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 who have substantial experience and ties to 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 in the developing country where they have demonstrated substantial ties.
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.
The Echidna Global Scholars Program is no longer accepting applications for the 2017 program. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for questions. You can read the latest content from our Echidna Global Scholars here.
August – December 2016 Echidna Global Scholars
Ellen Chigwanda | Zimbabwe
Project Manager for the DFID Girls Education Challenge Fund Project (IGATE: Improving Girls Access through Transforming Education) and Country Office Gender Focal Point with CARE International in Zimbabwe
In the past she has also worked as an independent Gender and Social Development Advisor/Consultant for organizations such as the SADC Parliamentary Forum and UN Women, and has worked in various capacities on girls’ and young women’s empowerment with local NGOs. Ms. Chigwanda holds a Masters in Development Studies degree from the University of the Free State (South Africa) and is working toward a Ph.D. in Development and Management with North West University (South Africa).
Ms. Ellen Chigwanda’s research will focus on examining the relationship between girls’ education and climate change in rural Zimbabwe, more specifically the impact of drought on girls’ education outcomes. Her goal is to develop and make the case for a model for resilience in education programs that will help to keep girls in school during times of extreme climate crisis.
Ganga Gautam | Nepal
Associate Professor of English Education at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal
Although his focus has been primarily English language instruction and teacher training, his passion for girls’ education motivated him to develop and implement a girls’ empowerment program that reached 75 girls in 15 schools in three remote districts in Nepal. Mr. Gautam holds a B.Ed., an M.Ed., and an M.A. of English Language Teaching. He has collaborated with the U.S. Embassy, British Council, the Nepalese Ministry of Education, the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA), among others.
Mr. Ganga Gautam’s research will focus on examining the impacts of his program with the aim to design an evidence-based girls’ empowerment program that can be implemented in some of Nepal’s hardest-to-reach communities.
Joyce Kinyanjui | Kenya
Program Manager and the previous Executive Officer at Women Educational Researchers of Kenya (WERK)
Ms. Joyce Kinyanjui has been involved in CUE’s Learning Metrics Task Force and works closely with ministry officials and those involved in CUE’s current Learning Champion collaborations. Ms. Kinyanjui holds a B.A., M.Ed. and is completing her Ph.D. from South Africa where she is studying financial literacy skills of women entrepreneurs in Kenya.
Ms. Joyce Kinyanjui’s research entails an 11 county landscape analysis of the life skills and mentorship programs being implemented in government schools and their impact on retention and learning outcomes for girls.
Christine Okudi | Uganda
Education Quality Manager at Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS)
Ms. Christine Okudi is an active member of the education community in Uganda, and has over 20 years of experience in education and development. Having worked with many agencies in various capacities in the past. Ms. Okudi holds a B.A. and M.A. in Development Studies from Uganda Martyrs University.
Her research will focus on the role of the Senior Woman Teacher (SWT) within Ugandan schools, with an eye toward providing recommendations for ways to strengthen the impact and effectiveness of the position as a key role in skill development for girls.
August – December 2015 Echidna Global Scholars
Musammat Badrunnesha | Bangladesh
Founder and Chairperson, Empowerment and Human Development Society
Ms. Musammat Badrunnesha has over 15 years of experience on girls’ empowerment efforts as a career-oriented administrator, social scientist, and entrepreneur. She is the CEO, founder, and chairperson of Empowerment and Human Development Society and the founding principal of Captain Academy, based in Sylhet, Bangladesh. In the last three years, Ms. Badrunnesha has worked with 300 madrasas providing workshops and trainings for teachers, administrators, youth, and women. She is an alumna of the Community Solutions Program (CSP)—a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State for community leaders implemented by IREX. During her CSP fellowship, Ms. Badrunnesha worked at the Girls Inc. YWCA in West Central Michigan where she was involved in girls’ education programming. She holds a M.Ed. in education from Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology and a M.A. in history from Bangladesh National University as well as a B.Ed. in education and a B.A. in social science from Bangladesh National University
Ms. Musammat Badrunnesha’s research at Brookings will focus on current approaches to and challenges in providing girls’ education through madrasas in Bangladesh. She will examine potential strategies for reducing the girls’ drop-out rate and ways of improving quality schooling in madrasas.
