The global pandemic has created an education crisis.
Governments around the world have shut down schools and educational institutions in effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
According to UNESCO, over 72% of students globally have been impacted by school closures, leading to interrupted learning, poor nutrition, social isolation and an increased exposure to violence and exploitation.
In response, education is being transformed with digital technology.
But that rapid transformation also means that many students are being left behind.
The United Nations estimates that 90% of students in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to computers and other technological devices, while 82% are unable to connect to the internet. Many teachers and educators are struggling with the rapid move to online learning, struggling with tools for which they have received little or no training or support.
Youth are stepping in to solve the problem.
Our #DOTYouth Street Team— a coordinated support network for youth in Africa and the Middle East who are responding to COVID-19 with needs-based interventions—is supporting youth who are creating truly inclusive and powerful solutions for education in their communities.
Here are 5 youth in Africa and the Middle East who are building inclusive education solutions for their communities:
Mohammad Hamzeh Shehadat is a Syrian refugee living in Jordan and the founder of Expatriate Student Affairs—an online organization that is helping refugee students in Jordan to develop their skills and complete their education.
In response to COVID-19, Mohammad has launched an e-learning platform for youth living in refugee camps in Jordan to provide them with skills in business, marketing, self-development, and Arabic language.
Mohammad is also helping youth to register for online courses and apply for scholarships at colleges and universities – a process that can be challenging for refugee and migrant youth who have limited digital access and are navigating new education systems and processes.
There are over 1.4 million refugees in Jordan – the majority of whom are under the age of 17. Many students have been left without education opportunities. Education is critical for migrant and refugee youth: it is both a tool for sustainable development, and a key part of immediate security and stability.
The work Mohammad is doing through Expatriate Student Affairs is an important step in tackling this challenge and achieving sustainable development.
Peer education is a powerful model of youth-led change and community transformation – particularly in camps and settlements where vulnerable youth look to their peers – like Mohammad – as role models. Mohammad is seeing significant impact from his work: he’s already connected with over 5,000 refugee and migrant youth in Jordan.
Hinsta Bekuretsyon is the co-founder of Pixel ICT Solution, a computing and informatics company based in Mekele, Ethiopia. To respond to COVID-19 challenges, Hinsta is developing a free e-learning platform, called Delivering Quality Education, for students from grade 5 to grade 12.
During the course of this pandemic, Hinsta’s e-learning platform, which plans to offer course material in various disciplines, has reached and supported 50 students and teachers in the Tigray Regional State.
In early March, the Ethiopian government shut down all educational institutions, sending 21 million students home. Since then, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education has encouraged teachers, parents and students to participate in learning opportunities at home through distant and online learning. However, students who are less digitally equipped will be left behind.
“Home-schooling is particularly challenging in low-income countries like Ethiopia because many parents have not themselves been to school and there is a lack of the necessary infrastructure to support remote learning” says Dawit Tibebu Tiruneh, Research Associate at the REAL Centre, University of Cambridge.
There is a huge need to support students from underprivileged and disadvantaged backgrounds in Ethiopia, so that they receive and have access to education during COVID- 19.
Initiatives such as Hinsta’s, which plans to support 300,000 students and teachers during COVID-19, have allowed many students in the Tigray Regional State to benefit from up-to-date curriculum and to stay on track within their educational paths.
Barack Oduor is the founding director of InterCEN Community Kenya, an organization that empowers communities through arts, education and information sharing.
To respond to COVID-19, InterCen Community organizes and administers WhatsApp group chats, through which Barack and his team share educational material and verified updates on COVID-19, including how to protect oneself and daily statistics. To make the information sharing more inclusive, InterCen Community shares resources that are relevant to every age demographic, including young children, youth and the elderly.
Experts say that a way to keep infection rates low and limit the burden on healthcare systems is by sharing true and accurate information – an outcome that Barack is working tirelessly to achieve.
With more than 73% of Kenya’s population on instant messaging platforms, Barack’s initiative has the potential to educate and share information to the vast majority of the population.
Douglas Mwangi is the founder of Oasis Mathare, a community centre in the Mathare Slum in
Nairobi, Kenya that provides education, skills training, a community library and a safe community space for unemployed youth and vulnerable children.
Amidst the COVID 19 pandemic, Douglas, is helping young children and youth in the Mathare Slum to gain valuable skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) through his online Science Lockdown Challenge. This virtual challenge encourages children and parents to participate in weekly online learnings and supplies families with nutritional meals.
Douglas has also developed an easy and accessible mobile app to provide free e-learning content to children & youth in Kenya, enabling them to continue their studies during these unprecedented times.
The Mathare Slum is home to over 500,000 people, many who do not have access to education. Initiatives such as Douglas’ – which support children and youth to gain knowledge and skills – are crucial in alleviating poverty, decreasing unemployment rates and attaining quality education.
George Akilimali is a social entrepreneur and the founder of SmartCore Enterprise, a youth led social enterprise focused on building creative and integrated digital solutions in education and technology in Tanzania.
Through his enterprise, George is providing affordable learning products, services and solutions that enable and transform the way learners or knowledge seekers use digital resources to enhance their education.
In response to COVID-19, George is providing free access to learning content to teachers and students through his mobile and web app, Kisomo SmartLearn. Kisomo SmartLearn currently has over 1000 locally curated and interactive learning modules which are easily accessible to thousands of students in Tanzania.
With global education initiatives opening a floodgate of free content to support out-of-school students during quarantine, George is filling the need for high quality digital education in local languages like Swahili and Bantu.
To learn more about how Digital Opportunity Trust is supporting youth who are developing solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit: DOT Launches #DOTYouth Street Team to tackle COVID-19