Forming Educate!

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Jun2014 09

Rebecca Richards is a Communications Fellow for Educate! in Uganda, an organisation that shares a similar philosophy to Enabling Enterprise in the UK. Here she shares the important work their organisation are doing to tackle youth unemployment and equip young people with the skills they need for life.

In Uganda as in much of the world, the education system does not adequately prepare youth for the challenges they will face upon graduating – securing employment and obtaining skills they need to improve their livelihoods. Ugandan youth live in an extremely difficult environment: the country has the youngest population in the world (50% under age 15); the highest youth unemployment rate (83%); and the highest youth poverty rate (94%).

Addressing the problem: Creating Educate

This is the situation Eric Glustrom witnessed when visiting northern Uganda in 2002. Determined to make a difference in the lives of the youth he had met, Eric created Educate! as a scholarship program for Congolese refugees living in Uganda. Years later upon completing university, Eric and Boris, a friend from university who became Educate!’s co-founder and Executive Director, spent time on the ground in Uganda. It became clear to both that even if every child in Uganda was given a scholarship, the mismatch between education and life after school would still prohibit students from finding employment. Jobs did not exist and the only option for students was to start their own businesses. However, schools only taught students to memorize facts and there were no means for youth in Uganda to get the skills, experience and confidence they needed to start their own businesses and improve their livelihoods.

What they needed was opportunity

With this in mind, Boris and Eric asked Ugandan youth what they needed most, and all answers pointed to one thing: opportunity. What they needed were relevant skills they could put to use in Uganda, a country with few job prospects and little means for formal employment. After recruiting Educate!’s third founder, Angelica Towne, Educate! worked with various partners and Ugandan youth to design a curriculum that would help students grow their confidence, build on the skills they already have, and ultimately utilize that self-reliance to become leaders and entrepreneurs.

Angelica and the small Educate! team launched the first Educate! Experience model in March of 2009. Educate! has grown and evolved exponentially since that time. We collect monitoring and impact data in real time and change the components of the program that are not showing a direct impact on our scholars. Today, Educate! works in over 200 schools across Uganda. In the next ten years, we plan to work with 100,000 students annually across 1,000 schools in Uganda and expand our program into three new countries.

What is the “Educate! Experience”?

Educate! envisions a future where the education system in Uganda, and elsewhere in Africa, develops youth to be leaders and entrepreneurs. We deliver a model that is focused on practical experience, including leadership and entrepreneurship training, mentorship and experience starting an enterprise, to 16-20 year olds in Uganda. Through advocacy, practical training for teachers and direct service in schools, we are working to get our model integrated into the national education system and are already making progress.

In Uganda, A-level students are required to pick three subject areas to pursue rigorously, including an entrepreneurship option. In 2012 Educate! incorporated the majority of its teachings into Uganda’s national entrepreneurship curriculum so that 25,000 students annually receive our lessons and start business clubs using our model.

Another component of the program builds up the skills of our top graduates who serve as program Mentors, or Youth Business Experience (YBE) Fellows. The Mentors receive ongoing business training and guidance to grow their businesses as they transfer their knowledge and energy to a new class of scholars.

Educate! in action: Joan Nansubuga

Before Educate! partnered with her school, Joan was one of the few students in her class to already have a small business established. Joan started making jewelry at age 16 and loved to see people wearing her pieces. When the Educate! program was established at her school, she was thrilled at the opportunity to learn about the business-side of entrepreneurship.

“I knew Educate! would equip me with all I needed to build my business. I got a lot of exposure to business and the things other people were doing.”

(Joan Nansubuga, jewellery designer and Educate! scholar)

Joan’s jewellery business flourished and in 2012, Joan entered Educate!’s Youth Business Experience (YBE) program. Motivated by additional business trainings and networking with her peers, Joan decided to start a new enterprise, this time with the goal of directly helping her community. Joan had long felt frustrated with the large amounts of used paper that is normally burned in trash piles on street corners. She was also concerned by the large number of youth in her neighbourhood who had dropped out of school and were desperate for regular work. When she learned of a paper recycling plant where she could bring old paper scraps to create toilet paper, Joan knew she had found her calling.

Using the management skills she learned through Educate!, Joan trained and organized dozens of youth to collect scraps of paper to sell to her. Joan then buys the paper based on weight and the young supplier makes a decent earning. After Joan has made the toilet paper, she sells it to local shops and businesses for profit.

When asked what has been the most valuable part of being an Educate! scholar, Joan did not hesitate to respond. “The whole business package that I have is because of Educate!. It is the foundation of all of my business efforts. Educate! has given me the ability to think big and know where to go from here.”

Enabling Enterprise have been exchanging ideas with Educate! as part of our international work. Follow these links to find out about Tom’s latest educational visit to Uganda and more about our international work.

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