Computer Lab for The Blind More Student (Image by: inABLE.org)
Did you know that people with disabilities (PWDs) face higher rates of multidimensional poverty, including poorer health, lower levels of employment and earnings, as well as higher poverty rates? These circumstances are worsened by the lack of or poor education. A 2018 study by the World Bank found that children with disabilities are much more likely to never enroll in school at all and only half of children with disabilities of primary school completion age can read and write.
John Brown, a student at Kenyatta University and an alumnus and beneficiary of inABLE’s computer education program considers himself lucky to have acquired computer skills at an early age. He explains, “I can now easily learn and interact online better than most people and I am also in the process of developing my own website where I will be talking about disability issues.”
“Every day, I am incredibly happy that despite the widely held belief that only sighted people can use technology, inABLE has opened opportunities to more blind and visually impaired youth making them employable with a 90% success rate” says Peter Okeyo, Programs Officer at inABLE.
However, John believes that the existing accessibility limitations in higher institutions of learning restrict the potential and aspirations of PWDs.
Brenda Kiema, Disability Inclusion Officer at Tangaza University agrees with John’s conclusion and points out that very few African universities are well prepared to accommodate people living with disabilities. She emphasizes that in Kenya, 70% of PWDs have been excluded in the higher learning setting in terms of infrastructure and online learning.
Sylvia Mochabo, Founder, Andy Speaks 4 Special Needs Persons Africa is also working to change the inaccurate perception in most African cultures that children with neurodevelopment disabilities are somehow mentally unstable. When, in fact, they can thrive with the right support and equipment. She encourages families and caregivers to bring special needs children into the communities and advocate for their education with accommodations that address their specific learning needs.
According to UNICEF, inclusive education is the most effective way to give all children a fair chance to go to school, learn and develop the skills they need to thrive. Inclusive education provides real learning opportunities to the groups that have been traditionally excluded.
In following the wisdom of Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Note: As inABLE plans the virtual Inclusive Africa Conference 2020 in October, inABLE thanks the media for their work to advance inclusive education and accessibility in Africa.
Written by: Esther Njeri Mwangi, Public Relations Officer inABLE.org
Simi Nwogugu on Africa Education Medal launched by T4 Education, HP, and Intel
Simi Nwogugu, CEO of Junior Achievement Africa, voiced her support for the new Africa Education Medal, launched this year by T4 Education in collaboration with HP and Intel.
Junior Achievement Africa CEO Simi Nwogugu, called on Nigeria’s changemakers to apply or be nominated for the inaugural Africa Education Medal. Simi Nwogugu has joined leading figures from across Africa in support of the new award that will be given to an outstanding individual who has demonstrated impact, leadership, and advocacy in the field of education.
In the decades leading up to the pandemic, Africa had been making great strides in boosting school enrolment. To protect and expand upon these vital gains in the wake of COVID. Teachers, NGOs, politicians, tech entrepreneurs, and figures from the public and private sectors, will need to work together to build a future where every child in Africa can achieve the quality education that is their birthright.
The Africa Education Medal has been launched to recognise the tireless work of those who are transforming education across the continent. And to celebrate the stories of those who have lit the spark of change so others will be inspired to take up the torch.
Brad Pulford, Managing Director at HP Africa, said: “HP has been committed to enabling better learning outcomes for 100 million people between 2015-2025. Achieving this bold goal wouldn’t be possible without empowered education leaders and trailblazers who are at the forefront of the rapidly changing education environment. A quality education empowers not just individuals, but entire communities. It will skill the next generation to fulfil their full potential in a world being transformed by technology. The Africa Education Medal not only honours the tireless work of those seeking to improve education all across Africa. But gives them a platform to amplify their voices and inspire others to follow their examples.”
Simi Nwogugu, CEO of Junior Achievement Africa, said: “A good education will empower young people in Nigeria and across Africa. To fulfil their full potential, secure better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. I am a beneficiary of great educational institutions from attending a public secondary school in Lagos, Nigeria. To attaining an MBA at Harvard Business School, which empowered me to return to Nigeria to expand the work of JA across Nigeria and the continent. Africa’s great changemakers know education is the key to our continent’s prosperity in a global economy. I urge inspirational leaders from Nigeria and across Africa to step forward and apply for the Africa Education Medal so their stories can inspire thousands more.”
Vikas Pota, Founder and CEO of T4 Education: “Quality education will help African countries grow and prosper. And it will help Africa produce the public leaders of tomorrow who will go on to grapple with the continent’s greatest challenges from inequality, to climate change, food insecurity and disease. The Africa Education Medal recognises those who are working every day to make that vision a reality.”
The Africa Education Medal is open to individuals working to improve pre-kindergarten, K-12, vocational and university education who are one of the following:
- Educators and school administrators.
- Civil society leaders.
- Public servants and government officials.
- Political leaders.
