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Photo courtesy of CDLi. Credit: Rick Findler Caption: Maro Itoje visiting the Bada community in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Stewardship the giving partner for rugby star Maro Itoje's new fundraising project, the Pearl Fund

Stewardship partners with World Vision UK and Community Development Links Initiative (CDLi) to provide the giving platform for the Pearl Fund, which has been set up to deliver quality education for children in Africa. 

Ruth Jackson Portrait Ruth Jackson
4 min

British-Nigerian philanthropist and England rugby star Maro Itoje has proudly launched the Pearl Fund: The Maro Itoje African Education Programme, which will work in partnership with Community Development Links Initiative (CDLi), World Vision UK and Stewardship. 

The fund aims to generate a multi-million-pound investment in the education of children in Nigeria and other African countries, offering long-term support to help break the cycle of poverty.

Stewardship is providing the giving platform for the project.  

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A 'cradle to college' approach

A third of Nigeria’s population (70 million) live in extreme poverty, with 20 million children out of school – of which 60% are girls. The fund will work in partnership with CDLi in Nigeria to enable a new cohort of 40 children from one of Lagos’ most deprived areas to start school annually. Their entire education will be financed ‘from cradle to college’, at schools that provide the same quality education as provided by the UK state. There is a particular focus on ensuring orphans and fatherless children complete both primary and secondary school education irrespective of their parental losses.

teaching board

For those who complete secondary school education and wish to enter economic life through entrepreneurship, The Pearl Fund will look to support them pending approval of their business plan. An additional programme in Nigeria will focus on the town of Eku, where Maro’s parents are from, to support those who have successfully completed primary and secondary education but can’t afford university or vocational training.

The fund will also fundraise for World Vision education projects in Ghana.  Programmes like reading clubs, advocacy classes and mobile libraries will be secured for young people. Both areas of funding – in Nigeria and Ghana - will also have additional sectoral programmes embedded around them, such as economic support for their family, improved nutrition, and access to clean water.

Donations will be made by visiting the Stewardship fundraising page, and the aim is for the funds to be split with 70% going to support CDLi, a charity that supports education in Nigeria, and 30% going towards World Vision UK education projects in Africa.

Maro Itoje's story

Born to Nigerian parents who moved to the UK, the importance of education has long been instilled in Itoje, 28. After attending Harrow School, Itoje’s rugby career took off and he made his debut in the England squad at the 2016 Six Nations – where he has remained a leading figure ever since. The same year – while studying for a politics degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies – Maro guided his team, Saracens, to victory in the Champions Cup and was named European Player of the Year. His team nickname ‘The Pearl’ inspired the fund’s name. Off the pitch, Itoje is a dedicated philanthropist and activist, and regularly advocates for improvements and equality in the education system in the UK. The Pearl Fund is born of the belief that quality education is a right for every child, worldwide.

education worldwide

Reflections on the Pearl Fund

"The Pearl Fund is looking to have a real impact on the lives of the children that it touches through quality education, where a long-term commitment is made to help them escape the cycle of poverty. This means children can fulfil their true potential and never limit their ambitions." Maro Itoje

"World Vision are experts in giving children the tools they need to thrive and understand the essential role that education plays for them to succeed. We’re thrilled to have Maro’s support in fundraising for our education projects in Ghana and looking forward to seeing how he shapes his own work with The Pearl Fund in Nigeria." Mark Sheard, CEO, World Vision

"Stewardship is delighted to be the giving partner for The Pearl Fund. Our experience serving both donors and charity partners places us in a unique position to facilitate the kind of large scale generosity this project requires. It is an honour to partner with Maro, World Vision and CDLi to support this very worthwhile cause and we pray that The Pearl Fund's education projects in Nigeria and Ghana will have a hugely beneficial impact on the children who take part in them." Stewart McCulloch, CEO, Stewardship

Support the Pearl Fund

To support the Pearl Fund or to find out more about the project, please follow the links below. 

Give now  Find out more  

Photo courtesy of CDLi. Credit: Rick Findler Caption: Maro Itoje visiting the Bada community in Lagos, Nigeria. 


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Written by

Ruth Jackson

Ruth is leading the PR and Communications for Stewardship. She joined Stewardship in April 2022.

She has over 25 years’ marketing communications experience across a range of sectors, including higher education, technology and the arts, both business- and customer-facing. 

Ruth worships at C3 Church in Cambridge, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters. When she’s not at her desk, you might find her rowing on the River Cam, in a ballet class or out for a walk.

She supports causes that are focused on alleviating global poverty and injustice, with a particular interest in supporting vulnerable children.

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