Digital skills are becoming essential for the jobs of today and tomorrow. From digital literacy to computer science education, these skills can open the door to greater economic opportunity in the workplace of the future. Unfortunately, these skills are beyond the reach of too many young people in Nigeria.
To this effect, stakeholders would need to consider new and participatory ways to lessen the digital literacy gap. One of the ways to do this is to adopt the train-the-trainer approach to digital skills acquisition. This model is already gaining widespread adoption globally with initiatives like the Hour of Code.
Hour of Code is a global movement attracting more than 100 million students in 180 countries and is an effort to spark an interest in coding. Hour of Code encourages students of all ages to try their hand at coding for an hour. For the past three years, Microsoft has released Minecraft tutorials, which students can make use of to learn the basics of coding.
One organisation making commendable effort in this regard is The Zariah Elizabeth Foundation (TZE).TZE was established in Nigeria with the aim of developing capacity and skills in the country’s youth through ICT training. The non-profit implements its programmes through sensitisation, awareness, periodic trainings, advocacy and lobbying of policy makers.
In collaboration with UNESCO’s “School Meets the Learner” initiative, Microsoft has partnered with TZE to upskill 50,000 girls between the ages of 11 and 21 years in digital skills, and 35,000 in computer science, in the next year. This is part of the nonprofit’s efforts to empower Nigerian women, particularly in the North East region of the country where many girls are not currently enrolled in school.
The project will be implemented through a train-the-trainer programme in UNESCO community centres, to prepare 2,000 teachers and trainers to effectively teach digital skills across the six local governments in Bauchi State in North-Eastern Nigeria. These community centres will also serve as learning hubs.
Microsoft believes in a future where every young person has the skills, knowledge and opportunity to succeed and has made a commitment to impart digital skills to 10 million youth in the Middle East and Africa in the next three years.
The YouthSpark initiative helps bring this to life by working to empower all youth to imagine and realise their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. The initiative achieves this through unique programmes and partnerships with governments, business and nonprofit organisations such as Code.org.
In keeping with this, Microsoft is partnering with 15 nonprofits in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa this year to put in place the resources and training needed to upskill 1.4 million youth in computer science.
YouthSpark cash grants are awarded to nonprofits with a mission that aligns to Microsoft’s focus on computer science education. The aim is to help increase the number of teachers and youth-serving organisations that have the capacity to bring digital skills to youth. More than 13,000 educators will receive training to teach digital skills to youth, with the intention that at least 80 percent of the beneficiaries will represent underserved communities and 50 percent will be female.
The proof of this approach lies in the nonprofits that have received YouthSpark grants previously and as a result have been able to introduce new or develop existing computer science education programmes, training and activities for the youth they serve. With continuing investments, they have also been able to expand these offerings to reach a greater number of youth and generate excitement around computer science.
In a world where digital skills are fundamental to success in so many environments, leaving people in the dark about this major part of their world amounts to an unacceptable gap in their education.
Microsoft believes technology should be an equalising force in the world—inclusive, not divisive. So the company is investing its greatest assets—its technology, grants, people, and voice—to advance a more equitable world where the benefits of technology are accessible to everyone.
* Akin Banuso, the Country Manager at Microsoft Nigeria, writes from Lagos.
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