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Why SAFE Academy is prioritizing girls

The 2020 pandemic further emphasized the significance of technology in our day-to-day lives and how we have become more reliant on our devices for work, school, etc. Yet, developing countries like Nigeria are still lagging in innovative technology. Public schools and some private schools in Nigeria lack the curriculum necessary to expose children to digital skills, information literacy and global opportunities. 

According to UNICEF, 60% of out-of-school children are female. The participation of females in STEM remains on average in Africa. Despite representing half of the world’s population, women and girls remain deeply underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Less than 30% of researchers employed in research and development globally are women, and women in tech constitute only 30% of professionals in sub-Saharan Africa.

Based on the study of Onyenekewa, 2010, 36.8% of male student participants can process Microsoft word. Only 8.8% of female participants can process Microsoft word. Thus, confirming the gender gap in digital literacy in Nigeria. Also, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, only 22% on the average of graduates students of Engineering and Technology in Nigeria Universities are female.  The Statistics also show that a fifth of all workers in the information and technology sectors are women. Meanwhile, females constitute over 50% of the population. Subsequently, affirming the need for more mobilization of the younger female generation into the technology space. 

We conducted a preliminary survey in fifteen secondary schools (ten public schools and five private schools) in Ibadan, Nigeria. Our finding shows that only 7% of the schools are equipped for digital learning.  Also, 20% of the schools include entrepreneurship in their curriculum, and less than 15% teach leadership in their school. 

During the survey, we met a female student named Shade. Shade is a fourteen years old student in senior secondary school 1. She is the fifth child of eight children in her family and has six sisters. She is an exceptionally brilliant girl and wants to be an engineer when she grows up. When our researcher asked her what specialty, she said computer engineering. Shade has never used a computer before. But she became fascinated with computer engineering when a young teacher brought a laptop into her class—stories such as shade’s story birth the need for leadership and entrepreneurship training that incorporates digital literacy.

Furthermore, our decision to focus on young girls stems from the inequality against girls in Nigeria. For example, in the northern part of Nigeria, where they still practise child marriage, only 17% of primary and secondary school students are female (Adeyemi 2004). Such disheartening statistics inspire more focus on female education.  The Girls digital literacy program aims to provide the essential technical skills to girls from low-income backgrounds and instill them with skills to become global citizens.

SAFE Academy Alumni Spotlight – Dennis Udochukwu

Growing up in a rural community, the only future Dennis could imagine was becoming a taxi driver, bus conductor or tout. His life trajectory changed when a friend invited him to attend the SAFE Academy. The Sozo Networks’ Securing Africa’s Future through Education (SAFE) Academy helps bridge the Nation’s education system gap by providing low-income teenagers with life, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills.

SAFE Academy’s teaching pedagogy includes videos and a lot of practical sessions. “One of the videos that changed my life was “Akeelah and The Bee.” The movies we watched made me realize that I am capable of becoming the best version of myself. At first, I couldn’t comprehend the foreign movies because of their accent, but my communication skills improved over time”, Dennis says.

The SAFE academy curriculum helps develop soft skills such as leadership, networking, communication, problem-solving. It also includes entrepreneurship and digital skills. The academy matched students with carefully selected mentors who shared their experiences and guided them towards making a better life and career decisions.

Five years after he first walked into the SAFE Academy, Dennis is now a final year student of Agriculture at the Anambra State University in the Southeastern part of Nigeria. He organizes leadership programs, personal development teachings and community outreaches for teenagers in underserved regions of Anambra state, where he schools.

Dennis grew up in a community where most young people engaged in drugs, smoking and no sense of direction. Today, he has become a positive example to teenagers growing up in the same environment, coaching and mentoring them to make the most out of life.

  • Written by Lauretta Malaka

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