“This 21st century requires creative and innovative young adults who depend on themselves and bring a difference to the world, instead of waiting for other people to do so for them.” – Catherine Wanjiku Njagi, Kenya
Most of us take basic access to education for granted, especially in the developed world, where technology enables students of all abilities, living in all kinds of communities, to take advantage of the wealth of information available online. But for students in Sub-Saharan Africa, access is far from a “given.”
That’s changing, though – in part, through a joint venture between the British Council and Microsoft started in 2011 and named Project Badiliko (meaning “change” in Swahili). The project’s objective is to improve access and quality in education, training and technology around the world, providing teachers and students across Africa with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy. The project builds digital hubs at schools and community centers across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria and provides a cascade model of professional development for teachers and school leaders.
In its first two years, Project Badiliko has built over 90 digital hubs and trained over 12,000 teachers and school leaders. And by the end of the first phase of the project later this year, they expect to provide access for over 100,000 learners. All digihubs in five countries will be connected with internet sponsored by Airtel Africa. One student who has clearly benefitted from this partnership is Kenya’s Catherine Wanjiku Njagi. Wanjiku Njagi comes from a community where homes often lack electricity and where students face multiple obstacles to education, including family responsibilities that demand much of their time. She and other students and community members take advantage of 24 hour-a-day computer access at her school, where Wanjiku Njagi increases her skills and helps younger learners.
While there are obvious and immediate benefits of this project, and others like it, the long-term impacts cannot be overstated. For Wanjiku Njagi, that translates to a commitment to finish high school, go on to university and ultimately to create jobs in her community, where high unemployment threatens community stability and growth.
Here’s a look at the project through her eyes, along with more background on this inspiring student, offering a fascinating perspective on the impact of technology on education and communities in the developing world.
What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?
It will empower me to unleash my full potential.
Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
My favorite teacher is Mr. Gichuri. This is because he is the one who exposed me fully into the ICT world and I’m able to understand what I’m studying through the computers which I can now operate.
In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
The fact that students can now use computers to study instead of having huge piles of books. It’s fun, too, and I’m able to work with other students from different parts of the world.
Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
Creativity and innovation. This is because the 21st century requires creative and innovative young adults who depend on themselves and bring a difference to the world, instead of waiting for other people to do so for them because they will not benefit from it at all.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
A computer. This is because a computer is a summary of all educational tools. I would want every child to be equipped and be able to be the best in the easiest way possible, and having all tools in one is the best way.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
Free education has been offered to most children so that they can acquire the knowledge and skills they require to go head-on with life.
How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
The education must change in that the students are taught the skills that are required to pursue their future careers so that even after finishing high school, they can be employed and also get exposed to more opportunities of self-employment instead of all of them wanting office jobs.
About Catherine Wanjiku Njagi
- Birthplace: Molo, Kenya
- Current residence: Molo town
- Education: High School
- Website I check every day: www.awesomeQuotes.com
- Person who inspires me most: Oprah Winfrey
- Favorite childhood memory: When I first joined nursery school and my elder sister was joining the primary school I cried my eyes out because I wanted to go with her.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Molo
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? Now when I’m filling out this questionnaire. This is because I am happy and excited with life and all the great opportunities it offers for me.
- Favorite book: Become a Better You by Joel Osteen
- Favorite music: Soft rock and house (techno) music.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? When life becomes hard there is only one thing to do… and that is, become even harder than life itself and you will make it through.
- Your favorite quote or motto: Happiness is not determined by the occasion, it’s the choice we make whether to be happy or miserable.