This year has been one of growth despite the ongoing challenges of the covid-19 pandemic. The Kepler team has demonstrated resilience and innovation in adjusting to the new reality of study and work in a shifting global landscape. I want to highlight and celebrate three milestones that will have a transformative impact on Kepler’s future. First, in June 2021, we received a significant donation from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett that will accelerate Kepler’s impact for young Africans. Second, we started in-person training in Ethiopia through the Graduate Employment Program with two local partners Nefas Silk Polytechnic College and Addis Ababa Tegbareid Polytechnic College. Together, we trained over 800 young people with 85% of graduates employed within 6 months. In fact, more generally, and despite challenges in the employment market in East Africa
and globally, our employment outcomes in Rwanda remain high with 80% of recent bachelor’s degree graduates and 90% of all bachelor’s degree graduates employed within 6 months. We will continue to create innovative solutions to support students, particularly our refugee students and the most marginalized to secure decent employment. Third, we opened a new office in Canada that will support resource mobilization and we look forward to the new opportunities this brings.
While at the end of last year, we were cautiously optimistic, today, we are excited to get started with 2022. I know I speak for the entire board and all of Kepler’s many stakeholders when I express my deep gratitude to the Kepler team for their dedication and tireless work as they have steered the organization to this much stronger place through all the storms of the past few years.
Thank you all.
What an incredible year this has been! This year, thanks to our incredible team, we served our 3000th young person with 1730 served in 2021 alone. Of the young people served this year, 835 were trained as part of the Graduate Employment Program (GEP) in Ethiopia. Our GEP pilot in Rwanda with IPRC Gishari TVET college saw 100% of students trained get a professional internship. We are excited to see the GEP program grow in Ethiopia and Rwanda. We continue to push for gender parity in our GEP programs. Already, 46% of young people trained in Ethiopia are women and we want to do more.
In July, we signed a partnership with Mastercard Foundation to expand our Iteme preparatory program which prepares refugee and vulnerable students, especially young women, to transition from secondary education to tertiary education, employment or self-employment in Rwanda and Ethiopia. This year, we expanded our existing program that transitionsn secondary school students to tertiary education in Rwanda. In 2022, we will expand Iteme to Ethiopia and launch Iteme+ which focuses on transitions to employment and self-employment in Rwanda.
Our support to refugee students continues to grow as we pilot innovations to empower their success at Kepler and their transition to employment or self-employment. This year, we built a women’s room that allows female students at our Kiziba campus to use as a private space for sanitary reasons or to breastfeed. We also launched a special internship fund that refugee graduates could access to be able to relocate from Kiziba refugee camp if they secured an internship or job outside the camp. An additional stipend is offered to women with children to support childcare costs.
In November, as part of our partnership with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), we graduated 291 students bringing the total number of bachelor’s degree graduates to 662 with 51% being women. We look forward to growing our partnership with SNHU even as we launch our own degrees with Kepler College in Rwanda next year. We are excited to continue to serve students from our newly renovated Kepler Kigali campus, an over four-hectare property purchased this year.
Beyond our direct interventions, Kepler wants to leverage its experience to support the wider education and skilling ecosystem in Africa. We are proud to be part of The Education Collaborative created by Ashesi University to increase higher education outcomes collectively and sustainably. As a member and co-chair of the East Africa hub, in 2021, we became lead on the Systems Change Program, a mentorship program where universities looking to improve employment outcomes are matched with institutions who have a strong systems and employment track record. We look forward to doing more within the Education Collaborative and more directly by providing technical assistance to partner institutions on career services and employability, competency-based education, and teacher training, among other areas.
As well, this year, we took concrete steps towards financial sustainability, receiving over $450,000 in funding through the Future of Work Fund managed by Chancen International. The Fund provides upfront funding for every Income Shared Agreement (ISA) signed by eligible students. Students start paying once they graduate and are working. We will continue to prioritize overall sustainability and look forward to continuing to offer access to quality education and training to our students, especially women, refugees, and the most vulnerable students.
Next year, we accelerate our already growing pace. We will continue to focus on all our students, making sure they succeed at and after Kepler. That is our bottom line, and we thank all our partners and donors for supporting us in this endeavor.
Kepler first started its partnership with Southern New Hampshire University in 2013 to offer SNHU’s accredited online degrees at our site in Kigali. The goal of the partnership is to serve talented Rwandan students who would struggle to pay for higher education. Kepler offers students in Rwanda high-quality support services to help graduates in the transition to employment.
