Center for Universal Education

Echidna Global Scholars Program

The Echidna Global Scholars Program is a visiting fellowship hosted by the Center for Universal Education (CUE) at the Brookings Institution. The program aims to build the research and analytical skills of NGO leaders and academics from developing countries. Echidna Scholars spend four to six months at Brookings pursuing research on global education issues, with a specific focus on improving learning opportunities and outcomes for girls in the developing world. Upon completion of their fellowship, CUE supports the scholars in implementing an action plan that applies their new skills and expertise to share with their home institutions.

During their residency at Brookings, Echidna Scholars work with CUE staff to develop a research project. They draw upon Brookings’ intellectual capital and convening power, as well as the extended public policy community in Washington through meetings and conferences, and through networking with the broader international development community.

This program is made possible by the generous contribution of The Echidna Giving Fund.

Please email for additional information on this program. 

CUE is now accepting applications for the 2015 cohort of Echidna Global Scholars. Please click here to learn more about the requirements and submission process.

August – December 2014 Echidna Global Scholars

MayyadaMayyada Abu Jaber | Jordan
CEO and Founder, World of Letters

Ms. Abu Jaber brings over 10 years of experience in education strategy, advocacy and development. She is the founder and CEO of World of Letters, a social enterprise dedicated to promoting quality education in the Arabic language by providing innovative program solutions and consultancy services to the education sector. Additionally, she was the founding CEO of Jordan Education for Employment, which she continues to support as a member of the board of directors. In 2004, she contributed to the Education Reform for Knowledge Economy Support project at the Jordanian Ministry of Education, where she provided national teacher training and was instrumental in the development of the Management Information Stream curriculum. Moreover, she has also worked as an education consultant to Queen Rania Abdullah II of Jordan, and collaborated closely with USAID on projects related to youth and environmental education. Ms. Abu Jaber attained her M.Sc. in Environmental Geology from Duke University, and her B.Sc. in Geology and Mineralogy from the University of Jordan.

During her residency at Brookings, Ms. Abu Jaber will focus on the relationship between gender bias in the educational curriculum and the role of women in Jordanian society as an economic provider and social contributor. More specifically, her research will examine the gender sensitivity of the existent educational system by assessing the manner in which gender concepts are framed in national textbooks for grades 1-10.

RelebohileRelebohile Moletsane | South Africa
Professor and J.L. Dube Chair in Rural Education, University of KwaZulu–Natal

As the J.L. Dube Chair in Rural Education at the University of KwaZulu–Natal, Professor Moletsane has extensive experience in educational development, curriculum studies, and other issues at the intersection of gender and education. She acted as the director of the Gender and Development Unit at the Human Sciences Research Council until 2010, and was formerly a senior lecturer at the University of Natal. The author of several articles and book chapters, her publications have concentrated on the applicability of digital technologies to quality education, developmental strategies, and poverty alleviation within rural contexts. In addition, she sits on several editorial committees, including those for the Journal of International Education and Leadership and the International Journal of Girlhood Studies. Professor Moletsane received her Ph.D. and M.S. in Education from Indiana University Bloomington, and her B.Ed. from the University of Fort Hare.

Professor Moletsane’s work will examine the barriers that confront girls in South Africa as they pursue their primary and secondary education. With a central focus on the effects of unplanned pregnancy on girls’ participation and attendance in schools, her research will identify possible interventions for rectifying this issue.


NimaNima Tshering | Bhutan
Professional Assistant, His Majesty the King of Bhutan

Through his work as a professional assistant as well as a former deputy royal chamberlain to the King of Bhutan, Mr. Tshering has contributed to the implementation of several social welfare programs in the region, including a land redistribution effort for the poorest members of Bhutanese society. During a three-year period, he conducted interviews with impoverished families in over 300 remote villages in the Himalayas, where he sought to understand their hardships and give voice to their concerns. Since then, he has held other positions within the Bhutanese government, worked as a public policy consultant for the World Bank, and was named a young global leader by the World Economic Forum in 2013. Mr. Tshering holds a M.P.A./I.D. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a M.E.M. from the University of Canterbury, and a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kansas, which he attended as a Fulbright scholar.

Mr. Tshering’s area of research will focus on the current state of girls’ education in Bhutan. While gender parity in primary education has been achieved in the country, an enrollment gap still exists in tertiary and technical education. Against this backdrop, he will examine methods for promoting girls’ education in Bhutan, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

August – December 2013 Echidna Global Scholars

adefunke ekine_thumb.jpgAdefunke Ekine | Nigeria
Lecturer, Tai Solarin University Of Education, Ijagun, Ogun State

Dr. Ekine is a lecturer at Tai Solarin University of Education in Ijagun, Ogun State and has more than two decades of experience in school administration and teaching. She holds a Ph.D. in early childhood education from the University of Ibadan. Additionally, she has a Masters in early childhood education and a Post-Graduate Diploma in education from the University of Ibadan as well as a B.S. in food science and technology from University of Ife. She serves as the country liaison for the Association of Childhood Education International (ACEI) and is presently the state president of Organisation Mondiale Pour L’Education Prescolaire (OMEP), an international organization that caters for the well-being of children 0-8.

