Jackie Omekara Jackie is a Contributing Researcher and Writer at Susinsight, reporting on trends across Africa's economy, society, and environment. She holds a BSc in Computer Science and works as a CyberSecurity Analyst in Canada.

Rising Academy Network: Educational Innovation Amid Crisis

6 min read

The Deepening Divide

Education holds the key to unlocking a more equitable future, yet a chasm of inequality mars its promise. A report by UNESCO reveals a daunting reality in Sub-Saharan Africa: over one-fifth of children aged 6 to 11 are out of school, a statistic that escalates as children get older. Sadly, one-third of youth between the ages of 12 and 14 are denied access to education, with almost 60% of youth between 15 and 17 years old remaining outside classroom walls. This learning crisis threatens to undermine individual well-being, societal progress, and sustainable development as these children are deprived of access to education or fail to acquire the fundamental skills necessary to thrive. 

Recognizing the disproportionate impact on women, with many unable to comprehend a simple sentence by the end of sixth grade, some forced into early marriages, and others vulnerable to sexual violence and human trafficking, Rising Academy has embarked on a quest to establish and promote quality learning techniques within classrooms. Through the lens of implementable insights, the network is gathering data to make proactive measures, ensuring the success of every learner. By enhancing the teaching-learning process, this endeavor aims to equip students with equitable skills, mitigating the learning crisis’s impact and advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Rising Academy Network emerged in response to urgent educational needs caused by crises such as the Ebola epidemic and the subsequent disruptions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Founded in 2014 in Sierra Leone, the network swiftly sprung into action, tackling educational setbacks in communities. With a commitment to accessibility and quality, Rising Academy has since expanded its footprint across Africa, serving a remarkable 250,000 students in 700 schools. Their impact can be seen across 22 countries, having touched the lives of an impressive 12 million children.

At its core, Rising Academy is driven by a mission to guarantee high-quality, structured curriculum content, fostering an environment conducive to robust learning outcomes. This ethos has not only sustained the organization through challenging times but also propelled it to the forefront of educational innovation. Leveraging its adaptability, Rising Academy continuously evolves, capitalizing on shifting trends to foster growth and advancement within the academic sphere.

Adaptive Pathways to Learning

Rising Academy Network thrives on its ability to adapt and innovate in the ever-evolving landscape of education. Central to its approach is the meticulous curation of tailored curriculum content, coupled with comprehensive support and training for educators. By empowering teachers with enhanced instructional practices, the network ensures a more enriching learning experience for students. Moreover, leveraging data analytics allows for a better understanding of student progress, enabling informed decisions on resource allocation.

Recognizing the challenges faced by rural communities with limited access to technology and disrupted education systems, Rising Academy devised a pioneering solution, “Rising on Air.” This groundbreaking radio-based program offers a 20-week curriculum designed to improve numeracy and literacy skills. Translated into multiple languages, it not only addresses accessibility concerns but also fosters inclusivity. The initiative extends beyond students, providing training for educators to enhance their effectiveness in knowledge dissemination. Moreover, to further engage parents and guardians, complementary SMS content was introduced, ensuring a holistic approach to education delivery.

Rising Academy is committed to the highest standards of transparency and accountability. Rigorous independent evaluations underscore the effectiveness and sustainability of its programs. Beyond individual interventions, the network envisions systemic change in education systems. By partnering with reputable investors and academic institutions, it ensures scalability and long-term impact. Moreover, through its network of schools, including partnerships with governments, Rising Academy continues to spearhead affordable programs and tools, transforming lives and communities across West Africa.

The efficacy of Rising Academy’s approach is best illustrated through real-world examples. In one instance, a rural community in Sierra Leone saw a remarkable improvement in academic outcomes following the implementation of Rising on Air. By engaging local stakeholders and leveraging existing technologies, the program not only bridged educational gaps but also fostered community empowerment. Such case studies highlight the practical application and scalability of Rising Academy’s innovative solutions, reaffirming its commitment to equitable education and sustainable development. 

Planting Seeds of Aspiration

Rising Academy Network’s initiative has profoundly resonated with countless students across African communities. This steadfast commitment to ensuring quality education for all not only nurtures the aspirations of African children for a brighter future but also equips them to navigate toward success in life’s endeavors. 

Moreover, Rising Academy’s attainment of B Corp certification underscores the company’s adherence to stringent standards of verified social and environmental performance, as well as its unwavering commitment to transparency and accountability. Through strategic collaborations with like-minded corporations prioritizing sustainability, Rising Academy ensures that its partnerships are aligned with its core values and objectives, further reinforcing its steadfast commitment to environmental stewardship. Furthermore, the attainment of B Corp certification signifies not only a benchmark of excellence but also a tangible demonstration of Rising Academy’s commitment to corporate responsibility. This certification underscores the rigorous standards upheld by the company, serving as a beacon of integrity within the corporate landscape.

Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Rising Academy’s endeavors resoundingly affirm its commitment to environmental protection and sustainable development. Notably, the introduction of Rori—an AI-powered virtual math tutor—represents a pioneering effort to address educational inequities, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. By leveraging instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Rori facilitates seamless interaction with students, fostering equitable access to educational resources without incurring additional costs. 

The incorporation of text-to-speech technology further enhances Rori’s accessibility, particularly for children with limited literacy skills, thereby fostering inclusivity within the classroom. Since its inception in November 2022, this industry-recognized chatbot has made substantial inroads, boasting a user base exceeding 40,000 across multiple countries. Notably, its attractive customer acquisition cost of less than $0.10 per user underscores its efficacy in promoting math fluency while nurturing critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students.