- Technologists and innovators.
Nominees must demonstrate their contribution in any of the following key areas in education:
- Significantly improving learning outcomes.
- Promoting girls’ education.
- Promoting equity and broadening access to education.
- Advancing pedagogical or technological innovation.
- Building and strengthening educator capacity.
- Catalysing civic participation in education.
- Championing the rights of education stakeholders.
The Top 10 finalists for the Africa Education Medal will be announced in July and the winner will be announced in September. Nominees will be assessed by a Jury comprising prominent individuals based on rigorous criteria.
Nominations, including self-nominations, can be made online HERE.
Nominations will close on June 3, 2022.
Elizabeth Elango, Former Junior Achievement Africa CEO leading the only school in the US for Refugee Girls
Elizabeth Elango was born and raised in Cameroon, Central Africa. Her education started at a small bilingual primary school in the economic capital city of DOuala. After which she went on to an all girls Catholic middle school in Mamfe, a town near the border of Cameroon and Nigeria. She completed one year of high school before moving to the US and going to university and graduate school. Her undergraduate degree is in International Relations from Kennesaw State University and Masters degree in African studies from Yale University. After graduate school, Elizabeth received a Fulbright scholarship to study Swahili in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Then, she went on to work for an education-based non-profit in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola engaged Elizabeth Elango on her passion for and journey into the development and non-profits sector. excerpts.
Alaba: Could you briefly share your career journey till now?
Elizabeth: Much of my career has been anchored in three things; my love for people, my commitment to education and my love for Africa. I started out working for a non-profit organization called Heifer International, which was an agriculture based organization. I worked there for 15 years, and the last role I held was Vice-President for Africa programs. In that capacity, I led the organizations’ Africa portfolio, which was a multi-million dollar investment in 12 countries leading 300 staff. It was a very demanding yet deeply rewarding experience. After I left Heifer, I became the CEO for Junior Achievement Africa, based in Accra, Ghana.
Over the course of those five years, I led a program in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, driving the organization’s agenda and mission to promote youth entrepreneurship, workforce readiness and financial literacy. Following my passion for young people and for education after that, I accepted the role of CEO and Head of School at Global Village Project, where I now work. GVP is a school for refugee girls who have newly arrived in the US, having missed many years of schooling. We reactivate their schooling so that they can access all the benefits of education. We create a safe place where they can learn and thrive.
Alaba: What led you into development, non-profit and your passion for the sector?
Elizabeth: I’ve always been drawn to service. Growing up in Cameroon, I saw what poverty, social injustice and inequity looked like and I was drawn to a sector that worked to address these issues. In the non-profit and development sector, I find that I am able to apply everything that I am passionate about and everything that I’m good at. I like to be with people and I am honored that in the roles I’ve held I’ve been able to sit with marginalized people and hear their stories. And so, I have made it my career to do whatever I can to be of support to them.
Alaba: You currently lead the only school in the US for Refugee girls. What sparked the interest?
Elizabeth: As the CEO and Head of School at Global Village project, I see myself in the girls at our school. Like them, I went to an all-girls school. Like them, I moved to the US as a teenager. Like them, my education was critical to defining my future. If I could start where I started, in a school in Cameroon with a dirt floor and make it to an Ivy league University in America. And then go on to lead organizations and travel around the world and influence others, then they too can do that and more.
Alaba: Tell us more about the Global Village Project. What is it set to achieve and how do you measure impact?
Elizabeth: Global Village Project is an amazing school. When girls arrive in the US as refugees, they have often missed five or more years of schooling. Yet, the system places them in schools according to their ages and not their academic abilities. At GVP, we have a school that is tailored to their needs. We have a robust three-year program that starts with English language literacy, then adds on STEAM. Social and emotional learning and mentoring to help our students succeed. At GVP, students are categorized in forms based on their academic and language ability. Our students range in age from 11-17. They come from over 20 different countries and speak even more languages.
Here, we have a strong system of support to ensure their academic success and emotional wellbeing. We are able to be attentive and responsive to the fact they’ve experienced trauma in their young lives. At GVP, our students become part of a sisterhood of success with other girls who they can relate to, learn from, learn with and grow with. It is a pretty magical place.
Alaba: How has your purpose, mission and values shaped your journey thus far?
Elizabeth: My purpose is to try and always place myself where the world’s greatest need meets my greatest ability. So far in my career, I have been very successful at doing so. In many ways, I feel as if I’ve never worked a day in my life because I’ve always enjoyed what I was doing so much that I threw myself into the work. The things I care about, the things I value show up in my work everyday.
Alaba: As a professional leader with over 20 years experience in the field. What leadership style do you adopt?
