For the last 15 years, the Educate! program has been turning education in Uganda on its head, teaching practical and entrepreneurial skills to break the cycle of poverty and youth unemployment. Currently partnered with more than 350 secondary schools in Uganda and 520 total schools across Africa, Educate! delivers experience-based education to help develop the next generation of community leaders and innovators.
With a growing population, 70 percent of which is young people under the age of 30, Uganda is in need of education reform. Although Uganda introduced free universal secondary schooling in 2011, the youth unemployment rate remains around 66 percent, and factors like attendance and education quality still raise questions. The Educate! program seeks to combat these problems by breaking students into smaller groups taught by mentors in the program, working together to build practical skills such as public speaking, personal savings and social responsibility.
Educate! was first founded in 2002 when U.S. students visited Uganda and were shocked by the number of children struggling to stay in school due to school fees and living and traveling conditions. Educate!’s founders saw the opportunity to turn classrooms into training grounds for students to learn to help themselves, and the organization has been growing and bringing in new teachers ever since.
Outside of the classroom, Educate! is innovating education in Uganda by encouraging interaction between schools with groups such as student business clubs. In these clubs, students utilize skills learned in the classrooms, forming enterprises to compete in the annual National Student Business Competition.
In the last decade, Educate!’s impact in Uganda has increased significantly. Since launching its first education programs in 2009 with seven mentors, Educate! has grown to 200 mentors impacting more than 14,000 students and expanding into other African countries such as Rwanda. By 2024, Educate! aims to reach a million students in Uganda and expand to reach millions more across Africa. Today, the organization reports a 105 percent increase in income among Educate! scholars after graduating high school and a 120 percent increase among female scholars.
The organization is also working with the Ugandan government to spread its mission beyond the scope of just mentors. By building curriculums together with the government and bringing its skills-based model to other schools, Educate! acts as a driving force giving education in Uganda a practical focus. Thanks to its work with the Ugandan government, 45 percent of Ugandan schools now have active student business clubs.
– Nicholas Dugan