In the poorer regions of Africa, children are unable to go to school. Developing and post-conflict countries struggle to obtain basic necessities and are sometimes unable to provide children with an education. The result of this is an illiterate generation that will eventually turn to violence in revolt against their continued dependence on aid. MindLeaps is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that seeks to break that cycle, and in fact had successes, by offering these children dance lessons.

The Situation

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 32 percent of the youth do not receive an education and are illiterate. Usually, people blame this on a lack of access to schooling; however, this claim is inaccurate. MindLeaps discovered that the underlying causes are unstable homes and living conditions, education fees while schools propose free education and even apathy towards children. In some cases, children who do have the means to attend school drop out before completing their education, believing employment and a bright future for themselves is impossible. This belief stems from their lack of a supportive home life and struggles for basic necessities, as well as the influence of crime, prostitution and drugs of the elder generations. Aware of this, MindLeaps saves children by reaching out to them with a means to improve their academic situation through dance lessons.

The Program

Studies showed that dancing and movement are important in the development of learning skills, creativity and self-esteem, as well as the improvement of memory and cognitive thinking. With this research, MindLeaps developed a dance curriculum for at-risk youths in Africa, focusing on both cognitive and non-cognitive skills that they would not have developed otherwise. Students who graduated from MindLeaps have in fact shown significant cognitive and behavioral development in functions such as memorization, language, discipline and teamwork. Once dancing strengthens their minds, the children are then able to move on academically, earning sponsorships and scholarships from the organization and the dance instructors.

The Misty Copeland Scholarship

One of these instructors is Misty Copeland, a well-renowned American ballerina who came from poverty, as well. Copeland works with MindLeaps as an advisor, ambassador and dance teacher, as well as participating in their scholarship program, the International Artists Fund. In 2015, she traveled to Rwanda to help MindLeaps launch its girls’ program and established the Misty Copeland Scholarship, which provides a top dance student the opportunity to attend boarding school. Three years later, Misty returned to Rwanda and found that a student who had received that scholarship, a boy named Ali, had gone to achieve major academic success.

MindLeaps’ Achievements

Ali was not the only one to achieve success through MindLeaps. In January 2017, the organization reintegrated over 50 students into formal education in Rwanda. In March of that same year, more than half of those students ranked in the top 10 positions of their respective classes. MindLeaps’ dance lessons saved more than 600 at-risk children from illiteracy and potentially violent futures in 2017 alone. More than 3,500 children have completed the MindLeaps’ program across six different countries since 2014. The organization has seen a 0 percent drop-out rate for students whom it helped move on to formal education.

In short, Mindleaps saves children in slums and homeless children in underground tunnels thanks to dance lessons. Dance lessons offers them an opportunity to lead a life away from poverty. Developing their cognitive skills and earning their educations, enables these children to help and provide for their families, which in turn spares the next generation from illiteracy and hardship.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Youth Empowerment Programs in AfricaBy 2050, Africa’s child population is projected to reach one billion, which would be the largest among the other continents. Already, the median age in Africa has shifted to 18 years old and increased the labor force substantially. The Center for Strategic and International Study released a report highlighting just how much of an impact the youth of Africa can have on the continent’s economic growth. With these trends in mind, a number of organizations are finding new and creative ways to increase youth empowerment in Africa today.

Here are three programs centered around youth empowerment in Africa.

3 Youth Empowerment Programs in Africa

  1. Young African Leaders Initiative
    The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is one of the programs created by USAID to empower young people across the world. This 2010 U.S. initiative focuses on providing Africans with resources to bolster development. These young people receive support regarding leadership skills and entrepreneurship opportunities in Regional Leadership Centers in sub-Saharan Africa. The four regional centers are located in higher education institutions and primarily target young people between the ages of 18 and 35. For example, one center located at the University of South Africa School of Business Leadership serves Swaziland, Zambia, South Africa and Madagascar. These regional centers help foster entrepreneurship and create opportunities for cross-border collaboration.The program also offers a fellowship for young Africans to study at a U.S. university and further develop their skills to become young leaders. The Mandela Washington Fellowship selects young people from 48 countries across sub-Saharan Africa to create a diverse group of fellows learning about topics surrounding business, civic engagement or public management.

