Innovative education projects receive share of us $200,000 fund

11 Jan 2018 |

Varkey Foundation Challenge Fund includes grant to help train every UK teacher to support pupils with mental health problems

Varkey Foundation Challenge Fund includes grant to help train every UK teacher to support pupils with mental health problems

A project to provide every UK teacher with a grounding in understanding mental health issues so they can spot problems early and help troubled pupils is one of four programmes to be awarded a share of a US $200,000 fund announced today at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) 2017.

The awards under the Varkey Foundation Challenge Fund – which aims to support education projects that have the potential to achieve significant lasting impact – also include grants for programmes in Uganda, Slovakia and the Middle East.

The award to Invincible Me, a UK children’s mental health charity, comes after a survey published in January 2017 by the Department for Education found fewer than two in five teachers believed they could get help for pupils’ mental health problems.

One in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their lives, with mental illness often starting in childhood.

The Challenge Fund award will support the design and implementation of personal and professional development resources to help teachers work more effectively with the children in their care. It will help them increase their skills and ability to support children with complex emotional needs, help pupils build up their own resilience and also fund tools and techniques to manage teachers’ own wellbeing.

The other projects receiving grants are:

• Teach for Uganda, which recruits promising university graduates to teach in under-served communities and schools in Kamira in Luwero District, central Uganda, which will benefit an estimated 4,500 students beginning in the 2018 academic year;

• Komensky institute (Slovakia), to help establish a teacher training programme that encourages independent thought, creativity, and seeks to inspire a society which uses critical reflection and create an inspirational space for pedagogical leaders of Slovakia;

• National Teacher Prizes in the Arab World and Eastern Europe, a grant to the Arab Campaign for the Education of All (ACEA), led by the Teacher Creativity Center, to help pilot National Teacher Prizes in 15 Middle Eastern and East European countries (Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania, Georgia, Albania and Armenia).

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said:

“The aim of the Challenge Fund is to support innovative early-stage programmes which have the potential for far-reaching impact and scaleability.

“The projects receiving funding are deserving recipients and support the Varkey Foundation’s vision for every child to have the right to a stimulating learning environment and a great teacher that supports their full potential.”

Amy Shocker, Executive Director of Invincible Me, said:

“We are so grateful to the Varkey Foundation for this award, which will enable Invincible Me to start on what we hope will be a long and meaningful journey working with teachers and schools to bring about a profound transformation in the way we support children’s mental health.

“I can’t imagine being a teacher today and not having any understanding of common mental health issues. Teachers today cannot just walk into their classroom and teach their lessons; they need to do what they can to ensure their students are in an optimal position to learn, and that means addressing their wellbeing on an ongoing basis.”

The grants will be implemented from April for a maximum of one year. This is the second tranche of awards under the fund, after four projects received a share of US $200,000 last year.

As well as receiving funding from the Varkey Foundation, some of the 2016 and 2017 grantees under the Challenge Fund will be participating in a ‘Dragons’ Den-style’ event at GESF by making face-to-face funding ‘pitches’ to potential investors.


Notes to editors:

1. The Varkey Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation established to improve the standards of education for underprivileged children throughout the world. Our vision is that every child, regardless of circumstance, has a good teacher. We do this through our own programmes to build teacher capacity, advocacy campaigns to raise the status of the teaching profession and, through the Varkey Foundation Challenge Fund, by providing grants to partner organisations that offer innovative solutions in support of our mission. Applications for the Challenge Fund are welcomed from all countries, although lead applicants must be registered as charitable, not-for-profit entities. More information is available at:

Widely referred to as ‘the Davos of Education’, the Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF) debates new ways for education to transform our world, with the event culminating in the announcement of the winner of the US $1M Global Teacher Prize 2017.

2. The projects receiving funding are:

Project name: Invincible Me
Organisation: Invincible Me, London, UK
Contact: Amy Shocker

Invincible Me is a children’s mental health charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of the most vulnerable children in our society. Invincible Me’s aim is to empower and build capacity amongst teachers, school staff and the wider childcare workforce, to help every child grow up feeling safe, loved, and able to become a productive member of society.

Invincible Me is different from many existing mental health organisations. Our focus is on the teachers and other adults who work with children in a professional capacity. We help them better support the children who need them the most, whilst at the same time finding ways to ensure they look after their own emotional wellbeing. Our emphasis is on early childhood trauma and ways in which those trained by Invincible Me can help to reverse the potential long-term effects of these experiences.

