Education is the most powerful weapon with the capacity to change the world. It shapes minds and lives, builds communities, and stimulates long-term economic growth. But for many people, access to basic education is a luxury. In Africa alone, 244 million children are currently out of school. Recent figures have also shown that around 89% of ten-year-old children in Eastern and Southern Africa are unable to read or understand a short text.
Africa’s education crisis urgently needs to be addressed. There is no silver bullet, but as a first step, we should focus our efforts on tackling the digital divide that is currently preventing Africa’s remote and marginalised communities from accessing quality education.
In light of World Humanitarian Day on Saturday 19th August, I am calling on the tech sector to highlight the need for collaboration to help close the education gap and change this reality. If we work together we can enrich the lives of many young people across not just Africa, but the world. Access to quality education is something myself, and my employer, Avanti Communications are very passionate about. I am also an ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) as a UK Champion. For two decades, the GPE has been supporting solutions for resilient education systems in countries characterised by extreme poverty or conflict.
I am exceptionally proud to be part of a mission to provide young people with equal rights to education and over the past few years, have seen first-hand the impact that technology can have on the learning outcomes of young people. At Avanti, as part of our school offering, we provide high-speed satellite technology, ICT devices and educational content.
To date, we have connected more than 1,000 villages and schools across Africa, providing services in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Senegal, Ghana, Angola, Côte d’ivoire, Cameroon, Niger and South Sudan. Millions of lives across Africa have been impacted, and over the next 5 years our ambition is to connect a further 10,000 sites, enabling even more communities to enjoy a connected life.
Public-private partnerships play a crucial role in the work we do in education, and where we see the most impact. Our previous iMlango project, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and a consortium of 4 companies led by Avanti Communications successfully reached 245 primary and secondary schools, hundreds of Kenyan communities and has improved the learning outcomes of around 180,000 marginalised children – 90,000 of which are marginalised girls.
The success of this project is all through a combination of our satellite technology, laptops, computers and ICT devices and educational content. As well as students, the project also helped to increase the capability and confidence of in excess of 5000 teachers. The success of this project is a testament to the powerful impact connectivity can have for individuals and communities.
In today’s rapidly changing world, access to quality education is vital. However, collective action is needed for us to make this everyone’s reality
Improving access to learning enables people to thrive and can help to address crucial issues such as the gender imbalances in education. Educating girls saves lives and builds stronger families, communities and economies – yet so many are not educated. For instance, educated girls have a better knowledge of nutrition, hygiene, and reproductive health, which results in lower maternal and child mortality rates, improved family health, and overall well-being.
A good education also provides women and girls with increased income-earning potential which reduces poverty and contributes to economic growth. Yet, when it comes to educating girls, I recently read that, for every US$1 spent on education, US$10 – US$15 can be generated in economic growth. Countries failing to provide girls with a basic education are missing a trick.
An educated girl is much more likely to secure a job, support her family and invest in her community. Giving girls an education can empower them to make informed decisions and take control of their own lives – breaking the cycle of gender inequality. Part of the battle is to improve awareness around the socio-economic benefits educating girls can provide.
Our partnership with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) on The Girls’ Education Awareness Programme uses connectivity to help break down barriers to girls’ education. We drive awareness and behaviour change through social marketing around social norms, keeping girls from school, strengthening efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4).
SDG 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by providing children and young people with quality and easily accessible education, plus other learning opportunities. Again, you can see how essential partnerships are when it comes to driving positive, long-lasting change.
In today’s rapidly changing world, access to quality education is vital. However, collective action is needed for us to make this everyone’s reality. A key part of the South African government’s 2050 National Infrastructure Plan is to ensure that basic broadband is free, high-speed, and universally accessible across all South African communities by 2023–2024.
With help from the government and private sector partnerships, the tech sector is perfectly poised to make this pivotal part of the government’s plan a reality. Everyone has the power to reach their full potential, they just need to be given the opportunity. The power of education is clear, and working together to bridge the digital divide has the capacity to change millions of lives – so let’s make this a reality.
Mavis is group HR Director, Avanti Communications