Meet the Creators: Monika Piessens from Aiducation

Sonja Bichsel · 8 min · 03.04.2017

We believe that the world’s greatest challenges will never be solved by one person or organization alone. We need to work to together! We are introducing our new series #MeetTheCreators with a monthly interview with a member showing his/her impact and work for reaching the sustainable development goals

 

Meet our SDG this month: 

The Sustainable Development Goal Nr 4 wants to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

 

Meet our creator this month: 

Member:   Monika Piessens
Organisation:   Aiducation International
SDG:   Nr 4 – Quality Education

 

 

 

Monika Piessens (photo by Luis Laugga)

Monika Piessens (photo by Luis Laugga)

 

Can you tell us a little bit about Aiducation?

Aiducation grew from a need on the ground. Our regional founder in Kenya found access to quality secondary education in Kenya to be a gap – especially for the most motivated students. Worldwide there are 400 Million students who have no access to secondary education, mostly because of financial challenges, but also for other reasons. Of those 400 Million we focus on the top 10 percent of students. There are 40 Million students who are extremely motivated and complete primary education with good grades. They want to continue but can’t. This is something Aiducation cannot accept and started focusing on the Millenium Development Goal on Access to Education. The current Sustainable Development Goal No. 4  is the follow up to the MDGs which ended in 2015.

 

How is your project contributing to the Sustainable Development Goal Nr. 4 (Quality Education)?

So first, we offer scholarships to students to attend quality secondary schools and second, we offer additional mentoring and academies to ensure that students don’t just have a secondary school diploma but also access to other opportunities.

Regarding our scholarships, in Kenya, where students have to pay for secondary education, we work with boarding schools. Students receive a 4-year scholarship. In the Philippines it is slightly different. Public secondary schools are for free but the quality is extremely poor. You have teachers who are managing several classes within one classroom simultaneously and the entry exams for university are extremely challenging. We have a partner organization in the Philippines since 2014. They have a long track record and offer weekend and summer schools to help raise children’s skills to pass the entrance exams for university. This is how we try to improve overall quality and access to education.

As part of the academies and mentoring we offer interview training, we train soft skills, self-confidence, life skills and try to help them gain access to the labor market or create self-employment. They also form a network as alumni. Within the training, an important component is ‘giving back’ – how the students can help advance their community and society.

 

What do you like most about working on a project that really makes a difference?

There are some short-term impacts, for example on student’s self-confidence, where students feel – “hey with this entrepreneurship training, I have the opportunity to realize my dreams”. Students apply by describing their dream job. We have students who want to be doctors, teachers, etc. Meeting them during our academies is extremely motivating. It is gratifying to contribute to something larger and it is inspiring for me to work in this way, because I meet so many people on so many different levels. I work with the students, our international teams, I work with foundations and private persons in Switzerland and our team is extremely dedicated. It’s a privilege to work with such dedicated people every day.

 

Do you have a favourite Aiducation success story?

Now when I went to Kenya for the first time last December to join two academies, I met one Alumni Jimmy T. who attended a startup academy to start his own business and then he came for an exchange to Switzerland and saw these bicycle couriers in Zurich. He was so inspired it was something he wanted to start in Kenya. He won the alumni startup fund from Swiss Re Foundation and he managed to start a company. Now he is employing people in this velo courier business in a town on the coast in Kenya. And mid-April  he will be a mentor in one of our startup academies. He is giving a presentation on how to fund your business and he is going to mentor the students on how to create their own business. He sees that Aiducation had an impact and when he flourishes he can give back. He is also a mentor to other students and guide them and to me this is really inspirational. For me there is a big risk in this work that you create dependency on funding. But when it gets self-sustainable I can stand behind it.

 

How can people get engaged?

There are several ways to get engaged. At the moment we have two paid, open positions in the Swiss team – for a Business Development Manager and a Donor Relations and Sales Support. We also always have room for volunteers with relevant skills who want to contribute to our impact. For example a volunteer who has a degree in education, a teaching degree because we want to work more with schools in Switzerland.

We also look for companies who want to grow with us and do summer schools with us, who look for collaboration opportunities with a particular expertise they have.

And of course, we always look for people who can sponsor a scholarship for our students. We try to be very transparent and have a database on our website of students who have a dream of becoming for example  a doctor or a teacher. You can try to find a student who could be a good match for you and support them with a scholarship. You can also become an AiduFriend who makes a contribution of at least 100 Francs per year and then you are kept up to date with all our developments. We have meetings where everybody comes and learns about the progress and can meet our students. The lowest entry level for engagement is a get-together we organize every summer in Zürich, where two of our students are present, to share a little about their story. It’s a good way to get to know us and learn more about us.

 

In general, I am very happy to always share more. If someone is interested or sees an opportunity for synergy, I am happy to meet at Impact Hub Zürich at least two days a week. We are very open and a learning organization and always seek new ways to work, collaborate and grow. Connect with Monika!

 

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I am a storytelling and communications professional. I support entrepreneurs in the field of innovation, arts and education to put their thoughts into words and express what they contribute to clients, organizations and society with clarity and focus. One conversation at a time we prioritize w...

Sonja Bichsel, Storytelling, Communications, Civic participation, Education & Coaching

bichsel@gmail.com

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