Distance Learning: Breaking the Wall to AI-powered Personalised Learning for All

Roots of Empowerment

Dedicated to societal advancement through educational initiatives, Rising Academy Network actively engages in local community outreach through the Elimo-Soko project. This initiative serves as a collaborative platform, uniting governmental bodies and industry experts to tackle the multifaceted challenges pervasive in the African educational landscape. At its core, the Elimo-Soko project endeavors to meticulously assess, refine, and advocate for affordable, scalable educational interventions tailored to foster widespread impact across the continent. The overarching objective is steeped in a profound aspiration for government participation, recognizing that state involvement not only ensures alignment with national priorities but also fosters sustainability in the long run.

Partnering with Sector Education Inspectors and Headteachers in Rwanda, Rising Academy Network recently participated in a two-day workshop. This bespoke engagement equipped headteachers with a robust toolkit essential for providing steadfast support to their teaching staff through structured cadences and effective feedback loops. Central to this endeavor were Rising Academy’s FasterMath and FasterReading Programs, lauded by participating educators for their efficacy, with reports indicating a remarkable >90% satisfaction rate owing to the palpable positive impact witnessed firsthand.

Moreover, the Elimo-Soko project exemplifies Rising Academy Network’s commitment to grassroots involvement and community empowerment. Through targeted community engagement initiatives, the project not only solicits input from local stakeholders but actively incorporates their perspectives into the design and implementation of educational interventions. This collaborative approach ensures that solutions are contextually relevant, resonating with the unique needs and aspirations of the communities they serve.

In addition to fostering collaboration, Rising Academy Network spearheads capacity-building activities designed to fortify educational infrastructure and empower local educators. These initiatives extend beyond mere pedagogy, encompassing a holistic approach that addresses systemic challenges and nurtures sustainable growth. By investing in the professional development of educators and administrators, Rising Academy Network catalyzes lasting change, empowering communities to chart their path toward educational excellence.

Furthermore, the Elimo-Soko project is informed by insights gleaned from experts and researchers deeply entrenched in the educational landscape of Africa. By contextualizing its approach within broader educational trends and research findings, Rising Academy Network ensures that its interventions are not only innovative but also grounded in empirical evidence. This interdisciplinary approach not only enhances the efficacy of interventions but also fosters a deeper understanding of the complex challenges facing the African educational ecosystem.

Blossoms of Today, Forests of Tomorrow

The impact of Rising Academy’s education model reverberates through the success stories of its alumni, underscoring the impact inherent in quality education. In 2023, Rising Academy private schools in Sierra Leone showcased exemplary performance in national examinations, clinching top positions amidst stiff competition. Notably, their students secured a remarkable 100% pass rate in the National Primary School Examinations, securing the coveted first position among 600 schools in the rural Western region. This stellar performance extended to the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), where Rising students again clinched the top spot among 350 Junior Secondary Schools (JSS). Such achievements not only validate the efficacy of Rising Academy’s pedagogical approach but also serve as beacons of hope for communities aspiring toward educational excellence.

Beyond the accolades, the network’s impact reverberates in the tangible metrics of success. Their Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 73 signifies a resounding vote of confidence from parents and guardians, translating into a notable 17% increase in enrollment rates. These statistics paint a vivid picture of Rising Academy’s unwavering commitment to fostering holistic development and academic excellence among its students.

Looking ahead, Rising Academy embarks on ambitious endeavors aimed at amplifying its impact across Africa. Leveraging innovation, particularly through artificial intelligence, the company forges ahead with projects like the Bambai School Improvement System. This integrated suite of digital tools seeks to elevate education standards and outcomes within educational institutions, promising impact at scale. Additionally, plans to expand government partnerships and introduce initiatives like Rori to the public domain emphasize Rising Academy’s commitment to democratizing access to quality education.

Yet, amid aspirations for growth lie considerations of scalability and sustainability. Rising Academy navigates these challenges with strategic foresight, mindful of the evolving educational landscape. Partnerships and collaborations emerge as linchpins in this journey, serving as catalysts for innovation and extending the company’s reach into underserved communities. Through such alliances, Rising Academy not only augments its impact but also nurtures a network of stakeholders invested in the collective pursuit of educational equity.

As the company charts its course towards expanding its reach and impact, it remains steadfast in its mission to harness the power of education as a catalyst for societal advancement. Through collaborative efforts and innovative solutions, Rising Academy epitomizes the ethos of positive change. From empowering marginalized communities to nurturing generational aspirations, its impact resonates far beyond classrooms. Through a multifaceted approach rooted in adaptability and innovation, the Network continues to redefine educational paradigms, paving the way for a brighter and more inclusive future in Africa.

Reflecting on Rising Academy’s journey raises a profound question: What legacy awaits future generations if we neglect to invest in equitable education today? Amidst myriad challenges, one imperative remains clear: championing educational equity as a fundamental human right. Together, let us heed this call to action, forging a future where every child thrives, and education’s promise illuminates the path toward a brighter tomorrow.

Reviewed by Tomi Abe & Adetoro Adetayo, Co-Publishers & Editors of Susinsight

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Jackie Omekara Jackie is a Contributing Researcher and Writer at Susinsight, reporting on trends across Africa's economy, society, and environment. She holds a BSc in Computer Science and works as a CyberSecurity Analyst in Canada.