Education for Marginalized Communities


Children (especially girls) in semi-nomadic or other marginalized communities face many barriers to education. Parents may not want to send their children to school out of fear of abduction, because of cultural norms, or because they need the help at home or in the fields. Many children drop out because of early marriage (some girls are married as young as 12), while boys drop out to become young warriors. Others cannot afford school fees. Once enrolled, there are other challenges, children are frequently absent due to drought or family duties, they may not have appropriate school materials, or there may not be a trained teacher present. IIRR believes that education is a right and that all children should be in school, receive a quality education, and gain skills that will prepare them for a productive future.

Progress & Outcomes

  • 18,579children enrolled currently
  • 2,815girls started micro-enterprises
  • 776scholarships provided for students
  • 770teachers trained in teaching reading
  • 49%improvement in reading scores (Kenya)
  • 3collections of stories published in local languages
*data as of November 2013

Community Response:

Quality education is a foundation for human development. IIRR and our partners focus their efforts in Early Childhood Development, Primary and Secondary Information, and Adult Literacy to attain the following objectives:

  • Increased enrollment, retention, and graduation of learners in primary and secondly levels, with a particular focus on women and girls.
  • Enhance capacity of community organizations to design and implement sustainable and progressive education programs.
  • Create awareness of parents, community elders, and religious leaders to value and support their children’s education, especially for girls.
  • Link education to economic empowerment and basic survival skills, especially for youth, girls, and young women.
  • Improve school performance through active learning, teacher professional development and improvements of the learning environment.

    Community Needs:

    We need more resources to extend our support to students and communities:

  • More teachers need to be trained, more classrooms need to be built, and more learning materials are needed.
  • Increased awareness of community leaders to support education initiatives, especially for girls.
  • Increased capital for IIRR’s scholarship fund to incentivize students to stay in school.
  • Solar lights for night classes and water storage tanks for times of drought.

  • Education Initiatives

    The Pastoralist Education Project began in 2005 to increase educational opportunities for out-of-school children and adult learners in pastoralist and post-conflict areas. We partner with rural community organizations to establish schools, train and mentor teachers, and build community support for girls’ education. We have established reading sheds, mobile schools, and advocated for pastoralist education at the national level. This project is often enacted in conjunction with the initiatives below.
  • PROJECT FACT SHEET - Ethiopia Pastoralist Education Project
  • PROJECT FACT SHEET - Kenya Pastoralist Education Project
  • PROJECT FACT SHEET - Early Grade Reading Assessment, Uganda
  • The Economic and Social Empowerment of Youth Initiative encourages at-risk youth (especially girls) to remain in or return to school by providing business skills training and an opportunity to start a small income-generating business. Through partnerships, IIRR has provided youth with a reason to remain in school and a way to support themselves and bring additional income to their families. Additionally, the participants in this program have begun to use their savings to provide scholarships to other needy children.
  • PROJECT FACT SHEET - Economic and Social Empowerment of Youth Initiative
  • Earn and Learn and Goats for Girls are two examples of IIRR Economic Empowerment projects. Youth who have dropped out of school or are at-risk are coached in basic business skills, given access to financial support, or given livestock and supplies to begin a small business. That business allows them to afford school fees and materials and to become earners in their families. In the case of Goats for Girls, the parents contribute a goat as well and the offspring of the goats are then given to other girls who need to return to school. IIRR firmly believes that each year a girl remains in school will reduce her chances of early marriage, and will empower her with skills and knowledge as well as a support system of other girls/teachers/community members who can advocate for her rights.
    Girls' Hostels allow more girls to remain in school by providing a safe home on school grounds for girls who live far away from school and otherwise would risk abduction or assault on their long walks to and from school.
    The Early Grade Reading Initiative builds community reading sheds, involves students in reading and writing contests with other schools, publishes locally-relevant reading materials written by and for pastoralist children in their local languages, and trains teachers on specific methods for teaching reading.
    The Solar Lights for Students Initiative provides locally-sourced and repairable solar lanterns for night classes in schools and for students to use at home for studying. These provide light and are less damaging than fires or lanterns on children’s eyes and lungs.
    Livelihood-Led Adult Literacy/Numeracy teaches parents and other community members the basic skills they need to grow their business, learn to read and write, better support their families, and increase their confidence, civic engagement, and involvement in local decision-making.
    Virtual Livelihood Schools bring together stakeholders from universities, civil society organizations, research institutions, and government agencies to learn from each other, seek sustainable solutions to poverty, and to lobby for policy change. The networks of local community organizations and programs are linked through on-site trainings, field visits, and materials sharing.
  • PROJECT FACT SHEET - Global Learning Alliance
  • PROJECT FACT SHEET - Virtual Livelihood Schools
  • WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Health) Initiatives undertaken with our partners provide latrines, clean drinking water, and in times of crisis, food support, for our school communities.
    The Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Initiative links youth to information, answers any questions they may have, and refers them to healthcare providers as needed.
  • PROJECT FACT SHEET - Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in South Sudan
  • PROJECT FACT SHEET - Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Uganda
  • PROJECT FACT SHEET - Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Ethiopia
  • Additional resources

    Partners in the Field

    Lessons from the Field

    Partners Project Map, Ethiopia