Comment

The Tipping Point: Africa’s youth are its greatest resource. How can we make sure they succeed?

African youth are bursting with untapped potential. The innovative, sustainable social enterprises launched by Educate!’s Student Business Clubs showcase what happens when you couple potential with skills training. You get stories about accidental soy milk and orphanages:

Students at Tororo Girls' School, an Educate! partner school, regularly volunteer at a local orphanage and donate crucial supplies like soap, food, and soy milk, all of which they make themselves. One day, while making soybean snacks, the girls accidentally made soy milk. After researching its nutritious value and determining it was cheaper to make than dairy milk, they began selling it to the community and donating it to the orphanage.

 
13882690_10153893933429895_5962843442028549720_n.jpg
 

Today, 6 out of 10 Africans are under the age of 25. Before 2050, that population of young people is expected to nearly double. By the end of the century, 50% of the world’s children will be African.

These figures are cause for concern as well as optimism. A recent Financial Times article by Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Sudanese mobile communications entrepreneur, philanthropist, and advocate for African economic development, sheds light on this critical issue. Dr. Ibrahim argues that Africa’s massive youth population is the continent’s greatest resource—as long as these millions of youth are given the opportunities and tools they need to thrive.

Dr. Ibrahim references recent surveys which have shown that youth in Africa are more highly educated, more entrepreneurial, and more adventurous than ever: “They have set their sights higher, wanting to emulate counterparts in other continents rather than achieve goals set by their parents”.

Unfortunately, there are critical barriers preventing youth from realizing their potential and succeeding in life post-graduation. There is a sharp divide between the skills youth actually need to get a job and improve their livelihoods, and what they are learning in school, referred to as the skills gap. Without classroom practice on how to research, create a business plan, and develop financial predictions, the Tororo Girls’ could not have capitalized on their soy milk discovery.  The skills gap is arguably one of the greatest challenges facing the global economy today, and nowhere is the crisis more pronounced than in Africa.

During a recent visit to an Educate! partner school in Arua, in the north of Uganda, a teacher recalled the way she taught accounting and other business topics before working with Educate! - through memorization and recitation. She knew she was not equipping her students with the skills to succeed post-graduation and that they would not have enough contextual knowledge and practice to apply what they learned in the real world. Yet she didn’t know how to teach any differently. 

Across the continent, the lack of necessary skills intersects with the massive youth bulge creating a near-hopeless situation for millions of youth who need to find a way to earn an income and take care of themselves and their families. Dr. Ibrahim writes that the youth bulge taken with the skills gap “is a recipe for frustration and anger”. There are strong links between the disempowerment felt by a large population of underemployed youth and terrorism, extremism, ethnic or racial conflict, political instability, and black market activities including human trafficking and the expansion of the drug trade. “If the energy and ambition of Africa’s youth are wasted, they could become a destabilizing force,” Dr. Ibrahim writes.

But there are reasons to be optimistic. Across the continent, African governments are reforming their education systems to be more skills-based and experiential, moving away from the traditional focus on lectures and rote-memorization. This type of practical, hands-on education better equips students for life after school. The same teacher in Arua, witnessing the skills gap firsthand, is thrilled with how improved teaching methods, gained through Educate! training, have enabled her to better prepare her students to join the workforce. By providing them with hands on experience in the classroom, she makes distant and complicated topics tangible and accessible. And the results are almost immediate – there are Student Business Clubs, like the Tororo Girls’ School, across Uganda developing innovative enterprises, from agricultural innovations to mobile applications.

In a letter to the editor of the Financial Times responding to Dr. Ibrahim’s article, Dr. Birger Fredriksen of Results for Development raised another key point: to adequately address the skills gap in Africa, we must recognize which skills are most essential for youth in these developing economies. Dr. Fredriksen notes that in most sub-Saharan African countries, 80 to 90 percent of all jobs are within the informal sector, and are often insecure, low-wage, part-time work.

To best address the skills gap in sub-Saharan Africa, we must recognize this reality and equip youth with the skills they need to succeed in the economy as it actually exists. While youth in other parts of the world may benefit from developing skills in technology and science, for millions of African youth, jobs in these sectors do not exist, and the only options are to work in the informal economy or in subsistence agriculture. For these youth, soft skills and entrepreneurship skills, will be most valuable in enabling them to create their own jobs when no formal jobs are available.

The best way to support African youth today is to equip them with the tools they need to unleash their own potential. Armed with the necessary skills and the confidence that they can succeed, there is no doubt that African youth can drive the continent’s development.

Comment

Students Showcase Innovative, Sustainable Enterprises at National Student Business Club Competition

Comment

Students Showcase Innovative, Sustainable Enterprises at National Student Business Club Competition

Can you imagine an episode of Shark Tank where all the competitors are Ugandan youth with innovative social enterprises? If you can, then you’re picturing Educate!’s annual National Student Business Club Competition. 

National Competition brings together the top Student Business Clubs from Educate! partner schools across Uganda to showcase their products and compete for awards in categories like sustainability, financial management, and innovation. 

