As governments around the world work to ensure their education systems are capable of supporting 21st century learning, NGOs are frequently stepping in to help, particularly when it comes to bringing technology into classrooms and communities. That’s exactly the role Plan International is playing in Ghana, and we’re celebrating their work today, the Day of the African Child. Plan is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organizations in the world, and we were fortunate enough to have them at Microsoft recently to participate in a Partners in Learning training.
According to Maud Tsagli, Plan International’s Ghana ICT Manager, “Most of the girls [in the community] were dropping out of school because they did not see the need for schooling, or they felt the access wasn’t there, or they felt there were other, more viable projects.” After digging into the issue, Tsagli says, “We realized we had a problem with sensitization, and that some of them genuinely did not have the resources to get into school, so we came up with a project…to engage the community…a platform to discuss the issues.” That project, the first of several in the area, was a girls’ football (soccer) club, where attendance in school was a prerequisite of membership.
The idea worked, leading to increased participation by girls in education, and changes in attitudes about education within the community. It also prompted Plan to address a serious lack of technology in the area. They set up a technology lab, which is now used during the day by students from nearby schools, and after classes, by members of the broader community – both male and female. (See Plan International’s full ICT Development strategy here.)
When it comes to technology, though, gender imbalance remains a critical issue in the developing world. Says Plan’s Director of Corporate Relations, Lindsay Kosnik, “Plan is committed to the gender lens. We want to be sure we have programs that are closing the gender/digital gap.” The result of this focus has been increased interest in education and confidence among girls – a key building block to developing the next generation of leaders.
As Plan International and other NGOs increasingly focus on getting technology into schools and communities, support from those communities and from government leaders is a must, in addition to support from the private sector. “One of the reasons Plan International is thrilled to be partnering with Microsoft’s Shape the Future initiative is the inclusive and transformational approach, which starts with coalition-building from the top down,” Kosnik says. She points out that engaging leaders from the minister of education down to grass roots and community organizations – and everyone in between – is key.
Today, I’m thrilled to share my conversation with Maud Tsagli and Lindsay Kosnik, two of the everyday heroes in education who are working to provide access to learning for all. They talk not only about what they’ve accomplished in Ghana, but what’s left to do – including ensuring that more communities have access to the Internet.
About Plan International
Founded over 75 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organizations in the world. They work in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. In 2012, Plan worked with 84 million children in 90,131 communities.
Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.