In 2015, Kepler opened a site at the Kiziba Refugee Camp in western Rwanda in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, the IKEA Foundation, Rwanda’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The Kiziba camp was opened two decades ago for those fleeing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is currently home to over 17,000 refugees. The Kiziba site allows promising students living in the camp to earn a U.S. accredited degree from Southern New Hampshire University and pursue employment opportunities.
This year has been a challenging year globally for employment but we have remained close to our goal of 90% employment within six months of graduation. In 2021, we plan to accelerate efforts to improve employment around our refugee population.
Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Education Movement (GEM) works with proven, on the ground partners to offer higher education programs for students affected by forced displacement. GEM provides refugees and other vulnerable populations with the opportunity to pursue a US-accredited BA or AA degree online through their self paced program. Kepler has been a proud SNHU partner since our founding in 2013, and we have been thrilled to participate in the growth of this international community of learners as GEM has expanded with partners in Lebanon, South Africa, Kenya, and Malawi. Watch the 5-minute TED Talk to hear directly from students and the program’s executive director, Chrystina Russell, about how GEM’s flexible, competency-based model sets up graduates for success and empowerment wherever they are.
Iteme (bridge in Kinyarwanda) is an instructional program supporting refugee and vulnerable students across Rwanda to transition from secondary education to college or a career.
In late 2020, Kepler launched our pilot Graduate Employment Program in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The program is a partnership between Kepler and two public polytechnic colleges, Nefas Silk Polytechnic College and Addis Ababa Tegbareid Polytechnic College. Kepler’s work in Ethiopia aims to improve the employability of recent graduates by filling critical gaps in soft skills such as communication, technology, problem solving, and professionalism.
Higher education institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa are challenged to address the increasing concerns on access, cost and quality of higher education in the region. In order to respond to this critical challenge by expanding Kepler’s impact on the higher education landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa through a scalable, affordable and quality higher education model, we are at the final stage of the institutional and program accreditation process to establish Kepler College in Rwanda. Through Kepler College, we are excited to start a project management undergraduate program with a vision to launch three other relevant programs including innovation and entrepreneurship with a total student enrollment reaching 1600 in the next five years.
Our vision is to establish an innovative model of higher education by addressing the concerns on access, cost and quality of higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through an innovative students’ income share agreement, we will be able to remove financial barriers to access higher education for students from vulnerable communities. Students will not be required to pay in advance for their education; but through a gainful employment. This scalable model will contribute towards enhancing higher education enrollment rate in Sub-Saharan Africa, which was about 9% in 2019 according to the World Bank and this was much lower than the global average of about 38%.
In order to ensure high employment outcomes, Kepler gives special attention to the alignment of the curriculum, academic offerings, assessment and career support to the labour market needs. Students at Kepler College will be supported to drive their own learning and they will be assessed on their ability to apply their knowledge and skills on various work-like projects. We will also be able to bring students from diverse backgrounds to a similar level by bridging the gap in their school education by offering foundational modules in communication, technology and critical thinking at the start of their education.
Expand our services through newly launched Kepler College & other partnerships
Expand to new geographies
Scale innovative education financing model through Future of Work Fund
Focus countries are;
Offer opportunities to more young people through upskilling programs
Tailored Programs in Rwanda (2021)
In consultation with the government and partners, piloting blended programs that support the TVET ecosystem and government positions with competencies offered by Kepler’s Foundation Program. Working to build a national internship program for critical positions with goal to place Kepler graduates (although open to all graduates in Rwanda).
Graduate Employment Program (Ethiopia, 2021)
Built on Kepler Foundation program to providing communication, technology and professional competencies/soft skills to TVET and university graduates in Ethiopia who are unemployed.
Given our mission to offer high quality education to young people who would not usually access higher education and training, Kepler’s funding model has been heavily philanthropy driven. With shifting donor priorities and the additional strain of the Covid-19 pandemic, over the last three years we have been focused on Kepler’s sustainability and reducing reliance on philanthropy.
A key aspect of our strategy is our partnership with Chancen International, with whom we launched an ethical student financing mechanism in 2018. Eligible students are now able to access Income Share Agreements (ISAs).
In 2021, Chancen International will be launching the Future of Work Fund, which will be a gamechanger for young Africans who want to access ethical student financing to attend Kepler or another partnering institution.
Statements of Financial Position December 31, 2020 and 2019
Statement of Activities
For the Year Ended December 31, 2020