Out of nearly 400 Student Business Clubs, 23 finalists were selected to pitch the businesses and community projects they had launched in the past year to a panel of distinguished judges, who scored them on criteria like bookkeeping, community impact, resourcefulness, and teamwork. The judges were leaders in business and education in Uganda, like Cynthia N. Mpanga, Head of Corporate Affairs at Standard Chartered Bank, and Khwaka Mary Cajo, Senior Examinations Officer for the Uganda National Examinations Board. 

Every Club was unique and impressive—we were blown away by the diversity of projects we saw at this year’s competition, and the resourcefulness of the students in making innovative products with cheap (or free!), sustainable, and locally-available materials. A few highlights:

Making the old new again: Students give new life to discarded materials

Students from Kijjabwemi Secondary School in Masaka were strong contenders for the sustainability award with their innovative products, which recycle rubbish into new and improved household items. The students developed recycled plastic roofing tiles, made by melting down discarded plastic bottles and remolding them. The roof tiles are inexpensive and far more durable and weatherproof than traditional roofing materials, like thatch, wood, clay, or tin. Learning from their success with this project, the students then extended the same technique to another product—aluminum pots and pans. The students collected old aluminum cans, broken and discarded aluminum kitchen items, and other aluminum materials, melted them down, and remolded them into new pots and pans. These pots and pans are inexpensive to make but look and work like new, meaning the students can sell them at a lower price point and turn a bigger profit.

Ndejje Senior Secondary School from Luweero showcased the products they had made with recycled tires. With no adequate disposal technique, discarded tires litter Ugandan communities, often piling up in great quantities on the side of roads and in trading centers. The Ndejje Club collected these old tires and made them into unique and useful new items: sandals, hats, bracelets, and keychains. Incredibly durable, comfortable, and inexpensive, the judges were especially impressed with the sandals—a great option for low-income families in the students’ community.

Innovations in agriculture

IMG_6320.jpg

Students from Pilkington College in Jinja displayed their well-developed agriculture projects. The students created an all-natural pesticide by testing various formulas until they found the most effective recipe. The students have an agreement with their school to farm a small plot of land on school grounds, where they grow cabbage and cassava for sale. They currently produce so much cassava that they are unable to sell it all before it goes bad, so they now set aside their surplus to dry and grind cassava into flour, which they sell at a higher price. The club launched a poultry project for additional income, and built an incubator so that they can hatch healthier chicks. When their incubator is not full, they rent out the surplus space to members of the community so they can also benefit from the invention. 

Tororo Girls' School won the Community Impact award for their partnership with a local orphanage. They regularly volunteer there and donate crucial supplies like soap, food and soy milk that they make themselves. The girls discovered soy milk accidentally while making soybean snacks. After learning about its nutritious value and that it was cheaper to make than dairy milk, they began selling it to the community and donating it to the orphanage.

Tech Entrepreneurs

Also impressive, we saw Clubs exploring technology—for example, creating mobile apps and building solar-powered batteries—and helping their communities, by volunteering to mentor out-of-school youth, creating savings groups, and using a percentage of Club profits to pay school fees for classmates.

Research has continually shown that students learn best through the active practice of skills. Starting a business in school in a safe and supportive team environment is the best way to experiment, learn, and put these crucial skills to the test. Nearly 400 Educate! Student Business Clubs were operating across Uganda last year, and of those, 97% had a profitable project. The atmosphere of Nationals exemplifies this attitude of innovation and experimentation, and we are always so proud and inspired to witness the creative businesses students can launch when they are equipped with the skills they need to make their ideas a reality.

Comment

Comment

Teachers Leading a Movement for Skills-Based Education in Africa

With over 10 countries in Africa actively engaged in education reforms, it’s clear that there is an international movement calling for a transformation of traditional education. This movement emphasizes the need to move away from lecture and rote memorization and toward practical, student-centered, and skills-based education methods that lead to better educational and life outcomes for youth.

 
 

In May, Uganda was at the center of this movement. In partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports, Educate! hosted our 3rd annual Global Education Conference.  The conference brought together key stakeholders, including government education officials, education researchers and policy experts, and dedicated teachers from across the country. These groups joined forces to drive forward critical conversations around the future of education in Africa, and the integral role that teachers play in catalyzing the movement for skills-based education.

The theme of this year’s conference was Teacher Leadership- Proving Change is Possible: Teachers Leading Skills-Based Education into the Future. 560 teachers attended the conference at three venues across Uganda, eager to gain the tools they need to provide the best education for their students. Throughout the day, teachers strengthened their skills in workshops, engaged in dialogues with government officials and education experts, and affirmed that they didn’t need to wait for a nationwide curriculum reform in order to see changes in their classroom; they had the power to begin the movement themselves.