    One of the most important parts of this program is the large network for young Africans to connect with each other across the continent. With online resources and regional centers in all parts of sub-Saharan Africa, every day, more young people are gaining access to information about professional development and entrepreneurship, creating a strong foundation for long-term youth empowerment in Africa.

  2. Young Africa
    In 1988, Young Africa International was founded in the Netherlands. With a goal to empower young Africans with employability and entrepreneurship skills, the program utilizes a network of independent and local affiliations to run activities in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.A majority of the funding goes to creating training centers to hire youth across these countries. It also allows local entrepreneurs to run their businesses in a successful environment. By establishing local nonprofits in these youth centers, it promotes local businesses while also giving youth the opportunity to explore career fields, develop new skills and learn lessons about the working environment.

    Targeted to the 15 to 25 age group, Young Africa also provides 43 courses to people in the program. These courses include vocational education in technical, agricultural and commercial skills. Young Africa also focuses heavily on life skills training to help empower young people to make healthy choices and grow their self-confidence so they can make a positive impact on their community.

    The overall impact of the organization can be seen by its milestones. In 2017, there were 1,980 vocational graduates from the program. Sixty-nine percent of them are now employed or self-employed. Overall, there have been 36,894 graduates from the vocational program and their incomes increased significantly. In Namibia alone, the participant’s average daily income increased from $15.30 a day to $40.

  3. International Youth Foundation
    For 30 years, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) has prepared young women and men to take control of their futures by focusing on a combination of education, employment, entrepreneurship and social innovation.Zimbabwe:Works is an example of a program focusing on employment for marginalized groups, especially women. Using the Passport to Success curriculum, the program teaches life skills to increase self-esteem, promote teamwork and motivate young people to engage in their communities. Certain partners and entrepreneurs also assist the process by providing business courses and access to microloans and related programs. Roughly 80 percent of interns with this program have transitioned to full-time employment with various companies. Also, almost 7 out of 10 women in the targeted group received financial literacy training.

    This program is just one of many examples of youth empowerment programs in Africa led by IYF. Across 14 countries, various programs introduce young people to healthier lifestyles and brighter futures.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

How Technology is Improving Africa
Africa is the poorest continent in the world with every second person living below the poverty line. From extreme hunger to illnesses and to insufficient agricultural infrastructure, Africa’s population is suffering. Fortunately, groups of researchers and people are continuously creating solutions to change these conditions. Here are four inventions that show how technology is improving Africa.

NEWgenerator Sanitation Systems

Since 2002, a group of researchers at the University of South Florida have been working on a new type of wastewater treatment system that will address sanitation issues in poor countries. They invented the NEWgenerator, which is a solar-powered generator that turns wastewater into recyclable clean water, nutrients and energy. Waste from the toilet enters the tank and it treats the water in a manner that is similar to a coffee filter. As a result, chlorinated water releases that people can use to flush the toilet and irrigate for agricultural purposes. The breakdown of organic material in the waste produces biogas, a form of energy. Lastly, this method releases nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the waste that people can use as fertilizer for agricultural purposes.

The NEWgenerator stays inside a container that batteries power, allowing the unit to be completely self-sustainable. Solar power and biogas from the waste power these batteries, making this device completely independent. The NEWgenerator received initial testing at a school in South India, where the invention succeeded in recycling thousands of gallons of water for 100 people per day. In 2016, the NEWgenerator’s lead professor, Daniel Yeh, earned a $1.14 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to install an improved version in Durban, South Africa. The generators will connect to Community Ablution Blocks (CABs), facilities comprised of toilets and showers. This will multiply the NEWgenerator’s ability to produce water by 10 times and serve up to 1,000 people per day. The research group is currently working on this installation and its dedication illuminates how technology is improving Africa.

SafariSeat Wheelchairs

One in 200 people in East Africa has a disability that affects their mobility, forcing them to remain in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. Janna created SafariSeat and a small group of designers who wanted to help people regain their independence and livelihoods. It is a new wheelchair design that can navigate rough terrain found in South Africa and other developing countries. It works through a lever system, where the person can pump hand levers to control the wheelchair’s speed and power. SafariSeat’s goal is to implement an open-source toolkit in developing countries where the blueprints are free and the resources necessary to build these wheelchairs come from bicycle components at a low cost for local workshops. An open-source toolkit has three components that contribute to its success: the use of diagrams for building purposes, a communication network and a design portal where people can submit ideas for improvement.