The Varkey Foundation Challenge Fund award will allow Invincible Me to fully develop the programme content, as well as a robust evaluation methodology, for a one-year pilot starting in primary schools across the UK.

Project name: Teach for Uganda
Organisation: Teach for Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
Contact: James Kassaga Arinaitwe
Email: or

TFU is a movement of solution-driven leaders working to expand educational opportunities to all children in Uganda. The organisation recruits promising university graduates from varied disciplines who are poised to be our future leaders, to teach in underserved communities and schools in a two-year fellowship.

TFU fellows work hand in hand with the communities and schools they are placed to improve the overall communities’ perception of teachers, bring quality talent into the teaching profession, strengthen the capacity and training of existing teachers and act as the support system to the head teachers to strengthen school leadership to ensure children have a conducive environment to learn and thrive. During and after school hours fellows work as guidance coaches, mentors and role models to inspire students to stay and succeed in school.

The Challenge Fund will be used to fund the six-week intensive residential training provided to the first class of 30 fellows who will be placed in pairs in 15 underserved schools in Kamira sub-county of Luwero District, central Uganda, impacting an estimated 4,500 students beginning in the 2018 academic year.

James Kassaga Arinaitwe of Teach for Uganda said:

“This award and partnership with the Varkey Foundation is a great honour for Teach For Uganda, for myself and for my country’s least advantaged children, as it will enable us to provide them with a kind of education they deserve. I myself came from a disdvantaged background, and lost my entire family to AIDS and other preventable diseases before I turned ten. I wouldn’t have made it without my teachers and mentors, who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to excel in school. Every child deserves an opportunity to achieve their fullest potential, and that’s what Teach For Uganda is here for.”

Project name: Komensky institute: Space for Pedagogical Leaders of Slovakia
Organisation: Zivica, Bratislava, Slovakia
Contact: Katarina Pazmany

Zivica is a non-profit education organization that inspires to change how leaders think and act. In 2016 Zivika started planning for the establishment of a teacher training space that encourages independent thought, creativity, and seeks to inspire a society which uses critical reflection. The Komensky Institute aims to create an inspirational space for pedagogical leaders of Slovakia.

With 20 current participants, Zivika are scaling up the initiative and ensuring its training materials are of the highest, most relevant, quality in order to transform the education system. The Challenge Fund will be used to for both teacher pedagogical training and staff costs at this important time in the organisation’s life.

Zivika has also informally partnered with our 2016 grantee, Pro Svit from the Ukraine, to share ideas and experiences in establishing a teacher training initiative with similar aims and resources. The Varkey Foundation is keen to support strategic partnerships between like-minded organisations, and looks forward to productive and fruitful engagement in the long term.

Katarina Pazmany of the Komensky Institute said:

“We believe that only exceptional teachers create exceptional schools. Receiving support from Varkey foundation will help us fulfill this vision, so together we can strengthen position of teachers in Slovakia.”

Project name: National Teacher Prizes in the Arab World and Eastern Europe
Organisation: Teacher Creativity Center (TCC)

TCC as a leading organization for ACEA is leading introduction of a pilot of a National Teacher’s Prize (NTP) in 15 Arab and East European Countries, with TCC committed to implement the prize in these countries over the coming three years. Building on the national pride and global interest generated by the 2016 Global Teacher Prize Winner Hanan-al-Hroub, the ACEA consortium has formed in order to establish NTPs in 15 states, with a view to establishing a regional prize in the future.

The NTP will be used both as a gesture of appreciation and motivation to teachers in the target region as well as an advocacy tool targeting education policy makers on the importance of quality education and promoting status of teachers in the Arab world and Eastern Europe.

Refat Sabbah, General Secretary for the Arab Campaign for Education, said:

“The funding from the Challenge Fund will make it easier to reach our goal in which we aspire to strengthen the status and respect for teachers in the Arab world.

“It will enable teachers across the Arab world learn new techniques and methodologies to enable them to develop their skills and motivate them to move forward in ‬innovation and excellence.”

3. This is the second set of awards under the Challenge Fund. In its first year it supported Jusoor, a project that helps displaced Syrian refugee children receive an education; Teach For Ghana, which – like Teach for Uganda – recruits Ghana’s most promising university graduates to teach in under-served rural communities; Bridging Education And Mobility, to support a new teacher development network in China that will induct 1,000 teachers per month by 2017; and the Centre for Innovative Education Pro.Svit, a programme contributing to educational reform in Ukraine by helping teachers make the learning experience more effective by encouraging them to re-think their role from a deliverer of information to one that encourages creativity among their pupils.