When His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II decided to establish the SDG Innovation Challenge in 2020, little did anyone know that the platform will provide a showcase opportunity for homemade, innovative and scalable solutions capable of empowering women and bridging Africa’s female literacy gap.
Today, after a rigorous selection process from all the 900 entries, the 10 successful selections have proven without doubt that solutions aren’t what is lacking in providing qualitative and accessible learning opportunities to the girl-child, but rather what Africa needs is a supportive structure like the HH MS II Innovation Challenge for the activation of change agents.
The design of the HH MS II challenge, has as its objective, the empowerment of teachers in sub-Saharan Africa to experiment innovative, scalable educational programmes and practices by providing funding, training, incubation and exposure for improved, equitable cost-effective, safe and coordinated gender-responsive education, especially for girls.
The target audience of the challenge is aimed at practicing teachers in sub-Saharan Africa who have a vision or have already launched their own projects and must be passionate about improving education particularly for the girl-child.
As the founder of the initiative, HH Sanusi noted in the April fireside chat of the Challenge: “Africa already has everything it needs to be able to transform its educational system from within and empowering teachers is the fastest way to improve our educational system.”
Some of the benefits of the participation included: a USD500 initial grant, showcasing and testing of their concepts and an initial 8-month incubator programme along with follow-up individual and group coaching and mentorship led by 1Million Teachers.
Why education and more importantly why female education? As Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who was recently confirmed as the new director-general of the WTO, becoming the first woman and African to hold the position once stated: “Educating our young girls is the foundation for Nigeria’s growth and development.”
Also, in his remarks at the Challenge’s April Fireside chat, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana made a case for upscaling the initiative, when he said: “This noble initiative led by His Highness and the 1Million Teachers organisation if taken to scale, will be the epitome of the historic statement by Dr James Kwegyir Aggrey that if you educate a man, you educate one person, but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation,”
“This exciting initiative has such an enormous potential to transform communities and I commend His Highness for his outstanding leadership and the manifest support he has provided for 2 of the most critical SDGs namely: SDG4 in education and SDG5 on gender equality.”
He commended the cohorts of the challenge for representing the cutting edge of the chains and the transformation that Africa so urgently needs, adding that as change agents they were important drivers of change in African communities.
“I was a teacher and I can tell you that teaching is a noble profession. Education is the bedrock of society’s transformation and development; you are our silent heroes and an inspiration to us. I commend you deeply for your contribution in making HH MS II SDG Challenge such a success,” he said.
A cohort from Malawi, Jane Chikapa of Bloomers Learning Initiative has a project that is enhancing reading and writing among primary and secondary school students that are vulnerable, exposed to illiteracy and recurrent COVID-19 educational shocks; through physical and online learning by 2021. Her project has impacted over 1000 students so far, targeting 500 schools before the end of 2021.
In Nigeria, Anita Nchat Kevin operates Amina Dyslexia Centre, Kaduna – a social enterprise that solves the problem of illiteracy as caused by dyslexia, a learning defect that affects 20 percent of every population and 98 percent of teachers in Kaduna. The initiative assesses the individuals to understand their abilities and these guides in designing bespoke intervention plans for each student. So far it has impacted 811 educators, 213 parents and 8,984 children.
Olusegun Ilori of Unusual School Lagos, has an open/mobile school learning intervention that is tailored to teach children using the best pedagogical strategies. The idea is to reduce the number of out of school children in Nigeria using novel learning portfolio to help the children sustain learning interest with foundational skills as the prerequisite and giving them indigent learning opportunities for the now and the future. Targeted at reaching 10,000 students, it has impacted 2000 so far.
Yemisi Jetoluwa residing in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, created The Workbook after it was discovered that learners are not completing their homework, and that parents with low incomes lack access to the internet to help their children do their homework. The aim of the workbook is to provide insightful information on each subject for the learners to gain understanding, mastering skills and solving questions alongside. It will also address the limitation of internet accessibility. Right from the beginning of the term, learners and parents are enlightened on what to do with the workbook. Progress of the learner is also being monitored by teachers and the parents. 80 learners have been reached so far with an aim to reach 5 more communities by the end of 2021.
The Arty Makers is a unique solution created by Habiba Abdul Rabiu and currently deployed in the northern part of Nigeria. This project is aimed at addressing the existing trend of passive learning, due to most parents in local communities feeling that education as a means of financial security, is a long shot. They would rather send their girls to hawk on the streets or work as housemaids, because at the end of the day they see the fruits of that labour. This project provides opportunities for learning handicrafts for girls. It is geared towards increasing girls’ school attendance by providing them with opportunities to learn skills that can yield financial benefits sooner rather than later. 200 girls have been empowered through the project out of a target of 1000 within the next 2 years.
So far, these few solutions created by this pilot cohort of 10 teachers can only be a starting point in transforming the female literacy gap narrative, however the initiative itself could further be upscaled to reach more communities, thereby bringing better opportunities for girls to excel and emerge as future leaders, both at home in the continent and globally.