In the past two years, SafariSeat set up two workshops, one in Kenya and one in Tanzania. It initially produced the first 50 wheelchairs in Kenya and the first 150 wheelchairs in Tanzania. After these successes, it implemented the SafariSeat Outreach program, which is a team that identifies people with disabilities in Kenya who live in isolation and need SafariSeats. Currently, the founders are working on building a third workshop in Uganda in hopes of expanding their reach and number of wheelchairs. Their ultimate goal is to broaden their impact on the rest of the world, specifically to countries undergoing wars.

Mazzi Cans

Africa has five times as many dairy cows compared to the United States with a total of about 49 million cows. Millions of farmers rely on cow’s milk as their income and source of nutrition for their families. However, if milk does not receive proper handling or storage during the time people transport it to markets, it can develop harmful bacteria that cause illnesses. Since milk contains important nutrients, vitamins, calories and minerals that can fulfill healthy dietary needs, it is necessary for farmers to be able to safely transport their milk. Mazzi is the answer to this problem. It is a 10-liter container system that makes it more efficient for the collection and transportation process. It provides a milking funnel over a durable container stronger than normal Jerry cans and its shape makes it easy to clean, preventing bacteria or soil from accumulating in the container.

Mazzi emerged by partnering with the Global Good, an organization that works with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Intellectual Ventures. Currently, Mazzi is available in Kenya and Ethiopia, with the goal of expanding to Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. It will continue working on making this product more cost-affordable for small farmers.

Lucky Iron Fish

Another technology that is improving Africa is the Lucky Iron Fish which a group of researchers in a Canadian university created in response to the 2 billion people suffering iron deficiency. Iron is a crucial nutrient that helps blood transport oxygen from the lungs to the body. Without a sufficient amount of iron, people experience fatigue, weakness, lack of concentration, shortness of breath and headaches. People can put the Lucky Iron Fish in the pot or pan in which the food is cooking, releasing 6 to 8 milligrams of iron that the food absorbs. This is about 40 percent of a person’s daily iron intake levels. With the return of iron to a child’s diet, they can focus better in school, leading to higher performance results. For working persons, their improved concentration gives them a chance to earn higher incomes.

Once someone buys an Iron Lucky Fish, the organization contributes an equal amount into its Impact Fund. The company uses its Impact Fund to donate Lucky Iron Fish to developing countries and improve educational resources in communities. Women and men receive training to deliver Lucky Iron Fish within these countries and raise awareness about how to solve iron deficiency. In 2018, 54,000 people around the world received a Lucky Iron Fish. Many people (5,175) in Benin, a country in West Africa, were among these individuals. Currently, the organization is looking for more partnerships with NGOs to expand its impact from 88 countries to the rest of the world.

New technology is proving to be one of the crucial answers helping Africa out of extreme poverty with the dedication of numerous research groups and motivated people. These four inventions show how technology is improving Africa each year.

Jane Burgan
Photo: Flickr

Education for internally displaced children

Violence or conflict internally displaces approximately 17 million children worldwide. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those who have been forced to leave their homes but remain within the borders of their country of origin. A majority of IDPs live in urban areas, where they often lack access to basic services, including health care, housing and education. Ensuring access to education for internally displaced children is essential to improving livelihoods and fostering social cohesion.

Initiatives in Nigeria and Kenya represent important steps toward ensuring education for all internally displaced children in those countries.

Barriers to Education

For internally displaced children, schools are crucial to integrating into their new host community and regaining some normalcy after fleeing violence. Unfortunately, a myriad of challenges prevents many of these children from being able to attend school. A lack of documentation, financial struggles, language barriers, physical distance from the nearest school and a lack of education facilities in the area could possibly prevent internally displaced children from pursuing their education.

Furthermore, child labor, child marriage and recruitment by armed forces and gangs are other significant barriers to education for internally displaced children. IDPs often experience severe poverty and, as a way to make more money, send their children to work within the informal sector, thereby preventing them from going to school.

Child marriage is seen as another way to help overcome poverty, as marrying into the host community can provide economic and social benefits. Child marriage is frequently forced onto internally displaced children, especially girls. For IDPs who choose to marry when they are young, becoming independent from their parents may be a motivating factor. Once married, children rarely begin or continue their education.

Additionally, internally displaced children tend to live in poor, crime-ridden districts. They are more likely to be recruited by local gangs or armed groups in these areas. In Colombia, armed groups seek out children because they are able to avoid heavy criminal sentences if caught.

Conflict also negatively impacts education infrastructure, hurting educational opportunities for internally displaced children. Displacement disproportionately affects girls, who face additional challenges. Girls are 2.5 times more likely to not attend school in countries experiencing conflict. Gender-based violence and harassment that occurs at school and on the route to and from education facilities keep many girls at home. The abduction and rape that has occurred in at least 18 countries, along with the bombing of girls’ schools, also encourages families to keep their daughters at home rather than sending them to school.

UNICEF Recommendations

UNICEF recommends several tactics to overcome these barriers to education for internally displaced children. The organization’s primary goal is to ensure humanitarian organizations and governments begin to see education as a greater priority for IDPs. Education is commonly seen as secondary to addressing violence. Unfortunately, when conflicts last for years and decades, waiting to invest in education can leave generations of internally displaced children without schooling.

Key recommendations include strengthening education systems, abolishing school fees to reduce financial constraints and adapting curricula to address prejudices and promote diversity and social cohesion.

Case Study: Kenya

A study conducted at a Kenya school in 2013 and 2014 provides valuable insight into the benefits of educating internally displaced children alongside local children. At the school studied, 71 percent of students were internally displaced. However, efforts were made to provide an inclusive education that strengthened community relationships.

The study found that many internally displaced children were initially apprehensive about being accepted by their new school community. This sometimes lasted, but usually dissipated after a few weeks as the children become comfortable with each other. One student, Jey, told an author from the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, “I like this school because pupils like me. I don’t have any enemies all of them help me.”

Furthermore, students at the school developed community-consciousness. Many were aware of social inequalities that existed in Kenya. Internally displaced children recognized the disadvantages they and their families faced and were motivated to complete school to improve their futures.

Overall, more schools like this one in Kenya are needed to help bridge gaps between host communities and IDPs. This will improve opportunities for internally displaced children.

Plan International: Nigeria

In Nigeria, Plan International is creating learning centers to provide education for internally displaced children. These centers are created in areas that lack educational infrastructure and seek to support IDPs.

Patim, one of the teachers at a learning center in Maiduguri, noted that many of the children she teaches have lost their parents and require a great deal of support. The learning centers are doing what they can but often lack adequate resources and staff. However, the work being done is still directly benefiting many children. Patim recognizes that many of her students would be working on the streets if it wasn’t for the learning center. Attending the center helps keep children safe during the day.

Moving Forward

More communities and nations need to adopt UNICEF’s recommendations to ensure the availability of education for internally displaced children. Hopefully, recent attention to this issue will spark significant change in more countries, improving the livelihoods of IDPs around the world.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Exploiting Poverty Hurts African Economies
A viral parody video on exploiting poverty that hurts African economies shows Norwegians slipping on the ice while African rapper Breezy V laments Norwegian children suffering from frostbite. He asks Africans to ship their radiators to Norway to help these unfortunate souls who cannot help themselves.

Radi-Aid’s Critique of So-Called Poverty Porn

Radi-Aid, an initiative by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ Assistance (SAIH), created this video to critique Western international aid organizations’ representation of Africa in their fundraising videos. SAIH hopes to recontextualize traditional aid campaigns.

A 2013 TED Talk by Anja Bakken, then president of SAIH, identified poverty, war and violence as standard stereotypes in these advertisements. The 1980s media coverage of the Ethiopian famine first introduced the technique, poverty porn. The 1987 Images of Africa Report found that, by the time the famine had ended, media coverage created the predominant perception that Africans were starving and primitive.

While effective at mobilization, this pity advertising can actually impair the recipient countries more than it helps. When the stereotypes that emerge from these advertisements affect higher debates, they can influence policymakers and potential investors. This is how exploiting poverty hurts African economies.

