The ‘Connect My School’ programme helping youth in Niger with obtaining skills for success
Under Generation Unlimited, the ‘Connect My School’ programme in Niger is bringing tablet-based learning to over 3,600 young people in secondary education.
Globally, 29% of young people aged 15 to 24 worldwide – around 346 million – are not online. Young people in Africa are the least connected. Around 60% of the population aged 15-24 in Africa are not online, compared to only 4% of youth in Europe.
Niger is Africa’s youngest country and has been ranked last in UNDP’s Human Development Index for years. It is clear that young people in Niger are missing out on opportunities to develop their full potential. To address challenges for youth in Niger, and meet related SDG targets by 2030, Generation Unlimited (GenU), works with national counterparts, the private sector and youth-led organizations, to give young Nigeriens a voice, competencies and skills they need for positive changes in their lives, their communities and country.
Under Generation Unlimited, the ‘Connect My School’ programme in Niger is bringing tablet-based learning to over 3,600 young people that are currently in secondary education. This programme aims to equip young people with skills and competencies, while also bridging the technology gap in remote areas.
The programme is an expansion of a UNICEF-supported pilot project that was implemented in 10 schools in five different regions of Niger, whereby each school was provided with tablets, projectors and solar panels. The tablets included content that was sourced globally, and validated by the Nigerien Education Ministries.
After only 10 weeks during the pilot phase, students demonstrated a 16% gain in their scores. A greater gain was observed for secondary-aged girls than for their male counterparts. Many schools also showed great initiative, using the tablets for extracurricular activities such as language learning groups.
Expanding the programme
The Niger Ministries of Primary and Secondary Education were keen to roll-out the project more widely, given the impact of COVID-19 and insecurity on school closures and the demand for digital learning from both schools and communities. With funding from The Netherlands through the Generation Unlimited Trust Fund, the ‘Connect my School’ programme has been expanded to nine secondary schools and youth centers.
In partnership with the Ministry of Youth, the ‘Connect my School’ programme sets out to reach 1800 young pupils, as well as 1800 youth who are out-of-school youth with the support of volunteer teachers. The National Agency for Information Society (ANSI) agreed to host the project and co-chair GenU Niger’s Steering Committee, together with UNICEF and private sector representatives, including Mobile Network Operators, for greater alignment and coordination of partners’ efforts.
So far, more than 2,334 (1,182 girls) have been reached in school settings and 4,351 children have been identified (2,263 girls) for tablet-based learning through Alternative Learning Centers. Furthermore, a one-week summer ‘learning camp’ was organized in partnership with the Scouts movement and the Ministry of Youth, which brought together over 400 youth (50% girls) from all eight regions, as well as Scout representatives from nine neighbouring countries.
In collaboration with the Junior Chamber International of Niger (JCI), a total of 498 young people were trained in leadership and entrepreneurship, as well as life- and soft skills in the eight regions of Niger. These capacity building sessions were also an opportunity to create a social space to meet and reflect about their aspirations and role in shaping the future of the country. Particular focus is being placed on empowering girls by addressing perceptions that perpetuate discrimination, including through the positive engagement of boys and men.
The Ministry of Education and ANSI, with support from UNICEF, have developed a methodology to collect baseline data for the ‘Connect my School’ programme, in order to assess students on a core set of competencies in French, math and life skills (such as communication, organization, etc.). To ensure that these competencies are aligned with international standards and fit for the Niger context, technical specifications of the tablets and other learning equipment were improved based on feedback from Nigerien teachers and young people.
The ‘Connect my School’ programme in Niger is an important investment in transforming education and skilling in Niger, especially for the most marginalized young people.