Reflecting on RELI through nature: Five years, upwards and onwards

By Michael Babu 

I have been thinking about what I would liken RELI’s journey over the last five years and I have decided to borrow a leaf from nature.  In the riddle that follows I highlight five core characteristics of an important gift from nature: 

  1. It creates a habitat for fauna and flora: Oh, how we have seen leaders rise through RELI. Many of us are re-discovering our capacities, witnessing ourselves transform into improved versions of ourselves. This is a result of the access we all have to RELI’s vast network of expertise and resources, at the individual and organizational levels. This has generated an endless supply of excellence, dedication and commitment among us – to work towards a reality where all of Africa’s children have access to quality education. 
  1. It produces biomass for renewable energy: Evidence is the biomass we produce at RELI. Evidence-based advocacy is renewable energy because through it, we can develop many interventions that will align with context and thus have a more significant impact. Education sectors across East Africa are guided by outdated policies, guided by old data, which means that we are constantly compromising on the quality of education. RELI’s commitment to producing useful data and making it widely accessible, demonstrates that evidence is the only way we can renew our interventions and influence policy. 
  1. It is a source of livelihood, thus reducing poverty levels: this is self-evident, not only for all RELI organizations but individuals as well. Partnerships in research papers, job opportunities and empowering the future generation with necessary skills are evidence that RELI is empowering teachers and students alike. 
  1. It prevents soil erosion thus restoring degraded land: RELI is repositioning lifeskills education as an important area of study for all students, regionally. The ALIVE project which equips teachers with the tools to impactfully teach lifeskills and empowers students with problem solving, critical thinking and socio-emotional coping mechanisms. Through this program, RELI is not only revitalising an area of education that has been imagined as unimportant or contextually irrelevant, but we are also resituating lifeskills education as a tool that can enhance children’s academic outcomes, lives and careers!  
  1. It is the fastest growing plant on earth: In just 5 years, RELI has grown into an organisation with representatives from three East African countries, over seventy organizations. It has developed into an organisation made up of over 500 individuals who are all working towards shared goals. 

By now, I assume that you have been able to uncover the mysterious gift from nature – the bamboo tree.  

For the first five years of a bamboo tree’s existence most of its growth is underground. To the above-ground world its growth is not apparent. During this period, the bamboo tree’s roots sink deeper into the soil, enabling the tree to gather many nutrients before they make themselves visible to the rest of the world. To me, that is the growth trajectory that RELI has been experiencing. We have been pacing through a dark tunnel, our eyes solely focused on the light at the end of it, our steps have been shaky but progressive. We have been gaining muscle and building momentum. Now, we are leaving the underground and officially registering; evidence to the rest of the world that we are here to stay. Like bamboo, we will now grow fast and strong. 

In the words of Fabrizio Romano, a renowned football transfer correspondent: Here We Go! Let us keep on moving! 


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