The Effect of Aid’s Poverty Porn on African Economies

The Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda explains in his TED Talk, “Aid for Africa? No thanks.,” that fundraising campaigns often frame the African continent as a “place of despair” without self-initiative. Exploiting poverty hurts African economies because it dramatically shifts a governments’ structure of incentives. Mwenda argues that governments do not address the root causes of poverty because international aid organizations are responding to symptoms with medicine and food relief. However, the long-term development and wellbeing of society rests on strong economies accepting foreign investment.

According to the 2018 World Investment Report, African countries were not taking advantage of foreign direct investment (FDI). These countries were not adjusting their industrial policies to stay in step with the dynamic global economy, which Mwenda would argue is due to a skewed structure of incentives.

FDI to Africa dropped 21 percent between 2016 and 2017. The 2018 World Investment report postulates that this is partly due to the sharp decline in rates of return in Africa. In his TED Talk, Mwenda explains that the government’s unwillingness to take advantage of FDI causes these low rates of return. Unfortunately, this cycle, if continued, could influence future FDI prospects in the region.

Annual Radiator Awards

From 2013 to 2017, Radi-Aid presented literal rusty radiators to organizations that produced what they considered the most egregious examples of poverty porn advertising. Concern Worldwide, Plan Norway, Band-Aid, Save the Children and Disasters Emergency Committee all won rusty radiators during its five-year stint.

The selection criteria included lack of context and nuance identified as critical for exposing underlying causes of poverty. Radi-Aid worried that oversimplified images were damaging the long-term development of these countries. SAIH argues that the staple representation of passive, starving African children without the agency or desire to better their situation strips people of their dignity.

Radi-Aid argues that there is no need to equate a donation to a saved life. Global issues are complex, so Radi-Aid resists aid organizations’ tendency to convince their audience that solutions are cheap and easy. Presenting a parallel Golden Radiator award each year, Radi-Aid shows advertising can represent individuals with agency, dignity and respect. Campaigns can inspire rather than guilt their audiences. Charity campaigns can highlight the concept of common humanity and solidarity rather than detachment.

Aid Recipients Respond to Ad Campaigns

Between July 2017 and July 2018, SAIH asked 74 people living in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia) for their reactions to the imagery used in major aid campaigns including Save the Children and War Child. The organization compiled its findings into a research report published on its website.

It found that respondents believed the existing imagery unfairly presented Africa as inferior and in need. The respondents lamented that the advertisements presented a distorted, over-dramatized, monolithic Africa in which progress was impossible.

A 22-year-old Zambian respondent explained, “it gives a very negative picture of Africa. It is like people are not trying to improve, but people are actually trying hard… We see the same picture over and over, it is like nothing is changing, although things are changing.”

More Respectful Campaigns On The Horizon

SAIH Norway discontinued The Rusty Radiator awards in 2017 when it found it increasingly difficult to discover examples of poverty porn. Separately, the 2019 World Investment Report showed a significant uptick in FDI flows to African countries in 2018, rising by 11 percent to $46 billion. These two trends, while no means causally related, indicate a change in how Western countries think about the future of Africa.

The nature of foreign aid advertising is beginning to change. A May 2019 UNICEF advertisement entitled “The Class of No Tomorrow” centers around the tragedy of schools destroyed by armed conflicts in Iraq, South Sudan and Ukraine. Rather than degrade the dignity of the causalities, the advertisement symbolically represents the victims as statues, placed so every delegate attending the 2019 Safe Schools Conference will see them. Looking forward, the ad reminds the viewer that “we need to continue the work to give these children a better tomorrow, today.”

Daria Locher
Photo: Flickr

 

Infant Mortality in NepalOver the past 10 years, infant mortality in Nepal has decreased. The number of infants dying before they reach age one has been reduced by more than 50 percent. In 2006, the United Nations Populations Fund ranked Nepal as the most affected by infant and maternal mortality in South Asia. Not many people know what chlorhexidine does for Nepal. However, chlorhexidine is becoming more common in routine care nationwide. Over 1.3 million newborns throughout Nepal benefit from this product.