Elizabeth: My leadership style is hugely people-centered. I believe in putting people first, second and third. I like to collaborate. I like to share power. I like to grow people and challenge them to do things they didn’t believe they could achieve. I love to see people around me succeed. I hire good people and I trust them to perform. I tend to coach more than I manage. I put a lot of energy into eliminating fear in my ecosystems.
I often help people interrogate their relationship with power, which I think is often very definitive of how we lead our lives. My leadership style encompasses all of these things with a healthy dose of love and empathy and a commitment to always have fun and laughter in any environment I inhabit.
Alaba: What was the biggest “no” you heard in your career, and what did you learn from it?
Elizabeth: In 2015 when I left Heifer, I was looking for a new role and was invited to Amsterdam to interview for a job that I wanted very much. The job was based in Accra, Ghana, where I wanted to move to. At the time, I was living in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. After a three day trip to the Netherlands to interview for the job, I was turned down for it and I was very disappointed. A few weeks later, I got the job for Junior Achievement Africa, which was by far a much better fit for me.
Eventually, when I moved to Ghana, I met the man who had gotten the job I was turned down for and it made me happy to meet him because he was much more suited for the role. What I learned from that experience and many more since is that hearing No is a way of having your path redirected. What’s meant to be always finds a way.
Alaba: What lasting impact do you hope to have in the sector?
Elizabeth: I am a person of deep faith in God and my hopes and my prayers are the same: to be of purpose to society. If my actions can improve anyone’s life, then I consider that success. If my words can inspire anyone, I consider that success. If how I live my life can motivate anyone, then I consider that success. I don’t want to wait till the end of my career when I feel I have amassed a sufficient amount of wealth and personal security before I give back. I want to give back now.
Alaba: Where would you like to see the sector go from here?
Elizabeth: I hope that the non-profit sector will continue to provide value to society. Especially to marginalized people and to places where there is injustice and inequity. I hope that the sector will grow in its ability to respond to and address stated needs and not just perceived needs. I hope that everyone who engages in this sector will become better listeners and better servants. If we are committed to doing these things, then we will continue to have an impact.
Alaba: What advice do you have for female leaders in the sector?
Elizabeth: I’d give the same advice I give to my daughters and to myself on a daily basis: be bold, be brave, be confident. I say this to all women leaders, not just to those who lead non-profits. We have unique perspectives, valuable insights, comparable intellects and capabilities as our male counterparts. Let us lean into those strengths and be unafraid to be change-makers.
STEM education in Africa: Essential to the continent’s development
STEM education which primarily revolves around ‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics’ has become highly sought after by learners all across the world and is crucial in encouraging a nation’s development.
Recent reports suggest that over the next 5 years, STEM jobs will grow by 13% – particularly in the areas of Computing, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing. This shift in the global labour market should be a central focus of African leaders as the United Nation’s (UN) projections show that by 2035, the working population of the continent will surpass that of the rest of the world.
I join the call led by Stefania Giannini, assistant director-general for education at UNESCO – who has asked governments to put education investment at the centre of their post pandemic recovery. The past 12 months have witnessed the most severe disruption to global education systems in history, which during the peak of the crisis – led to more than 1.6 billion learners out of school. In the global south, school closures are likely to erase decades of progress made by educators.
As education expenditure continues to increase in the west and in the far east, the opposite is true in Africa. Millions of our children are gifted in science, math and physics yet the vast majority are not being given a fair chance to compete in this fast-evolving world. The supply of quality education is lagging behind.
A new report released earlier this week by The Education Finance Watch, jointly commissioned by the World Bank and UNESCO, revealed that two-thirds of low- and lower-middle-income countries have cut their public education budgets since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In comparison the UK’s Department for Education recently announced a new £700M plan to help young people in England catch up on lost learning due to the pandemic and in 2020, public spending on education in China reached 3,633.7 billion yuan.
“The learning poverty crisis that existed before COVID-19 is becoming even more severe, and we are also concerned about how unequal the impact is,” Mamta Murthi, World Bank vice president for human development, said in a statement.
What is the African response?
Recently many of us have been horrified at the images circulating on social media showing dilapidated school buildings in Nigeria, with no infrastructure being led by teachers who haven’t received salaries in months. This is totally unacceptable and should not be tolerated by the educators on the continent.
During a recent HESED webinar themed ‘Next generation School Leadership’ we engaged with teachers in Nigeria who expressed a willingness to push their students more in the classroom but felt the situation impossible without adequate training, modern infrastructure and an improved curriculum.
Fortunately, Covid-19 has not just brought about the need for change, it also points a way forward and for parents, online learning is one of the bright spots. It is safe to say that the success of online STEM education has made a clear case for adopting a hybrid model.
HESED is an initiative and my own personal contribution to providing quality education to Nigerians, as a borderless structure with an unrestricted curriculum. The e-learning platform compliments the current school system by using a national curriculum with the option of studying an international syllabus.
Quality STEM Education is the new normal.
By: Matthew Odu, A Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria