Girls in ICT Day 2022: Nurturing Tanzanian girls’ future career paths in STEM

Students listening to the ICT trainer during the project launch event - Photo credit: BRAC Tanzania

Technology and education, Theirworld's 20th Anniversary, Youth skills

To celebrate International Girls in ICT Day, Hope Jasson, Project Manager at BRAC Tanzania, writes about the importance of equipping girls with digital skills and its partnership with Theirworld.

We are living through the Fourth Industrial Revolution where the future for young people remains bright in developing nations, especially in Africa.

Of the estimated 60 million people in Tanzania, more than 50% are under 18 and over 70% are under 30.  Yet girls continue to be under-represented in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

The barriers are related to access, affordability, education and lack of technological literacy, as well as inherent biases and socio-cultural norms that lead to gender-based digital exclusion.[1]

Few women and girls in Tanzania participate in the ICT (Information, Communication and Technology) field. As a result, only 25% of women hold tech jobs in Tanzania and girls comprise only 10% of students earning degrees in computer science.[2]

The challenge of few women and girls participating in ICT is compounded by poor infrastructure and low funding in government secondary schools to deliver quality digital literacy training. In addition, teachers in these schools have limited skills and knowledge to deliver relevant training to the students.

Social and cultural barriers, where parents prefer boys over girls, especially in education, have led to fewer girls attaining tech training and having the required skills to pursue tech jobs.

Ask yourself, when was the first time you were exposed to a technological device? Hold on to that thought. Now think of the marginalised youth, specifically girls, who may never be exposed to any technological device as a result of the challenges I’ve outlined above.

Only 25% of women hold tech jobs in Tanzania and girls comprise only 10% of students earning degrees in computer science.

In order to cope with these obstacles, BRAC Maendeleo Tanzania, in partnership with Theirworld, a global children’s charity, implemented the Skills for Their Future pilot project in 2019 at Temeke Secondary School.

Through this project, we learned that most public schools do not have inclusive  infrastructure. Teachers lack skills and knowledge in ICT subjects and have never had the opportunity to test how to use technology in classrooms.

We also learned that from a professional development perspective, all teachers found digital literacy training beneficial and essential[3].

The project was able to improve teaching pedagogy, increase content knowledge and increase access to learning materials for the teachers trained in this project.

The practical use of computers and digital tablets played a big role in girls’ success in STEM[4]. Girls were able to generate new ideas and gain new skills valued in any profession.

In a survey, students reported gaining several digital skills, learning how to code (web design via HTML and CSS), choosing career paths online and searching for materials to help in their science subjects and exams.

The Temeke secondary school was able to see a considerable increase in the number of girls who performed well in science subjects, which was directly correlated to the project being available to them.

Scaling and investing in girls’ learning outcomes

The only way to empower girls and young women in ICT is by investing in girls themselves, therefore, this project has equipped three public schools (Karibuni Secondary school, Miburani Secondary School and Wailes Secondary School) within Temeke district with 20 laptops and 20 tablets per school where students will acquire digital skills and knowledge on three areas:

  • Digital Literacy Curriculum where students will have computer basic and appreciation, productivity programs digital lifestyles, cyber-security and privacy, using social media to connect with the world.
  • HTML and CSS Curriculum which focuses on web design and development.
  • Digital Entrepreneurship Curriculum which contains a skillset that helps learners to utilise all the knowledge absorbed in the previous curriculum to generate income.

A total of 1,800 public school students (over 90% being girls) and over 45 teachers will benefit from this project.

For scalability purposes, BRAC has partnered with the Tanzania Educational Authority (TEA) who will play a key coordination role in identifying key government stakeholders who will support in influencing the government on adopting the three aforementioned curriculums and integrating them into the national curriculum to be actively adopted by as many public schools as possible across the country.

Susan Bipa BRAC Maendeleo Country Director, and Bahati Geuzye, TEA Director General, listen during the project launch event at Karibuni Secondary School – Photo credit: BRAC Tanzania

Improving partnerships across relevant actors

The project will map out like-minded stakeholders to collaborate within the project including local non-governmental Organisations, technology SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), government institutions and development partners for learning and linking girls to opportunities in the digital space.

The project will further develop relationships with the tech SMEs and explore their interest to recruit girls for apprenticeships and internships, where they could potentially support SMEs’ businesses to grow and in turn, support the girls in improving their ICT skills.

In addition to that, the Skills for Their Future Project is now piloting a partnership with the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL), the largest and most widely recognised institution for accredited ICT course with the aim of providing access to over 100 girls with ICDL modules and certification.

Girls in ICT Day is a moment to celebrate girls and young women who overcome the surrounding barriers and challenges. In honour of this, BRAC Maendeleo Tanzania will organise a coding bootcamp and competition to commemorate the International Girls in ICT Day with the aim of raising girls’ interest in computer programming and STEM as they access 21st-century opportunities and take new economic pathways.

Skills For Their Future In Tanzania

A student attends a Skills for Their Future class run with BRAC in Tanzania (Theirworld)

[1] Bridging the Digital Gender Divided

[2] Girl coders aim to bridge tech gender gap in Tanzania

[3] During programme implementation 18 teachers specialized in other subjects requested to be trained in ICT skills for future use.

[4] In the previous year prior to programme implementation, only 20 girls were enrolled in STEM, however in 2021, after programme implementation, this number increased to 44.

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