How Chlorhexidine Helps Nepal

Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic used in hospitals to disinfect the skin before surgery and to sanitize surgical tools. In countries like Nepal, it is used to prevent deadly infections by protecting the umbilical stumps of newborns. It is safe and affordable. Chlorhexidine comes as either a gel or a liquid. It is easy to manufacture and simple to use. Mothers, birth attendants and others with little training in low-resource settings benefit the most from this antiseptic.

Research and Trials

Between November 2002 and March 2005, Nepal Nutrition Intervention Project, Sarlahi (NNIPS) started a community-based trial. The trial hoped to determine the effects of chlorhexidine on newborns. Nepal Health Research Council and the Committee on Human Research of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health approved the trial. A local female researcher approached women who were six months into pregnancy for enrollment, to explain the procedures and obtain their oral consent.

Education also became a part of the research testing for those in the chlorhexidine trials. Parents in this group received educational messages about clean cord care.

Results

The NNIPS enrolled 15,123 infants into the trials. Of these infants, 268 resulted in neonatal death. Of the surviving infants, researchers found that there is a 24 percent lower risk of mortality among the chlorhexidine group than those who use dry cord-care (no soap and water, chlorhexidine or any other liquid). Also, infant mortality in Nepal was reduced by 34 percent in those enrolled in the trial within the first 24 hours of their birth.

The trial data also provides evidence that cleansing the umbilical cord with chlorhexidine can lessen the risk of omphalitis and other infections. Omphalitis, a cord infection, was reduced by 75 percent when treated with chlorhexidine. The antiseptic was determined to have an overall positive and significant effect on the public health of the country.

Impact in Nepal

In 2009, after results of the trials released, the USAID supported the Government of Nepal to pilot a chlorhexidine program. Saving Lives at Birth: a Grand Challenge for Development, an NGO, included chlorhexidine into routine care nationwide two years later. The Government of Nepal has advocated and promoted the usage of chlorhexidine by packaging the products as a maternal health product. They are now even educating health care workers on the application of the product.

The country received a USAID Pioneers Prize for lowering the neonatal death rate significantly. In 2007 the mortality rate was 43.4 per 1,000. In 2018, it lowered to 27.32 per 1,000.

Global Impact

What chlorhexidine does for Nepal goes beyond its borders. Nepal has also impacted countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bangladesh. These countries are now using chlorhexidine to lower the infant mortality rate and create healthier societies.

In 2013, Nigeria started chlorhexidine pilot programs to also lower its neonatal death rate. The infant mortality rate is determined by newborn deaths per 1,000 people born. Nigeria once had the third-highest number of infant deaths (75.3 per 1,000). However, the infant mortality rate now is ranked as the eighth-highest at about 64.6 deaths per 1,000.

Chlorhexidine is reducing infant mortality in Nepal and other countries.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

Coding in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, with more than 80 percent of its citizens living in rural areas. More than 108.4 million people call Ethiopia home, making it Africa’s second-largest nation in terms of population. However, other production areas have become major players in Ethiopia’s economy. As of 2017, Ethiopia had an estimated gross domestic product of $200.6 billion with the main product coming from other sources than agriculture.

Today, 1.2 million Ethiopians have access to fixed telephone lines, while 62.6 million own cell phones. The country broadcasts six public TV stations and 10 public radio shows nationally. 2016 data showed that over 15 million Ethiopians have internet access. While 15 percent of the population may not seem significant, it is a sharp increase in comparison to the mere one percent of the population with Internet access just two years prior.

Coding in Ethiopia: One Girl’s Success Story

Despite its technologically-limited environment, young tech-savvy Ethiopians are beginning to forge their own destiny and pave the way for further technological improvements. One such pioneer is teenager Betelhem Dessie. At only 19, Dessie has spent the last three years traveling Ethiopia and teaching more than 20,000 young people how to code and patenting a few new software programs along the way.

On her website, Dessie recounts some of the major milestones she’s achieved as it relates to coding in Ethiopia:

  • 2006 – she got her first computer
  • 2011- she presented her projects to government officials at age 11
  • 2013-she co-founded a company, EBAGD, whose goals were to modernize Ethiopia’s education sector by converting Ethiopian textbooks into audio and visual materials for the students.
  • 2014-Dessie started the “codeacademy” of Bahir Dar University and taught in the STEM center at the university.