While at Brookings, Dr. Ekine examined gender-sensitive methods of teaching to promote the interest and boost the performance of primary school girls in science. Her research was aimed at informing both her work with student teachers at the classroom level and her advocacy for policies that promote education quality and equity in Nigeria.

samatim.jpgMadalo Samati | Malawi
Director of Programs, Creative Center for Community Mobilization

Through her work with the Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM), Ms. Samati has designed and led the implementation of community mobilization efforts to support education access and quality, HIV & AIDS prevention, gender sensitization and equity and anti-child labor campaigns. She has over 15 years of experience in Action Research, Theatre for Social Change, Participatory Rural Appraisal/Participatory Learning and Action, capacity building for grassroots structures, Gender Responsive Programming, Advocacy, and Project Monitoring & Evaluation. Ms. Samati holds a M.A. in sustainable development from Brandeis University and a B.A. in the humanities from Chancellor College at the University of Malawi.

Ms. Samati’s research centers on the relationship between cultural change and education policy. She has examined girls’ scholarship programs as well as in-school and out-of-school factors that affect girls’ learning opportunities and outcomes. While at Brookings, Ms. Samati’s research focused on the obstacles to the implementation of key policies - such as the readmission policy that allows pregnant girls to stay in and return to school - on girls’ education in Malawi.


walkerj.JPGJudith-Ann Walker | Nigeria
Managing Director, development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC)

Dr. Walker, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, has over 18 years of experience as a development practitioner in northern Nigeria, where she co-founded the development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC). As the dRPC’s Executive Director, she has secured competitive research and implementation grants for innovative girls’ education and public health interventions from a host of development partners, including the Ford Foundation, USAID Nigeria, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the World Bank, the Bernard Van Leer Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to implement and research girls’ education and public health interventions. Dr. Walker is the recipient of an Ashoka Innovators Fellowship (2004) and a published author. She holds a Ph.D. in development studies with a specialization in gender, education and industrial policy development as well as a M.A. in development studies and public policy and administration from the Institute of Social Studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Additionally, she holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in decentralization, rural planning and administration in the developing world from the Department of Development Co-operation in Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin, Germany, and a B.S. in government and public administration from the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad.

While at Brookings, Dr. Walker’s research focused on the effectiveness of keeping girls in school as a strategy for reducing high rates of early marriage in West Africa. Her study built on her prior research and on data she had collected on the status of education and child marriage in the region, as well as reviews of programs and policies to promote girls’ education and laws related to girls’ rights.

July - December 2012 Center for Universal Education Guest Scholars

Abraha Asfaw | Ethiopia
Lecturer in the department of Curriculum and Teacher Professional Development Studies at Addis Ababa University in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Since 2005, Asfaw has taught at Addis Ababa University in the department of Curriculum and Teacher Professional Development Studies in the College of Education and Behavioral Studies at Addis Ababa University. His education expertise stems from his experience as a secondary school mathematics teacher, teacher trainer, and student dean. Following these positions, Asfaw served as deputy bureau head for the provincial Tigray Bureau of Education, where he developed training materials and textbooks and evaluated curricula. Asfaw is a Ph.D. candidate in curriculum design and development at Addis Ababa University. He received a Master of Arts in psychology, specializing in measurement and evaluation, as well as in curriculum and instruction and a Bachelor of Arts in pedagogical science from Addis Ababa University.

In Ethiopia, girls represent only a quarter of the tertiary-level students, with the majority of them dropping out of school before the end of their first year. Abraha Asfaw’s research explored the competencies that promote the transition from secondary to tertiary education in order to help female students complete their university studies.

Khadim Hussain | Pakistan
Founder and chief executive officer of Grace Association Pakistan in Islamabad, Pakistan

Through his non-profit organization, Hussain focuses on empowering and improving the quality of life in marginalized and vulnerable communities in the least developed areas of Pakistan. He has engaged in behavioral change projects to promote girls’ education in Pakistan with support from community-based organizations such as Waliul Asr Falahi Anjuman, Karakuram Development Union (KDU), the Baltistan NGOs Network, the Canadian International Development Agency’s Gender Equality Resource Center and the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Development Program, Pakistan. Hussain has also worked for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Islamabad. Hussain holds a B.A. in civics and economics from the University of Punjab. He also holds certificates in educational leadership and management from the Aga Khan University and in development planning and management from IUCN-Northern Areas Conservation Strategy Support Program.

