CEI East Africa Launch: Bringing Innovators Together

June 25, 2013James Wanjohi

James Wanjohi is the Director of CEI's East Africa Hub. 

On the afternoon of Friday, June 14th the bright, airy atrium of Strathmore Business School in Nairobi, Kenya was filled with creative energy. There was a buzz of innovation, as local education stakeholders and practitioners came together to mark the launch of the Center for Education Innovations (CEI) in an event hosted by CEI’s East Africa Hub, GEMS Education Solutions.

The launch convened a variety of stakeholders in the education sector in East Africa and was designed to maximize opportunities for them to network and create linkages with one another. Those in attendance included non-state program implementers, funders, policy-makers, researchers, technical experts, and representatives from the Kenyan Ministry of Education. All were keen to learn more about the CEI platform.

Several speakers at the event highlighted the need for a platform like CEI in East Africa, illustrating its potential benefits and objectives. A core component of CEI is to foster educational partnerships by providing stakeholders with up-to-date information on ongoing programs and initiatives around the region. This was cited as particularly crucial for the Kenyan Ministry of Education by its Assistant Director Apollo Apuko, who during a keynote address to launch event attendees, highlighted the importance of increasing the country’s non-state education programs’ visibility, enabling them to work in tandem with existing government initiatives as opposed to competing with them.

Nicholas Burnett, R4D’s education portfolio Managing Director, also highlighted the importance of sharing knowledge and best practices within innovators and policy makers, illustrating the gaps in what is known about non-state education and showcasing CEI’s potential global impact. I too, spoke at the event, sharing my perspective on the East Africa Hub, and specifically highlighting the importance of having a locally-based team to actively spearhead networking and collaboration between participating programs.

The most exciting part of the launch, however, was when innovators themselves were in the spotlight. Following the speakers, a panel session was held featuring three non-state innovators working within Kenya: Shannon May from Bridge International Academies, Alphonce Omondi from Children’s and Youth Empowerment Network, and Catherine Kiganjo from Kenya Community Development Foundation. Several key areas of educational policy were discussed, ranging from discussions about the importance of community engagement in improving educational outcomes, to debates about the best strategies for programs to collaborate and maximize positive synergies. The panel culminated in an engaging Q&A session, where the audience was able to contribute to the debate. To wrap up, a networking session was held, allowing programs and innovators to meet and swap ideas with one another, satisfying another core goal of CEI: creating linkages. 

This event was only the beginning. We, at CEI’s East Africa Hub, plan to host a series of continued networking events and knowledge-sharing workshops to these connections. Importantly, these events and their agendas will be shaped in response to innovator's needs and priorities as they emerge on the CEI platform and on-the-ground in East African classrooms and communities. We therefore welcome your feedback and future suggestions, and can’t wait to see and take part in upcoming conversations here in Kenya, and around the world. 

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