Dileni Gunewardena | Sri Lanka
Professor of Economics, University of Peradeniya
Dr. Dileni Gunewardena is a professor of Economics at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and has previous research experience in empirical analyses of poverty, child nutrition, and gender and ethnic wage inequality. She is a Global Development Network Research Award winner, a Fulbright Research Scholar Alumnae at the University of California-Riverside, and has consulted for the United Nations Development Program, the World Food Program, and the World Bank. Dr. Gunewardena serves on the scientific committee of the Partnership for Economic Policy research network and is a regional co-coordinator for South Asia of the academic steering committee of Global Association of Master’s in Development Practice Programs. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in economics from American University and a B.A. economics from the University of Peradeniya.
While at Brookings, Dr. Dileni Gunewardena will explore why Sri Lanka has been unable to translate its impressive achievements in girls’ education into greater female labor force participation.
Jamila Razzaq | Pakistan
Education Adviser, Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan
Dr. Jamila Razzaq is the education adviser at Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan (AKFP). She leads AKFP’s education program and projects on strengthening teacher education, early childhood development, and educational development as well as improvement projects in multiple regions in Pakistan. Before joining AKFP, Dr. Razzaq was working as a research associate at the school of education at the University of Glasgow. She has 23 years of teaching and research experience, during which she has focused on issues of educational reform such as policy and practice, teacher professionalism, educational development, Pakistani education system, and gender issues. Dr. Razzaq has conducted research and presented on a variety of topics including gendered views on career choices, girls’ education, and women’s access to health facilities in Pakistan as well as educational change management and experiences of school leaders in the implementation of educational reforms. Dr. Razzaq holds a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow, a M.A. in educational planning and management from Allama Iqbal Open University, a M.A. in English Literature from Bahauddin Zakariya University, and a B.A. in psychology from Government College from Women.
Dr. Jamila Razzaq will explore contextualized, flexible, and adaptable community-based education models as possibilities for girls’ education in Pakistan.
Suman Sachdeva | India
Technical Director of Education, CARE India
As a strong promoter of quality education with a passion for ensuring the provision of quality education to children, especially girls from marginalized settings, Dr. Suman Sachdeva has been working as the technical director of education at CARE India since 2010 leading the Girls Education Program. Her interests focus on out-of-school girls, leadership, and early grade reading in children. She has over two decades of experience with time spent as a practitioner in elementary education, pedagogy, and research in the areas of gender, child development, and community mobilization. In the past she has worked with the UNICEF Education Section and led an innovative life-skills project with a national NGO in the South Asia working for children in difficult circumstances. Dr. Sachdeva has planned and implemented an integrated education program with a focus on quality education for street and working children, and provided technical support at the country and state levels to programs including Education for All. She holds a Ph.D. in education, a dual master’s (M.Ed. and M.Phil.) in education gender studies/child development, and a B.Ed. in education focusing on/child development/mental health/gender studies from the University of Delhi.
As an Echidna global scholar, Dr. Suman Sachdeva will explore and understand more intensely the various social, pedagogical, and policy barriers that hinder girls in tribal settings from accessing a quality early grade reading program in the primary government schools.
August – December 2014 Echidna Global Scholars
Mayyada Abu Jaber | Jordan
CEO and Founder, World of Letters
Ms. Abu Jaber has 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’s research focused on the relationship between gender bias in the education curriculum and the role of women in Jordanian society as an economic provider and social contributor. More specifically, her research examined the gender sensitivity of the education system by assessing the manner in which gender concepts are framed in national textbooks for grades 1-10.
Relebohile 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 examined 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.
Nima 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 research focused on the 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 examined methods for promoting girls’ education in Bhutan, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
August – December 2013 Echidna Global Scholars
Adefunke 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.
Madalo 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.
Judith-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 Development, Practical 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.