Photo by Oando Foundation
“I believe girls can grow up to be anything they want to be. This is why I love going to school and my favorite subject is Mathematics,” said Amirah Musa, an 11-year-old girl from Abuja, Nigeria, who is a current student of Local Government Primary School Filin Dabo. Amirah is one of 20,000 girls studying at an Oando Foundation adopted school in Nigeria.
According to estimates from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 124 million children worldwide are out of school. Half of all out-of-school children are in sub-Saharan Africa, with girls being the most disadvantaged and vulnerable to exclusion from education. More often, they encounter social, economic and political barriers in their quest to attain education. This is why priority must be given to girls’ education and ultimate empowerment.
In 2007, the Nigerian Government incorporated Information Communication Technology (ICT) to the basic education curriculum for primary schools. While most children in rural areas in Nigeria lack access to a computer, three out of every five children in the urban areas lack basic ICT skills. Girls are particularly at a disadvantage as they are often not encouraged to take up courses in Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) fields which are hugely male dominated. The status quo needs to change, and the time is now.
To remain competitive in today’s global world, technology skills are vital, hence we desire young girls in Nigeria to develop sustained interest in ICT and increase their proficiency in this field. A key area of focus for Oando Foundation is the establishment of ICT centres in adopted schools and building competency of young children in practical application of the ICT curriculum. We aim to empower Nigerian girls to develop technology skills that will lead to their ultimate financial empowerment and prepare them with skills relevant to the 21st century workforce.
Ahead of Africa Code Week 2016, Oando Foundation is stretching its commitment to ICT education through a strategic partnership with Theirworld; designed to empower girls in Oando adopted schools with technology skills through creativity and learning, the innovative coding clubs will provide technology enabled interactive spaces that encourage academic interest and train girls in STEM. Girls aged 8 years and above will take classes in computer programing. The clubs will ignite young girls’ interest in these traditionally male-dominated STEM fields, while boosting their self-esteem. The club will familiarize girls with ICT related knowledge and equip them with practical skills to be able to use them. This ensures they do not miss out on the innovation of the digital revolution, while bridging the existing digital gender gap. We are particularly motivated by this quote from Regina Agyare that, “By learning to create technology, girls learn to speak up.”
We believe that collaboration is key to sustainable development of any impact-driven goal, hence our partnership with Theirworld, in line with the theme for the 2016 International Day of the Girl Child, which focuses on adolescent girls and the Sustainable Development Goals. Public and private sector collaboration is even more essential to promoting ICT education and encouraging young girls to embrace STEM careers. Active participation of corporates and philanthropic organisations is vital to support initiatives that promote ICT education.
In the words of Michelle Obama, “We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”