Skills for the future give young people the best chance of success
Girls' education, Youth skills
In the last of a series of articles to celebrate Theirworld’s 20th anniversary, we look at the challenges and opportunities in the area of youth skills.
When Arinda Precious sat with other girls and young women at a row of computers, her eyes were opened to a new world of opportunity.
“I didn’t know how to use them,” said the 16-year-old from Uganda, who enrolled last year in one of Theirworld’s Skills for Their Future programmes, which delivers technology skills to students and teachers.
She’s come on in leaps and bounds since that day. Precious – who attended a project at Bishop Kivingere School in Muyebe, run in partnership with Women in Technology Uganda (WITU) – said: “I love studying technology and computers.
“Having digital skills will give me confidence, knowing I have a skill that will help me improve and keep me going forward. It will help me to earn a living when I leave school.”
Having those relevant abilities is crucial for young people. There is a global skills crisis – on current trends, by 2030, more than half of the world’s children won’t have the most basic literacy and numeracy needed for employment.
Girls and young women are most at risk of being left behind. Today, women represent only 3% of technology graduates globally.
Hope Jasson, Project Manager at BRAC Tanzania, one of our Skills for Their Future partners, said: “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.”
That’s why Theirworld’s programme focuses on girls and young women. Building on the success of our previous Code Clubs project, we created an ambitious digital literacy curriculum in 2019 to help people aged 16 to 20 globally gain access to technology skills.
Skills for Their Future currently works with local organisations in Tanzania and Uganda to give thousands of girls and young women the technology skills they need to succeed. The programme also helps schools to deliver quality education and local companies to offer work opportunities.
It’s helping to change opinions beyond the classroom. Arineitwe Rosan, a teacher at Isingiro school in Uganda said: “The attitudes in the community towards girls learning digital skills are very positive.”
Putting ideas into action
Theirworld has campaigned for years for greater investment in inclusive skills as the best route out of poverty, inequality and instability.
We have also given a practical lead through our ground-breaking projects. Our Code Clubs initiative, the predecessor to Skills for Their Future, was launched in 2016, working with local partners to teach girls online coding.
The clubs reached girls in Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria, before expanding to help Syrian and Palestinian refugee students in Lebanon.
Brenda Nduta was a student at a Kenyan Code Club run in partnership with Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) in 2019. She said: “When I informed my mum about the dream of pursuing a tech-related course, she discouraged me.” Brenda almost gave up. But she persevered and added: “Coding is one of the most fun things I’ve done in life and it has helped me to plan for my future career.”
The urgent need for skills
By 2030, more than one out of every two children will lack the most basic skills they need. Technological change is happening at a breakneck pace – and those who don’t keep up are in danger of being left behind.
In 2019, the Global Business Coalition for Education – a Theirworld initiative – produced The 2030 Skills Scorecard. It revealed that in sub-Saharan Africa, just 17% of children were on track to complete secondary education with basic skills. Other global regions were tracking better but still falling well short of the goal to give every child a quality education.
And that was before the pandemic massively disrupted schooling. In August, a Theirworld poll of 10,000 young people globally showed 77% are “worried” about the prospect of poor education leaving millions of children without basic reading or writing skills by 2030.
The jobs of the future will also require more complex abilities, as well as “soft skills” such as problem-solving, team work, communication and leadership.
“We need to prepare young people with those skills that really are transferable,” said Theirworld President Justin van Fleet. “It’s about making sure that young people leave school with that curiosity and ability to keep learning, which will be a premium in years to come.”
3,000 girls and women Have learned digital skills through Theirworld’s Code Clubs and Skills for Their Future projects.
It’s not all about digital
Preparing young people for the future is also about giving them a voice, together with the knowledge and abilities to make a difference in their communities and beyond.
Theirworld hopes some of them will possess the skills to be the next generation of advocates for education.
“We need young people at the table, at all levels of society and decision-making,” said Benedict Joson, one of Theirworld’s network of 2,000 Global Youth Ambassadors in more than 120 countries. “What brings me hope is the young people and the folks of all ages that are supporting the young people, listening, empowering them.”
Education is key to tackling many of the world’s most pressing issues. That includes the climate emergency, where helping young people to learn about the causes and impacts gives them the tools they need to help bring about change.
Theirworld has joined forces with the education technology company Earth Warriors to give climate education to children at rural schools in Zambia and Botswana. It will also be delivered to a refugee camp in Botswana by Learn To Play, whose Community Outreach and Impact Coordinator Maipelo Motsemme said: “Young children can be the first to raise awareness, bring that knowledge to their families and take greater care of the world we live in today and protect their tomorrow.”
The next big ideas
The education crisis isn’t contained to the developing world. In the United States, one in 10 young people – that’s four million – are not in work or education.
The Global Business Coalition for Education launched the Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge in 2021 to drive innovation and creativity in building crucial skills for young people.
More than 50 cities entered with great ideas and the winner was Action Greensboro in North Carolina, which received $100,000 to support its Campus Greensboro initiative. It aims to connect young people, including low-income and first-generation college students, with paid internships.
The Theirworld Education Innovation Awards also seek to uncover amazing new ideas. Many of the 2021 winning projects from community-based non-profits include exciting ways to give young people the skills they need for the future.
Read our other 20th anniversary deep dives: