The Goethe Institute in Nairobi was a perfect venue for the launch of Education Sub-Saharan Africa’s Talent In Africa evening.
After all as the great German writer said “whatever you can do or dream you can begin it” and the charity has taken his advice to begin it’s great enterprise to transform education in Africa.
Education Sub-Saharan Africa or ESSA for short aims to connect and mobilise the most effective people, data and insight to play a vital role in African education by highlighting what works and spreading best practice across the continent.
ESSA’s Chairperson Olaf Hahn welcomed the packed room at the Goethe Institute for an evening discussion entitled “Talent In Africa”with the stark warning of what is at stake if African’s education outcomes aren’t revolutionised. He told them that some 800,000 young Kenyans will arrive on the labour market this year but the formal job market was only able to employ 50,000 of them.
He said: “ESSA aims to join up, inform, inspire, focus and increase impact from everyone investing in education in Africa”. He stressed that Africans themselves knew best what could be achieved, saying:
” Africans are aware that although there’s amazing talent in the schools which is the equal of anywhere in the world, opportunities for African students are not equal.”
Much of ESSA’s work is about improving the data about education and bringing together everyone in the continent’s education sector together to be more aware of each others’ work. As Kago Kagichiri who runs the online learning platform start-up INESA explained:
“There’s often disconnect between start-ups who can’t find investment money and Foundations with funds who say they can’t find partners to invest in”. ESSA aims to map the best research and create a pan-African data base so such mis-matches are a thing of the past.
ESSA is the brainchild of Patrick Dunne. His Warwick-In-Africa programme which places Maths undergraduates from Warwick University into schools in Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa has already trained 400,000 young people. Now he wants ESSA to enhance the lives of all young people in Africa. He says ESSA aims to create a training programme for leaders in education in which they will be encouraged to adopt teaching methods which are inspiring and share best practice.
One of the highlights of the evening was hearing the life stories of two of the Panelists – Kago Kagichiri and Naisula Lepariyo- They both told the story of how they’d set up their own companies to fund their education. In 2001 Kago built a Facebook-style platform for his friends which has now grown into an e-learning system with two million subscribers who pay ten Kenyan shillings a week($0.09) to gain open access to online learning materials.
Naisula also set up her own printing company which now employs three people. All the more remarkable that she comes from the pastoralist Samburu region in northern Kenya where over 90% of girls are illiterate and 60% of parents have never been to school.
“Children go to school one day and go herding cattle the next in Samburu. Their expectations are based on their parents and this can limit their dreams and talents”.
Naisula left her rural life to get to university and she has just completed her masters at the University of Antwerp. Now she is back in Kenya and working in development with the Samburu people to teach its youth about the opportunities that they too can embrace:
“Many young Africans are coming back to the continent. Ghana is a great example of this. Africa’s demographic dividend opens up big opportunities. We have lots of energy. a lot of talent and we are moving into a consumer economy so people want to come back”.
As Naisula and Kago’s positive words rang out across Nairobi’s Goethe Institute I felt sure that Goethe himself would’ve been so proud of their desire to transform the loves of African youth. As he so wisely put it many years ago:
As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
And that’s exactly what ESSA intends to do. Watch this space as this ambitious young African charity continues to grow.
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