Despite undeniable progress that has seen African school systems become world-class providers of education, the fact remains that girls are less likely to enjoy these programs. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, about nine million girls between the formative ages of six and 11 will never go to school. By adolescence, the exclusion rate for girls rises to 36% as compared to 32% for boys. Consequently, many champions for African education are adopting innovative technologies with the hope of repairing age-old gender divides.
Tech-enabled classrooms and early development
Countless studies have shown that early childhood and primary education are among the most critical periods. This is because, during these life stages, children are able to make millions of neural connections at a speed that slows with age. As such, children who are exposed to relevant cognitive stimulation are more likely to develop advanced social, academic, and critical thinking skills. This is why schools like the Bridge International Academies are enhancing their pre- and primary pupil programs with classroom technologies.
Using resources like computers, tablets, and even mobile phones that each utilize data-driven apps and modules, teachers are able to improve learning outcomes among students. As a result of this, studies by Nobel Prize laureate Michael Kremer have found that female students in these programs are able to make the same academic leaps as their male counterparts. This includes an 82% likelihood of literacy (compared with 27% in other schools) by Grade 1 and a 40% higher chance of scoring top marks in regional tests like the KCPE.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the Lagos State government has rolled out EKOEXCEL. A fully funded program designed to leverage technology as a means to improve teachers’ skills, EKOEXCEL aims to improve the learning experience for young girls. As it stands, many girls of high school age in the country are often left out of the classroom. Instead, some are compelled to either get married young or start working early. With Lagos State’s initiatives, girls can still be guided by teachers who have been able to record impressive results regarding literacy. Many girls, especially older ones, are likely to miss classes, so pre-loaded lessons are also made available for them to access remotely. This helps students stay enthusiastic about continuing their studies.
Unlocking trending career opportunities
Globally, STEM careers are fast becoming some of the most in-demand with job growth of about 11%. As a result of this, STEM courses are very popular among some of the most promising for undergraduates. That said, only about 35% of STEM students are female. There are many reasons behind this, but among the most notable is the digital divide that sees girls ostracized. To combat this, learning institutions have begun offering more expansive and inclusive STEM programs for virtually every age group. Case in point, the Jimma Community School has actively provided short-term training to students from grades 1 to 12. As the only registered STEM education center in Southwest Ethiopia, the center has the unique capability to introduce STEM to the youth and prepare them for advanced training later on. Since its establishment, the Academy has already certified almost 400 students.
Similarly in Uganda, where the Wide Web Foundation (WWF) has found the largest gender divide in the region, Educating The Children (ETC) has helped over 1,000 girls learn to code. Graduates of these boot camps are then eligible for internship partnerships that can merit them higher and more regular salaries.
This, in turn, addresses not only the digital divide but also national poverty. Relevant research has found that educating young women is critical to community prosperity, as women are likely to invest up to 90% of their income back into their communities. When a community is better funded and supported, this then creates better educational platforms for future generations.
Girls’ education has long been deemed the key to unlocking a more prosperous and stable society. While gender stereotypes have held back women for generations, current education efforts are being boosted by technology to break down barriers and forge new frontiers.
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