Reward learning with Gro-up 🎋

What's the challenge?

Above 10% of children raised in rural areas of Ibagué, Colombia are forced to drop out of school and enter the workforce to support their families' livelihood. 😦

Imagine being 14 and not having the option to go to school anymore.

Source: SOS Children's Village Ibagué

💡3 Striking stats in Colombia

9% of children

from low-income families are enrolled in tertiary education.

15 year-old

is the age group that makes up 43% the grade repetition rate. 


50% of homes

do not have access to stable internet.

How are their current experiences?

💬 According to local stakeholders.

Here are the top 3 concerns.

At home, students do not have internet access in the rural area. 

Even if they do, connectivity is poor due to the mountainous geological landscape and it's not sufficient for online learning right now. This barrier to education amplified during Covid.  

- Olivia (First-gen graduate, local STEM advocate)


Students feel discouraged due to limited prospective job opportunities.

Lots of students look up to their relatives and adult figures in their lives. They noticed that even after education, their families still struggle with employment and making a livable wage.

- Lenard (Professor in Social Studies with 10+ teaching / management and research experience)



Lots of kids come from low-income families, how do schools meet them where they're at? 

Public schools have limited spot and require learning material expenses while private schools are simply not affordable for the average household. 

- Lisa (Current university student, running a project focused on accessibility to education)

Rediscovering Stage

Alarming reports and statistics in Latin America 📉

23% of student dropouts according to the latest SITEAL (Latin American Educational Tendencies Information System) report.

The high dropout rates are primarily due to the disproportionate economic pressures weighing heavy on the conscience of students from lower income families. Many youth do not see a choice but to leave school in order to begin working to support their families around the age of 14-15. The “opportunity cost” of continuing their education is simply not worth it.

In addition, the report highlights 40% of students drop out because they believe what they are learning is not useful. 

Specifically in Tolima 📍

55.2% net coverage 

in secondary education compared to 91.7% in primary coverage.

That is approximately a 40% decline.

Source: Tolima Net Secondary School Coverage, 1990-2003  

50s average test scores

in Math, Science and Language.

Dropout rate is around 10-14% in rural areas. Amongst the 294,362 youths (age 0-14) of the local population, that's around 35,000 of kids dropping out. 

Honest reviews 💬

from locals left on different secondary schools on Google Map 

Why does this matter?

The serious consequence

When underprivileged teens drop out of school instead of receiving the quality education that they need, this comes with a lifelong negative impact. 

Without completing the basic level of education, it directly restricts their career opportunities, trajectories and salary compensations. Ultimately threatening their financial security for a lifetime– debilitating them from growing out of poverty

Fundamentally, this is creating a lasting problem in the economical infrastructure of Ibagué. 

Redefining Stage

Let's refocus on how students from low-income families can succeed in completing public secondary education.

When affordability is the constant challenge for receiving education, the option to enroll in school for teens living in poverty remains unjust. As a consequence, this specific group of students either do poorly in school or leave to directly aid their families' financial needs. 

We need to be mindful of proposing a solution that prioritizes dealing with their immediate financial needs while providing the education that's highly applicable to their local economic development. 

Redefining how might we structure the existing educational model to address this large and specific group of students in need of financial assistance, holds the key to increase the retention of students pursuing secondary education in Ibagué. 


⛏ Let's dig into the local soils

What are the existing local resources? 

5 schools 

offering secondary education to local teens.

2 Universities

offering public education


20 NGOs

focused on supporting children and youth located in Bogota, a city nearby. 

How might we?

Provide secondary education to students age ranging from 13-15 with an duo-educational and business plan, in order to help them afford school expenses while learning relevant technical skills that are applicable to their local job market? 

As a success, we increase the completion rate of local secondary education. Ultimately, paving the fundamental path for local teens to break out of the cycle of poverty. 

Work-in-progress below ⚙️

Developing Stage

Case Study - Applicable to Ibagué 

In 2016, Louie visited the actual site of the Comembo Elementary School in the Philippines  to conduct an onsite case study analysis. Inspired by the benefits, it was chosen to be the foundation of our proposed project to help us set our goals for helping secondary school students from low-income families succeed in Ibagué, Colombia.

What he learned is this typology increased the amount of students coming into school of Comembo by up to 24% because it promotes scholarship program and generates revenue to help out the family of the students. It also established its ground in terms of socio economic of the school while improving the education system by engaging the students in real life situation in entrepreneurship and livelihood program.

Location: Comembo Elementary School, Philippines.

Vertical Farming within the school inside a highly congested urbanized city.

Solution:Imparting knowledge to students on how to integrate vertical farming within urban city for students get more excited in going to school and promoting a higher quality of education.

Notable advantages of vertical farming at this school located in the urbanized city:

  • First, improve quality of education and more engaging for students especially in public schools.
  • Opportunities for students and families especially who are in below income earners to generate more income for the family.
  • Possible future entrepreneur development.
  • Job opportunities in plant production, design and construction.
  • Opportunity for urban food production and livelihood for public schools
  • Improvement in human comfort level and general air quality.
  • Reduction in greenhouse emissions.
  • Access to private outdoor open space at school or at work.
  • Allow repair damaged ecosystem.
  • Lesser crop loss from sever weather events.
  • Year round crop production.
  • Less agriculture run-off
  • Allow to improve current state of communities.

💭3 Reflections so far

Don't hide your process

It's okay to not have a solution yet, it's part of the process! 

Education and life skills are an iconic duo.

"If you give a man a fish, he will be hungry tomorrow. If you teach a man to fish, he will be richer forever." 

Fred Nelson

Think local not digital.

Living in a first world country and it's easy to default to a software solution. Be considerate that problems exists in physical spaces and hi-tech may not be the appropriate tool for problem solving.


You're allowed to be a work in process and a masterpiece! 🥳


Enjoy the growth beneath the process. I'm rooting for you!  🌱

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