Partnership with businesses to boost girls learning

Thursday, November 26th, 2020 00:00 |
Girl-child. Photo/Courtesy

Jane Marriott   

We have all seen first-hand the impact of Covid-19 on our children: the need for home-schooling, challenges with access to learning materials, and our children not being socialised with others. 

In Kenya, millions of learners are out of school. Only 22 per cent is lucky enough to be able to access learning on the internet.

On a recent trip to Mombasa, parents told me without the discipline and routine their children have at school, they are falling further behind.

Businesses too have felt the economic impacts of the pandemic severely. Many workers globally have lost their jobs.

There is not a lot of spare money as everyone from big companies to MSMEs and entrepreneurs reduce costs to try and survive. 

Yet in all this belt-tightening, I’m asking businesses to put their hands further in their pockets to mitigate the longer term impacts of Covid-19. What do I mean? 

Educating children – particularly girls, who are otherwise less likely to return to education when schools reopen - creates thriving and diverse workforces.

For businesses, giving girls quality education is not just the right thing to do; it is a smart thing to do.

Remove barriers and a powerful force is unleashed: a child whose mother can read is 50 per cent more likely to live past the age of five, twice as likely to attend school themselves and 50 per cent more likely to be immunised.

A girl with one year of additional schooling will increase her earnings by a fifth.

It creates leaders of the future: scientists that will fight climate change and engineers that will develop cutting-edge technology.

It prevents child marriage that keeps women out of the workplace. It boosts incomes, builds productivity and strengthens economies. 

Avanti, a British satellite communications company, has partnered with Project iMlango, an e-learning programme in Kenya, backed by UK aid, to deliver broadband connectivity that ensures education content can reach 245 remote and rural schools across Kenya.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, iMlango has given more than 68,000 girls an opportunity to keep up with their learning while schools were closed.   

When businesses take action, we can educate more girls, more quickly and more effectively.

That’s why next year – during our G7 Presidency - the UK, Kenya and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) will co-host a Global Education Summit which will unite businesses, world leaders and charities in a shared endeavour to educate more children and build back better from coronavirus. 

A series of events begun last week to bring together business leaders from UK, international and African companies alongside education ministers from developing countries, such as Kenya and Nigeria, to establish how we can work together to tackle the global learning crisis.

We are also joining forces with major, influential firms such as HP, PWC, Ecobank and Econet, to discuss aligning companies’ sustainability initiatives with national education strategies of developing countries.

This includes commitments from businesses to boost women and girls’ skills, empowerment, and financial education. Together, we’ll get more girls learning to unlock opportunity.

The UK has long history of supporting Kenya’s education sector. Between 2015 and 2019, 270,000 Kenyan children received a decent education thanks to UKAid. Today it is no different.

Through the Girls’ Education Challenge Programme and the GPE, we have been supporting Kenya to educate girls at home.

This includes through mentoring teachers and engaging communities on the importance of girls continuing to learn while at home. This will help their learning now and make the transition back to school smoother.  

But we need all the partners we can. If you are reading this and you own or run a business or take an active role in your workforce; you can help.

You can sponsor girls in your community through education. You can share any resources you have to support digital learning.

You can help schools better understand the skills students need for the future.

If we educate one child, we can change one life. If we educate millions of children, in Kenya and across the globe, we can change the world.— The writer is the British High Commissioner to Kenya 

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