 
 

With Skills Lab, Educate!’s innovative teaching model that puts students at the center of their own learning and promotes the practical application of skills, teachers can disrupt the all too common practice of lecture-based learning by inviting students to participate in their own discoveries. Borrowing from the term ‘science labs’, Skills Lab is the experiential education pedagogy aspect of our model (i.e. the way we teach students by doing). Skills Labs give teachers a structure to use for any subject to make learning more interesting, student-focused, and practical. Skills Labs focus on engaged group work, hands on learning, and presentation skills. Best practices for conducting Skills Labs were reinforced throughout the day, and teachers built their network of support for implementing Skills Labs by exchanging contact information with other teachers on the frontline of the movement.

The attendance of government officials underscored the educational value of implementing skills-based techniques in the classroom and motivated teachers to engage their colleagues in similar practices. Guests of Honor included Kule Baritazare, the Commissioner of Secondary at the Ministry of Education, and Henry Ssemakula, Senior Education Officer at the Ministry of Education. Both staunch supporters of the skills-based approach, they shared with the teacher audience that students are "tired of taking notes” and are seeking more from their teachers. They emphasized the importance of skills-based education for enabling students to develop the soft and hard skills that will let them succeed after school.

The Global Conference was an important step forward in transforming education to be more practical and skills-based across the country. It was inspiring and motivating to see strong support from teachers and government officials from across East Africa, as they came together to affirm their commitment to giving students the best education possible. We’re proud to stand side by side with these education leaders to drive forward the change that will guarantee better opportunities for youth after high school.

See all of our Global Conference photos on the official Educate! Flickr account!

Comment

Comment

Building an Expertise in Gender

Today marks International Women’s Day, when women and men across the globe come together to celebrate women’s achievements and to advocate for continued opportunity.

At Educate!, we believe opportunity is only possible when youth have access to an education that prepares them for life after graduation. This basic right is one that alludes tens of millions youth around the globe and is a particularly significant challenge for girls.

Comment

Comment

Educate! on Al Jazeera English

Educate! will be featured in Al Jazeera English’s televised documentary series, Rebel Education, as one of six institutions across that globe that is breaking the mold and creating a radically new vision for 21st century education. Our episode is airing on the 23rd of January.

Comment

Comment

Uniting Education Leaders for Africa-wide Change

Educate! partnered with Uganda’s National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) and the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sport (MoES) to host our 2nd Annual Global Conference. The theme of this year’s event was “Experience the Reform: Skills Based Education for Sustainable Development”. 

Comment

Comment

Educate!'s Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action

We're proud to announce that Educate! has been recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting.  

Our new commitment affirms our intention to continue scaling our proven experienced-based education model to 550 schools and more than 190,000 students in Uganda by the end of 2018, while also preparing to expand to an additional African country in 2019.  This new Commitment aligns with our Vision for 2024 to impact one million youth annually across Sub-Saharan Africa, empowering them with the skills they need to solve poverty for themselves and their communities.

Comment

1 Comment

Bill Gates Mentions Educate! in Speech at Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture

We're honored to share that Educate! was cited by Bill Gates in his speech for the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa.

In his moving speech Mr. Gates said:  "A good education is the best lever we have for giving every young person a chance to make the most of their lives. In Africa, as in the U.S., we need new thinking and new educational tools to make sure that a high-quality education is available to every single child. In Uganda, young innovators at an NGO called Educate! are helping high schools prepare young people for the workplace by teaching students how to start their own business."

1 Comment

Comment

The Brookings Institution Publishes In-depth Educate! Case Study

Recently released as a continuation of the Millions Learning project, the new Millions Learning case studies provide an in-depth look at 12 of the programs and policies explored in the report. Educate!'s case study highlights the most important lessons learned from the Brookings Institution's exploration of our organization. Specifically, Educate! is noted for our strategy of designing for massive scale from the start, our deep commitment to rigorous monitoring and evaluation, and our high-level partnerships with Ministries of Education to reform entire education systems. 

Comment

Comment

Scaling So Millions Learn: Educate! Highlighted in New Brookings Report

Educate! is featured in a new industry-defining report from the Brookings Center for Universal EducationMillions Learning seeks to understand the crucial factors driving major improvements in educational outcomes around the world, distilling lessons learned from case studies of Educate!, Pratham, Room to Read, Sesame Workshop, and other leading organizations. The Millions Learning project specifically focuses on education innovations that can be implemented efficiently, effectively, and sustainably on a large scale. Out of over 100 potential cases, Educate! was chosen as one of only 14 solutions to become a detailed case study for the Millions Learning report.

Comment

Educate! Launches in Rwanda

Comment

Educate! Launches in Rwanda

Educate! is thrilled to announce a monumental opportunity to reach more youth than ever before. This year we are launching in our second country: Rwanda. Through our education reform efforts, we will impact the education of every secondary student across the nation-- that’s 215,000 youth annually. This expansion is a major milestone toward sustainably impacting youth livelihoods through education systems change.

Comment

Comment

Educate! Director of Policy and Partnerships to Present at CIES Conference

This month, Educate!’s Director of Policy and Partnerships, Maggie Appleton, is attending the 60th Annual Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conference. The CIES conference is the premier global education event, focusing on fostering cross-cultural understanding, scholarship, academic achievement, and societal development to address education policy and implementation issues in developing countries.

Comment