United States Collaboration

Her impressive accomplishments continue today. More recently, Dessie has teamed up with the “Girls Can Code” initiative—a U.S. Embassy implemented a project that focuses on encouraging girls to study STEM. According to Dessie, “Girls Can Code” will “empower and inspire young girls to increase their performance and pursue STEM education.”

In 2016, Dessie helped train 40 girls from public and governmental schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to code over the course of nine months. During those nine months, Dessie helped her students develop a number of programs and projects. One major project was a website where students can, according to Dessie, “practice the previous National examinations like SAT prep sites would do.” This allows students to take practice tests “anywhere, anytime.” In 2018, UNESCO expanded a similar project by the same name to include all 10 regions in Ghana, helping to make technology accessible to more Africans than ever before.

With the continuation of programs like “Girls Can Code” and the ambition of young coders everywhere, access to technology will give girls opportunities to participate in STEM, thereby closing the technology gender gap in developing countries. Increased STEM participation will only serve to aid struggling nations in becoming globally competitive by boosting their education systems and helping them become more connected to the world in the 21st century.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Informal Schools in African Slums
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) estimates that, as of 2010, more than 200 million people in Africa reside in slums. This means more than 200 million people are living their lives in inhumane conditions and circumstances. The children living in these slums have a compromised opportunity at education. According to UNICEF, the youth residing in slums are some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable youth in the world. Due to the burgeoning need for educational institutions in Africa, informal schools in African slums are gaining popularity.

What are Informal Schools?

Informal schools are unregistered educational institutions that are not recognized by the government. Traditional schooling comes in the form of either private or public schools, and informal schools are a sort of middle ground. They typically operate in impoverished areas and are mostly geared around offering the same education as a primary school. These institutions are funded by private parties and non-profit organizations.

Increasing Need

The main reason that the number of informal schools in African slums has been on the rise has to do with a surge of enrollment in public schools. This is, in part, due to the initiative of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which pushed toward target goals that would reduce poverty, such as improved access to education. This enrollment surge is a positive factor in Africa’s education sector, but comes with a downside: there are not enough public schools to meet the rising need of educating African children, and the usual alternative, private schools, are not financially accessible to most African families. Overcrowding in African schools has been an increasing problem; the pupil to instructor ratio in African primary schools is 42:1.

In response to the need for more educational institutes, informal schools have been sprouting up all over Africa, especially in slums. Characterized by the same steel and dirt architecture in the surrounding slums, these schools offer an alternative option for education. There is a lack of government schools in slums, so private sectors and organizations provide funds for the informal schools.

The Benefits of Informal Schooling

Informal schools in African slums not only facilitate access to education but also offer a safe space for the youth. Many of these schools, such as the Destiny Junior Education Center, offer meals and restrooms, which are not commodities in slum-living. Informal schools keep African children off the streets and in the classrooms, which potentially helps them stay away from the vices that are rampant in slum environments like drugs and alcohol.

The Future of Informal Schools

The next step regarding informal schools is to put policies in place to protect them. There are members in the education committee of the National Assembly that are working toward informal schools being recognized by the government so as to strengthen the quality of education in them.

Overall, informal schools in African slums are an attempt to meet the increasing need for education in slums. By offering an alternative to the congested public schools, these informal education centers provide hope for African youth.

– Paula Bouza
Photo: Flickr

BeyGood Fellowship ProgramLast December, Beyoncé performed at the Global Citizen Festival in South Africa, a festival aimed at ending global poverty. The 2018 festival was in honor of Nelson Mandela, former South African president and activist who died in 2013. Over 90,000 people attended the festival, which raised $7.1 billion worldwide. The highly anticipated performance garnered high viewership and engagement worldwide, and parts of the performance were streamed online. However, this was not the beginning of Beyoncé’s charity work in South Africa. Her foundation, BeyGood, has spotlighted local organizations for years. Now, BeyGood plans to return to South Africa twice a year to help develop and execute its community outreach plan. In doing so, BeyGood created the BeyGood Fellowship Program.

