Secondly, in Uganda, a girl is more likely to die in childbirth than choose a career based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics — or STEM. As innovation, automation, and new technologies reshape the global nature of work, girls who will miss out on the chance to learn the skills needed to participate in the digital economy will be greatly marginalised and the world will not achieve gender equality without women playing an equal role. There is therefore need for creative ways of encouraging girls to embrace STEM education.
Our Solution- Online Education
We run schools in Uganda and when schools closed because of COVID-19, our schools started piloting teaching remotely and we have been pleasantly surprised by the number of students that have been able to consistently access our classes using mainly cheap smart phones. However, our greatest surprise has come from out-of-school people contacting us to ask if they could enrol and benefit from our online classes. Many of these are marginalised women who dropped out of school mainly because of unplanned pregnancies and forced marriages and who can’t return to traditional schools because they have to take care of their children and husbands. However, online education opens up new opportunities for them to continue with their education because they can learn from home or from their places of work without having to sacrifice their sources of income or their marriages. Africa is rapidly changing. By 2019, Globally, Kenya had the highest share of internet usage from mobile phones with 91% penetration of mobile subscriptions compared to Africa’s 80%. This creates new opportunities like making online learning possible for out-of-school poor adolescent mothers in Africa.
The success of our schools during the COVID-19 lockdown has motivated us to think of scaling online learning beyond COVID-19. We imagine a future where a 19-year-old teenage mother will be able to continue with her education and still be able to work as a waitress in a small restaurant in rural Uganda to earn money to take care of her child. Many such marginalised teenagers completely dropout of school once they get pregnant.
All our brick and mortar secondary schools will also have an online department going forward (even when COVID-19 is defeated) where students that for various reasons prefer to study remotely will be supported and enabled to continue with their education.
Building brick and mortar schools is very expensive and in Africa where the population is rapidly growing, the cost needed to build enough schools to reach every child of school going age will be huge and it is unlikely that African governments will in the near future commit the resources needed to build schools in every village in Africa to enable every child to have an opportunity to access a school
Online education cuts the cost of providing education to these communities by over 85%. It costs an average of USD 450 /year to get high school education from a decent brick and mortar school in Uganda. With online education, this cost could be reduced to USD 68/year. This therefore, will make education more affordable for many marginalised Africans even those who had already dropped out.