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Education

International Day of Education 2021: Meet the young leaders who are driving quality education through the pandemic

The United Nations’ International Day of Education spotlights Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and the fundamental right for all young people to have access to quality education.

Inclusive and equitable education can pave the way for future employment and lifelong career opportunities, and contribute to a reduction in poverty, gender inequality and more. COVID-19 has created new barriers to accessing education and young people from every corner of the globe are missing out on vital learning opportunities. Vulnerable communities and marginalised groups are being hit the hardest; it is estimated that more than 1.5 billion children and youth across the globe have been affected by school closures or significant changes to their education. The need for practical, community-based solutions has become more urgent and apparent than ever before.

As we look to the future in 2021, it is imperative that we work to overcome these challenges together and at QCT we are proud to work with and support youth-led education initiatives across the Commonwealth. We work with founders, innovators and entrepreneurs who are delivering initiatives that include providing access to education for women and girls, and delivering a range of skills-based training programmes on leadership, entrepreneurship, critical thinking and computer literacy.

Meet some of the education projects funded by QCT and find out how they have innovated their delivery during the pandemic to continue providing vital education services in their communities:

Oasis Mathare, Kenya

The struggle to access quality education growing up led to Douglas Mwangi founding Oasis Mathare, a community-based organisation that empowers marginalised youth and children living in Mathare slums in Nairobi to learn in a safe place.

The organisation implements four main programmes: Youth Economic Empowerment, which supports unemployed young people and teen mothers by equipping them with ICT skills; STEAMD, which uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics and Design to help students acquire 21st-century skills to improve their innovation and problem-solving abilities; Safe Spaces for Early Child Development, which allows young children to learn and play for free in a safe environment; and the Community Library, which enables students to study in an appropriate setting and access a wealth of relevant resources.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, QCT provided emergency funding to Oasis Mathare to enable the launch of an innovative e-learning platform for primary school pupils. ‘Text School’ enables children to continue to study maths, science and social studies at home through SMS and USSD on mobile phones without the need for internet, which many families cannot access or afford in the region. So far this has enabled over 1000 children to continue their learning during the pandemic, and in December 2020 was selected by the Africa Union as one of the top 10 projects for Innovating Education in Africa.

Learn more about Text School from Douglas here.

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Oasis Mathare's ‘Text School’ enables children to continue to study maths, science and social studies at home through SMS and USSD on mobile phones without the need for internet.

Guyana Animation Network Inc., Guyana

Jubilanté Cutting founded Guyana Animation Network (GAN) Inc., after discovering a lack of awareness and encouragement for young people in Guyana to pursue the Arts as a career option.

The non-profit organisation works to shine a light on animation and digital art, and provides creative skills training to children and young people. Since their launch in 2016, GAN Inc. has delivered:

• 4 years of digital summer camps which explore digital painting, game development and coding techniques; • Girls In ICT initiatives which empower high school girls through entrepreneurship and innovation skills development; • “Creating Creative Connections” programmes which provide exposure to a variety of local, national and international opportunities in art, film, animation, design and more.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, QCT supported GAN Inc. with emergency funding to deliver virtual training to students enrolled in their programmes, and supported them to make and supply 3D-printed Personal Protective Equipment to frontline workers helping patients in urban, outlying and Indigenous communities in Guyana.

Learn more from Jubilanté about GAN Inc.’s CV-19 response here.

Trainer Precious Barrow

GAN Inc. encourages young people in Guyana to pursue the Arts as a career option.

Ingenzi, Rwanda

Hayden Taylor, founder of Unloc (UK), and Jean d’Amour Mutoni, founder of Acts of Gratitude (Rwanda), share a passion to equip young people with the soft skills and tools needed to become confident social entrepreneurs.

After meeting at the One Young World Summit in 2016, Hayden and Jean d’Amour decided to collaborate and form Ingenzi – an initiative which helps young people in Kigali, Rwanda become social entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities. Ingenzi supports 3 cohorts of 30 young people a year, with each cohort taking part in an immersive 12-week social enterprise course and access to follow-on mentorship. Young people connect with like-minded others to share and develop their skills and knowledge together during the programme.

QCT funding has enabled Unloc and Acts of Gratitude to launch and implement the Ingenzi Social Enterprise Programme. To allow ongoing delivery during the COVID-19 outbreak, QCT provided an emergency grant for the team to quickly develop an online programme for Cohort 4 so this could be delivered online during local lockdowns.

Learn more about Ingenzi from Hayden and Jean d’Amour here.

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Ingenzi equips young people with the soft skills and tools needed to become confident social entrepreneurs.

MAYEIN, Nigeria

Edem’s passion to make a positive impact began at the age of 14 when she observed two local six-year-old girls living very different lives in her local community in Oyo State, Nigeria. Whilst one was attending school every day, the other was selling roasted plantains in the street. Seeing the stark contrast in opportunities for these two girls inspired Edem to set up Mentoring Assistance for Youth and Entrepreneurs Initiative (MAYEIN), in 2012.

MAYEIN provides mobile computer classrooms for 4 public secondary schools in Oyo State, delivering practical training sessions and e-literacy lessons on computers and tablets for over 150 students. MAYEIN also brings a mobile library service to local communities, providing storybooks, educational resources, reading activities and a team of mentors to engage and promote equal opportunities in education, positive youth development and gender empowerment. Edem has also established community centres to demonstrate the positive effect of education for the whole family and sustainable ways for local community members to generate household income.

QCT funding is helping Edem to expand MAYEIN through the purchase of a second mobile-library van, a further 15 internet-ready laptops and 20 tablets, as well as hiring two additional staff members.

During the pandemic, MAYEIN was able to provide over 120 school children with computer literacy skills so they could continue to access learning beyond the classroom.

Learn more about MAYEIN here.

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MAYEIN provides digital literacy learning to secondary schools in Oyo State, a mobile library to local communities and encourages education for the whole family at community centres.

Boundless Minds, Uganda

After finishing university, Boundless Minds founder Benjamin Rukwengye spent two years doing unpaid work. In this time, he learnt the soft skills that he knew employers wanted, but which he had not been taught in school or university. He knew that this challenge was shared by thousands of other graduates across Uganda, with many spending up to 3 years working for free in order to bridge the skills gaps preventing them from accessing permanent employment. In 2017, Benjamin founded Boundless Minds to help break this cycle by providing a mix of training, placements, mentoring and job matching to create pathways to entrepreneurship and further employment opportunities and plug the skills gap.

With funding from QCT, Boundless Minds is producing and distributing soft-skills toolkits and handbooks to 5,000 high school graduates. These materials focus on subjects such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration and teamwork, as well as people and project management, all with the purpose of helping more young people stand a better chance of finding work or succeeding in entrepreneurship.

In response to COVID-19, Boundless Minds supported their alumni by running WhatsApp conversations with professionals on topics such as renewable energy, international development and marketing.

Learn more about Boundless Minds from Benjamin here.

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Boundless Minds helps plug the skills gap between graduation and employment by providing training, placements, mentoring and job matching.

Article published: January 2021

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