Madelle Kangha is the Founder and President of JumpStart Academy Africa, a social venture seeking to transform African students by fixing their broken education system. In recognition of her work with JumpStart Academy Africa, Madelle has been featured by Forbes as ‘Innovative Africans fixing a broken Education System’. Madelle is also the Founder of Youths4Change, a youth-led community-based organization that mentors youth of Cameroon. Madelle’s vision is to be a leading social entrepreneur, a mass recruiter of local changemakers, a role model proving that citizens who channel their passion into action can achieve the impossible.
Madelle was born and brought up in Bameda, Cameroon. She studied at the Our Lady of Lourdes College, where she served as the House Captain and Assistant Senior Prefect. The latter earned her a prize for ‘Prefect of the Year’ in her last high school year that set the tone for her leadership journey.
Madelle said in an interview, “TI guess I have always had a knack for leadership. I used to muse about becoming the first female president of Cameroon someday – and I still do, by the way. One of the most cherished moments from my Lourdes days was when I emerged as the best national female candidate at the Cameroonian GCE Examinations. Subsequently, I won a place/scholarship as 1 of 2 Cameroonians and 94 other young people worldwide to join the inaugural class at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa, and that is where I believe my leadership & entrepreneurial journey began.”
After attending the Leadership Academy, she had her sights set on the best course of education and applied to the London School of Economics. She got in and won a full scholarship awarded once every three years to one student from Sub-Saharan Africa.
At the London School of Economics, she studied a Dual degree in Law and Anthropology that she thinks has been invaluable in giving her exposure to interdisciplinary studies that are much needed in today’s interconnected world.
Upon graduating in 2012, she decided to start Youths4Change (Y4C), which opened a new chapter in her life. Y4C is a youth-led Community Based Organization that empowers and mentors youth in Cameroon to hone their skills. Since its inception in November 2010, Y4Chas successfully raised funds, conducted several activities, and set up new initiatives to help their youth. In June 2011, Y4C collaborated with enthusiastic Cameroonian youth from the University of Buea to set up the Mobile Education Network, voted Top Ten in the Harambe Cameroon Business Plan Competition.
Madelle said, “The quote best reflects my inspiration for Y4C “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Magaret Mead
Madelle strongly believes in young people finding their voice through socio-economic empowerment and political participation. She said, “I firmly believe in the power of possibility. Nothing has ever fazed me even as a kid (my surname Kangha actually means “go-getter” so I guess there’s a correlation). I always have a “can do” attitude even when the odds are against me and my parents & family always encourage and believe in me.”
Madelle soon moved on to her next venture. She teamed up with Nigerian social entrepreneur Omotola Akinsola to offer an alternative to Africa’s broken education system. Together they decided not to build another school but to co-found Jumpstart Academy Africa. The Academy collaborates with existing schools in Cameroon and Nigeria to create improved learning environments that equip young people with the skills to make them assets for any work environment in the 21st Century.
The Academy uses a student-based, interactive approach to learning that cultivates critical thinking, ethical leadership, an entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving, and civic engagement, helping hundreds of young people between 14 and 18 become valued contributors to the job market.
“Students in sub-Saharan Africa leave school without the basic learning skills to escape the gravitational pull of mass poverty and to create opportunities for themselves in the job market,” said Madelle. “Building schools doesn’t necessarily result in higher literacy, post-graduation employment rates or even increased education.”
Although the Academy has classrooms, halls sponsored by schools—“only a fraction of our lessons happen in the classroom,” Madelle said. “It means we have a deeper connection with the students, and we are able to challenge cultural perceptions, especially when it comes to the education of girls.”
Jumpstart’s student body comprises 70% girls selected based on their academic performance, ideas for local solutions and their drive to be changemakers. In the next two years, these high school students receive support and mentorship from local university students and professionals who help them put business, entrepreneurship, and community initiative ideas into action.
“We can see the impact on the students and within the school. More students are becoming leaders. Within the community, the schools are now becoming the pride of their towns,” said Madelle. “For each student, the impact is different, but it’s still powerful.”
Massa Civian Kiki, an alumnus of Jumpstart Academy and student of Government Bilingual High School Ndu, is one among the 100 success stories of the Academy. With over 1200 applicants from 23 countries across Africa, Massa Civian Kiki was one of the few students selected to be part of the Yale Young African Scholars 2014 Program’s inaugural class. While another alumnus, Joyce Pekwalekey, a student of Government Bilingual High School Down Town Bamenda, Cameroon, runs a small catering business and uses her revenue to purchase school books and uniforms without relying on her parent’s to pay for her education. Madelle continues to be the shining beacon of hope to the youth while helping them reach new heights in their career so that one day they could inspire and help others as well.
She hopes to reach more than 17,000 young people in the next five years. The Academy also aims to spread the model through partnerships and by working with the government to incorporate Jumpstart Academy Africa components into the national education curriculum.