Two Kenyans – Sara Ruto, the former CAS in the Ministry of Education, and Snehar Shah, CEO of Moringa School – have been named as Top 10 finalists for the Africa Education Medal 2023. Founded last year by T4 Education and HP in collaboration with Microsoft, the Africa Education Medal is Africa’s most prestigious education accolade.
The Africa Education Medal was established to recognise the tireless work of those who are transforming education across the continent – to celebrate the stories of those who have lit the spark of change so others will be inspired to take up the torch. It is given to an outstanding individual who has demonstrated impact, leadership, and advocacy in the field of education.
Sara Ruto is the former CAS, Ministry of Education, Kenya, and former CEO of the PAL Network, a South-South network of organisations in Africa, South Asia and Central America undertaking large-scale, citizen-led assessments and actions to improve foundational literacy and numeracy. Dr Ruto impact’s has been felt across her three decades in academia, civil society and government. Her work on education reform in Kenya saw her awarded the ‘Elder of the Burning Spear’ (EBS) Presidential Award in 2019.
(TOP: Sara Ruto and Snehar Shah, the two Kenyan finalists in the Africa Education Medal 2023).
Dr. Ruto’s name is synonymous across East Africa with the Uwezo learning assessment, the most comprehensive, independent household-based assessment of foundational literacy and numeracy competencies ever implemented in East Africa. The Uwezo initiative mobilised 25,000+ volunteers across three countries, assessing more than 1.5 million children. The results catalysed national, regional, and global debate on whether being in school translated to learning and drove a shift from the Millennium Development Goals’ focus on access to the Sustainable Development Goals’ focus on learning outcomes. Uwezo assessment results are widely cited in flagship global publications including the World Bank’s 2018 World Development Report.
Under Dr. Ruto’s leadership, PAL Network’s member organisations conducted over 60 assessments, mobilising over 1 million volunteers to assess more than 9 million children, implementing targeted remedial and accelerated learning programmes reaching over 155,000 children.
Dr. Ruto oversaw Zizi Afrique’s Accelerated Learning Programme pilot reaching over 25,000 students in Grades 3-5, catalysing an institutional partnership with three teacher training colleges to strengthen pre-service training in formative assessment and targeted instruction. The pilot was later scaled up through partnerships with 28 local civil society organisations to reach over 40,000 children in 318 schools across nine counties.
Whilst at PAL Network, Dr. Ruto was appointed Chairperson of the Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD), a role that she held from 2017 to 2021. During this time, she was appointed to lead Kenya’s COVID-19 National Education Response Committee in 2020.
From 2021 to 2022, Dr. Ruto was appointed CAS of Kenya’s Ministry of Education to oversee the nationwide implementation of the competency-based curriculum reform. In this role, she spearheaded teacher education reforms, and supported the presidential directive to ensure 100% transition from primary to secondary school, with a focus on the hardest-to-reach and most marginalised children.
She has also worked as a lecturer at Kenyatta University, a visiting professor at Hiroshima University in Japan, a teacher trainer, and a secondary school teacher.
Snehar Shah is CEO of Moringa School in Kenya, a learning accelerator committed to closing the skills gap in Africa’s job markets by delivering transformative tech-based learning in Software Engineering, Data Science, Cybersecurity, and Product Design to jobseekers, before connecting them with local and international employers in need of talent. Shah is now expanding the operations of the EdTech company across Africa.
Since its inception in 2014, Moringa has enrolled 6,000+ students and graduated over 3,000 students of which 33% are women with a target to reach 50% women in the next three years. Shah places a strong focus on gender equality with women making up 67% of the Board and 51% of the staff.
Moringa and Mastercard Foundation, through the Young Africa Works Strategy, entered into a three-year funding partnership aimed at strengthening Moringa’s capacity to provide a quality education that leads to employment for young people in Africa. To date, over 80% of the graduates have earned employment opportunities locally and globally through the tech and soft skills they acquired at Moringa. Morgina School has been able to offer a viable alternative to students unable to afford to study at African universities and through its partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, it has provided scholarships to low-income students.
Moringa’s impact on its students has been profound. While 80% of students who enrol at Moringa are unemployed at the time they apply, 77% of self-sponsored students and 67% of fully sponsored students obtain employment within 12 months of graduating. Those who are employed before joining had an average monthly salary of Kshs 15,000 at the time, but go on to gain jobs with an average starting salary of Kshs 38,000 after graduating. A typical Moringa graduate with three years of experience can expect to earn around Kshs 120,000 per month on average – eight times the minimum wage.
Shah has spearheaded a partnership with a leading boot camp in the US, Flatiron School, to provide its cutting-edge curriculum and tech training using a live learning model with African tutors. The training has been delivered in Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda – giving world-class education to African students at a fraction of the price US students would pay.
Moringa has been named among the Top Technology Pioneers by the World Economic Forum in 2021, Top 50 Edtech Bootcamps in Africa 2020 – 2022 by HolonIQ, and most recently received the LinkedIn award for Best Talent Provider in Sub-Saharan Africa 2023.
Mayank Dhingra, Senior Education Business Leader, Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa, at HP said: “My warmest congratulations to Sara Ruto and Snehar Shah on being named Top 10 finalists for the Africa Education Medal 2023. Their tireless work to improve education stands as an inspiration to us all and I hope many others will follow in their footsteps to become leaders in the field. HP has a bold goal to accelerate digital equity for 150 million people globally by 2030. Only by joining forces and aligning with NGOs, government, educators and businesses can we truly improve the education environment. The Africa Education Medal brings together all those who are changing the face of African education, whose vital work deserves to be celebrated.”
Vikas Pota, Founder and CEO of T4 Education, said: “Africa’s teachers and school leaders, and its leaders of governments, NGOs and businesses, all play a crucial part in unlocking the continent’s potential through quality education. African education stands at a crossroads in the wake of the pandemic, but if leaders from across the continent in every field can work together then they can build the lasting change needed. I congratulate Sara Ruto and Snehar Shah on their achievements and I hope their success serves as a rallying cry for changemakers to come forward and make a difference.”
The Top 10 finalists for the Africa Education Medal are:
- Mary Ashun, Principal of Ghana International School, Ghana
- Laura Kakon, Chief Growth & Strategy Officer of Honoris United Universities, Morocco
- Rogers Kamugisha, Country Director of Educate!, Rwanda
- Grace Matlhape, CEO of SmartStart, South Africa
- Mary Metcalfe, former policymaker and CEO of Programme to Improve Learning Outcomes (PILO), South Africa
- Martha Muhwezi, Executive Director of FAWE, Uganda
- Jean-Claude Nkulikiyimfura, Executive Director of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, Rwanda
- Simi Nwogugu, CEO of JA Africa, Nigeria
- Sara Ruto, former CAS, Ministry of Education, Kenya, and former CEO of PAL Network, Kenya
- Snehar Shah, CEO of Moringa School, Kenya
Nominations for the Africa Education Medal opened in February 2023 for individuals working to improve pre-kindergarten, K-12, vocational and university education who are either educators, school administrators, civil society leaders, public servants, government officials, political leaders, technologists, or innovators.
The winner of the Africa Education Medal will be announced in July. Finalists will be assessed by a Jury comprising prominent individuals based on rigorous criteria.