marginalised communities to succeed in school.

Sisters for Sisters

Read more

Community and VSO volunteers setting up the disaster risk management committee
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Community volunteers in the field to conduct surveys after Cyclone Idai.
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In 2017 Mike Barnes, an ex-primary school headteacher, joined VSO’s Unlocking Talent project in Malawi, providing students with tablet computers loaded with local language courses in numeracy and literacy. Read how he helped improve learning outcomes for thousands of children.