Poverty in Sub-Saharan AfricaThe woes of sub-Saharan Africa likely need no real introduction to most in the developed world, with daily survival a challenge for many across the region. Traditionally, the method of attempting to resolve these issues has been via foreign aid. However, in recent years, a new school of thought has emerged. The new thinking is that through entrepreneurship education for the next generation of workers in Africa, an alternative solution to poverty in sub-Saharan Africa may be found.

Current trends in Africa indicate that by the year 2030, enrollment in secondary education will have doubled across sub-Saharan Africa. Yet despite better access to education, youth unemployment rates are increasing. Of all surveyed entrepreneurs in the region, 40 percent said that finding employees with the right skills was their primary challenge when looking to hire new employees. It is perhaps with this type of issue in mind that advocates of educational reform are seeking to make schooling more explicitly linked to the needs of the region.

Reform of this type is obviously a difficult undertaking, especially when considering the multitude of countries and different education systems in the region. With entrepreneurship becoming an increasingly important part of the solution to poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, enabling youths to have skills such as critical thinking and autonomy in their work, traits sought after by hiring managers, seems to be an important step to helping them into the working environment.

A sizable number of countries have already begun taking steps towards reforming their curriculums, with an increased emphasis to be placed on employability skills and entrepreneurship. One of these is Rwanda, a nation in which under-25s, who comprise 67 percent of the population, account for 70 percent of the unemployed labor force. As such, steps towards focusing education on these key aspects could be a massive difference maker in the country’s battle with poverty.

One organization focused on assisting education reform across sub-Saharan Africa is Educate!, whose goal is the transformation of schooling in the region with the ultimate aim of teaching youths to solve poverty in their community themselves. By 2024, Educate! aims to directly impact 1 million students, while reaching 4 million more, with skills training in leadership, entrepreneurship and employability skills. Through this, the organization hopes to transform youths into the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs across the region.

While it is perhaps naive to believe that entrepreneurship education can be the single solution to poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, it is not naive to believe that it will have an impact. It is with this impact in mind that support for these educational reforms should be given. The problem in the region is unique; the solutions to it can be too.

Gavin Callander

Photo: Flickr

Education in Uganda
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

Photo: Flickr

Uganda_EducationFor youth in America, the trajectory of life is simple: get an education, get a job. For youth in Uganda, the story goes a bit differently: get an education, hope that a job actually exists once finished.

Africa’s highest rate of youth unemployment is in Uganda, at around 66 percent. The African Development Bank believes it could be as high as 83 percent. This is also due to the fact that nearly 75 percent of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30, and about 53 percent of the population is younger than 15. While more than 40,000 young people graduate from Ugandan universities annually, fully educated for the workforce, the job market can only open up 8,000 positions each year.

If education can’t solve youth unemployment in Uganda, then what will? Educate! seeks to solve this riddle. Educate! is a Ugandan “experience-based education model” located in 350 secondary schools. In each school, a mentor teaches 40 students skills for entrepreneurship, leadership and critical thinking — in essence, skills for jobs.

Program coordinator Emmanuel Kalyebi remarks that Ugandan education offers “a lot of theoretical knowledge” without any practical skills that employers are requiring. Educate! facilitators seek to remedy this, and end youth unemployment in Uganda.

Each day, the mentors utilize hands-on activities, group projects and public speaking to equip these students to enter the job market. Educate! also encourages students to start their own businesses within their schools, where all students can participate in transactions and respond thoughtfully to any needs they see in their own school. At its heart, Educate! seeks to not only teach theory but the practical application of its lessons.

One of the previous students of Educate! blossomed as a result of the program. Lilian Aero Olok started her journey as a student in 2009 and began a project that offered counseling and support to more than 100 women suffering various effects of HIV/AIDS. Olok gained financial support by equipping these women to make recycled paper beads, products that she herself would want to buy. Now, after graduating from secondary school and Educate!, she works with more than 230 women and sells these beads all over the world.

As Educate! continues to train Uganda’s youth to not only enter the job market but to make their own opportunities, 100 other secondary schools have already lined up to start Educate! programs. By 2024, it is hoped that Educate! will reach one million students in Uganda, and then spread to four million students across various African countries.

Brenna Yowell

Photo: Flickr

Homeless world cupIn 2001, Mel Young created the Homeless World Cup as a way to celebrate individuals from around the globe who have overcome poverty. Young has dedicated his life to fighting homelessness in his homeland of Scotland and the world beyond.

He summarizes his goals for the event: “…we hope to educate the public on the homelessness crisis, with the aim of increasing funding, volunteering, optimism and gestures of goodwill- creating impact and big change”.

The Homeless World Cup is comprised of both men’s and women’s amateur teams from around the world. Unlike the FIFA World Cup, the Homeless World Cup is based on Street Soccer, which uses fewer players and shorter time periods.

The organization covers food and accommodation costs for the players, so even after teams are knocked out of the tournament they are still welcome to spectate and enjoy the rest of the event.

For many players, the Homeless World Cup serves as an escape from the struggles of everyday life as well as a chance to travel to another part of the world. Young believes players are empowered by the dedication, responsibility, and teamwork involved in the game. He also believes that playing sports is a great way to improve both physical and mental health.

The event also works to combat the uncomfortable divide that often separate the homeless and non-homeless communities. By making homeless individuals the stars of the event, typically negative stereotypes surrounding homelessness may shift into a more positive light.

Aside from honing their football skills, players gain valuable skills which can be applied to life outside of the game. The Homelessness World Cup has helped past players overcome addiction, boost self-esteem, and improve their resumes.

Homeless World Cup participants typically retire from football after the Cup, as individuals are only permitted to play once. The hope is that players will have jobs and homes lined up after the event and will no longer be considered homeless. The Homeless World Cup is meant to be a celebration for those who have overcome obstacles and hardships and are ready to enter a new chapter in their lives.

In the words of The Huffington Post’s Kim Samuels, “we have a long way to go to conquer homelessness and the isolation that so often accompanies it. But every goal at the Homeless World Cup brings us a little closer to achieving that larger goal of ending homelessness and fostering inclusion”.

The 2016 Homeless World Cup will be held in Glasgow on July 10–16.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: BBC