BeyGood Fellowship Program in South Africa

The BeyGood Fellowship Program in South Africa is being executed in partnership with Global Citizen. The two organizations are working to empower local youth in helping end world poverty by 2030. Each youth fellow receives a paid, yearlong job opportunity and will focus on one of four pillars of activity from Global Citizen: creative, campaigns, rewards or marketing.

In late March 2019, the BeyGood foundation reviewed applications and returned from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa. Once there, BeyGood representatives met with four fellows who have been working on the project since the Global Citizen Festival in December. They also met with local partners to see how their work has been going and what is needed to ensure future success.

BeyGood Foundation Partnerships in South Africa

In addition to the organization’s work in South Africa, the BeyGood Foundation is partnering with UNICEF USA and Chime for Change on a campaign called Every Drop Counts, bringing clean water to Burundi. The BeyGood Foundation also works with an organization in Johannesburg, IkamvaYouth. This organization aims to pull children out of poverty through after-school tutoring. Founded in 2003, IkamvaYouth is youth-driven and offers career advice and psychological services. It impacts 5,000 youths per year across 15 branches.

Moreover, BeyGood is partnered with 9-year-old arts organization Lalea, whose mission is to support youth through after-school art programs. The organization helps students manifest their dreams and think creatively to accomplish their goals. BeyGood’s visits to South Africa enabled them to check in with all of these programs and more. More importantly, it allowed BeyGood to ensure they are engaging the communities they serve and maintain and create future success.

Though the BeyGood fellowship program in South Africa is relatively new, the organization has continuously worked with various South African organizations to aid youth development. The program has executed on their promises to the community. Ultimately, BeyGood is an example of how to incorporate youth in the fight to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Ava Gambero
Photo: Google Images

Growing Up in Exile: Who is Monique Macías?Who is Monique Macías? Currently an author, Monique Macías was one of the only foreign students at the prestigious Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea. Now out of exile and in her 40s, Monique Macías often depicts her unconventional upbringing as a black African adolescent in articles and memoirs.

Born in Equatorial Guinea in 1970, only two years after the country gained independence from Spain, her father, Francisco Macías Nguema, was the small country’s first elected president. As a new president, Macías sought to form relationships with leaders of other countries such as North Korean President Kim Il-sung.

Monique Macías stated that her father and Kim Il-sung became fast friends because they had “a lot in common”, pointing out that “both fought against colonial powers and both built their support base through nationalism.”

Regardless, Francisco Macías had a short term due to a series of illegal acts he implemented through the Equatorial Guinean government. In the late 1970s. Francisco Macías was overthrown as president of Equatorial Guinea and tried for numerous crimes including genocide, embezzlement and treason. Francisco Macías was executed by firing squad in the late 1970s.

Foreseeing his exile and later execution, Franciso Macías sent his three children to North Korea to live and receive an education. Monique Macías, along with her sister and brother, attended Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea, where they learned to shoot Kalashnikov rifles and participated in daily physical drills that involved running and climbing.

Formerly an all-boys school, the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School made a new class for Macías and her sister as an exception. The special treatment often led other students to ask: who is Monique Macías and why do she and her siblings deserve preferential treatment? Macías was not too young to recognize the special treatment that she and her siblings received in Pyongyang:

“[We] were the only Korean-speaking long-term foreign residents during that period. We lived a privileged lifestyle compared to other foreign students and the majority of North Korean people. Throughout those years Kim Il-sung stayed in regular contact with us…”

Macias lived in exile in Pyongyang for 15 years before relocating in 1994.

So, who is Monique Macías outside of exile? Still affected by the conditions in which she spent her formative years, Macías continues to author memoirs and articles about her incredibly unconventional childhood and discusses how living in Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Spain and the United States informed her opinions of the North Korean regime.

“There are people in North Korea who know that this is not the right way to live,” she said in an interview with Reuters. “I don’t think it’s going to collapse easily.”

However, Monique Macías does not shy away from defending the country that took her in upon her father’s death and formed her childhood:

“I have found that Western media normally just focuses on nuclear issues, politics or human rights. Together, all this makes people think that North Korea is an evil country and that its people are simply robots….But having lived there, I am proof that all of these things are not always true.”

In the 2000s, Monique Macías published her memoir “I’m Monique, From Pyongyang” in Korean.

Photo: Flickr