While Pakistan is still far from achieving universal primary education by 2015, girls and children with disabilities have fallen particularly behind in education access and quality. Khadim Hussain examined how fostering inclusive education through community school networks can increase enrollment and retention, and improve learning outcomes for marginalized groups and their communities. 

Urvashi Sahni | India
Founder and chief executive officer of the Study Hall Education Foundation in Lucknow, India

Study Hall Educational Foundation aims to bring the benefits of education to all levels of society throughout India by establishing primary and secondary schools, teacher training institutions, open school classes, vocational training programs and adult literacy programs. Sahni has established three K-12 schools, serving 3000 students including middle class urban children, disadvantaged girls from poor areas and rural children. She is also the co-founder and director of The Digital StudyHall, supported by an Ashoka fellowship, which extends the pedagogical practices developed by the foundation to rural and urban schools in Uttar Pradesh and throughout India. Sahni holds a Ph.D. and Master of Arts in education from the University of California, Berkeley. She also received a Master of Arts in philosophy from the University of Lucknow, India and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Pune, India.

India has shown tremendous progress in global education discourse from inputs to outcomes, but India’s government needs to move from enrollment numbers to achieving the goal of gender equality. In a case study on empowerment education, Urvashi Sahni argued that feminist pedagogy is critical to serving the needs of girls because it helps shift the focus from learning outcomes to life outcomes.

January - June 2012 Center for Universal Education Guest Scholars

Pamhidzayi Berejena Mhongera | Zimbabwe
Projects Manager at MicroKing Savings and Credit Company in Harare, Zimbabwe

Ms. Berejena manages donor funded microfinance projects aimed at building sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable groups in poor urban and rural communities in Zimbabwe. In addition to her work at MicroKing Savings and Credit Company, she is the founding member of Blossoms Children Community, a private voluntary organization supporting orphans and other vulnerable children and their families. For 10 years, Berejena worked as a human resources officer, salaries and benefits manager, and compensation and staff wellness manager for Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited. She has also worked with Mercy Corps, International Relief and DevelopmentPractical Action and the International Labour Organisation to plan and implement their microfinance projects. Berejena is a Ph.D. candidate working on her social studies dissertation at the University of Zimbabwe. She has a M.S. in development and project planning from the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom and a B.S. in sociology and gender development studies from Women’s University in Africa.

Ms. Berejena examined community-based educational strategies and individualized educational plans to ensure that orphan girls in Zimbabwe do not fall through the social services cracks or get lost in education transitions. Her research focused on service delivery reform alongside community collaboration in an effort to promote the psychosocial well-being of orphan girls.


 Mary Otieno | Kenya
Lecturer of Educational Planning and Economics of Education Research at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya

Prior to joining Kenyatta University, Dr. Otieno worked as a research executive for Research International TNS in addition to her role as an instructor at a government primary teacher training college. Otieno received her Ph.D. in educational planning and economics of education research from Kenyatta University, where she analyzed Kenya’s education policies and internal factors that inhibit change. She is also currently a member of Women Education Researchers of Kenya (WERK) and Nyanza Education Women Initiative (NEWI); both these initiatives promote girls’ education through enhanced participation and mentoring. Dr. Otieno’s principal areas of research include capacity building and networking, specifically pertaining to gendered education.

In rural Kenya, adolescent girls stagnate in performance and eventually drop out of school altogether. Dr. Otieno investigated the impact of mentoring girls at the primary school level and its impact on increased attendance, retention and improved academic performance over time.

 Babita Rana | Nepal
President and Chairperson of Power to the People Nepal in Kathmandu, Nepal

In an effort to promote the well-being of women and children, Ms. Rana established Power to the People Nepal — a non-profit organization that supports vulnerable and socially-excluded groups through mobilizing village clusters to build self-reliance, empowering girls and women as change agents and forging effective partnerships with local organizations. Prior to establishing the organization, Rana led a women’s entrepreneurship development program for economic empowerment as project director at Business Service Centre (BSC) Project. Before joining the BSC Project, she worked with the United Nations Population Fund in Nepal as a research assistant and program associate. Rana holds masters degrees in sociology from Tribhuvan University in Nepal, and in women’s and gender studies from San Francisco State University. She received her B.A. in economics also from Tribhuvan University.

Trafficking of adolescent girls is a major obstacle to education in rural Nepal. Ms. Rana examined government and donor approaches providing access to school, as well as the causes of high dropout rates among girls in secondary school.