Over the past twenty years many African governments have introduced programmes of universal primary education. In Uganda the availability of free primary education has seen enrolment at the primary level reach as much as 93%.
This was the situation that John Rendel, PEAS CEO and Founder encountered when, as a 21 year-old travelling to Uganda before his third year at university, he spent some time teaching at a primary school in a Kampala slum.
After speaking to the children about their aspirations for the future, John was shocked to learn that very few of the children there expected to continue to secondary school. He discovered that a severe lack of affordable places in secondary schools meant that there was no way these children’s families could afford for them to continue their education.
The excess demand for secondary places that John had become aware of was and still is a pan-African problem. This has been exacerbated by increased provision of primary education, as international attention and targets like those set by the Millennium Development Goals have focused attention and funding on primary education.
‘Failure to absorb the growing number of primary school leavers will undermine Universal Primary Education and broader National goals like the elimination of poverty’. Yusuf Nsubuga, Ugandan Commissioner for Secondary Education
Working with a Ugandan social entrepreneur, John saw that a limited supply of capital was the only thing holding back a rapid expansion of secondary schooling. And so, whilst finishing his degree, John fundraised to build and run a secondary school for the children he had taught, a school which still flourishes in Kampala.
Inspired to gain professional experience in the education sector, John then spent two years teaching secondary school maths as part of the Teach First scheme. Based on the success of that first school in Kampala, John developed an innovative model to provide sustainable, affordable, high quality secondary education to Ugandan children. And so PEAS was born.
In 2005, John left teaching to concentrate on PEAS, and was working part time for PEAS while supply-teaching, when he won an Unltd Level 2 Award which helped fund the growth of what was then just a one-school charity. Three years after first travelling to Uganda, John now had the start-up to grow the organisation and scale up the model, and thus employed his first staff in Kampala.
In 2008, with the support of many private donors, PEAS opened Onwards and Upwards Secondary School and Forest High School, the first two PEAS schools. Their success has been great: last year Onwards and Upwards was ranked in the top 17% of private schools in the country.
Since the launch of our first school, John has worked tirelessly to build teams in the UK, Uganda and Zambia, dedicated to growing the network of PEAS secondary schools in Africa. We are working in a progressive environment with strong support from the Ugandan and Zambian governments. In 2007, Uganda became the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to introduce a programme of Universal Secondary Education (USE), and the financial support PEAS schools receive from the government is one of the three ways we have been able to remove all tuition fees for students and maintain the schools' financial independence.
Just five years after the launch of our first school, PEAS is now running 21 schools in Uganda and one in Zambia, with more currently under construction and due to launch in February 2014.
Together, we aim to not only change the lives of thousands of children, but to make PEAS’ impact systemic. We hope to achieve this by working with African governments to help develop structures to support public-private partnerships that will enable a rapid increase in the provision of affordable, quality secondary education across the continent.