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Delivering remote educational engagement and skills training to youth

We aim to deliver our Educate! Experience model via radio, telecommunications, and social media, to build relevant entrepreneurial skills.

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Educate! is taking a multi-pronged approach to our response strategy in Uganda. We are aiming to deliver components of the student experience we typically provide through our proven flagship model in Uganda via radio, telecommunications and social media. Our goal is keeping youth engaged with their education and supporting them to gain and strengthen critical soft and hard skills during this time, which we know will only be more important for their resilience to and recovery from this crisis.

Educate! is currently implementing, at various stages of delivery, the following projects and activities towards these aims. For all of our virtual programming, we surveyed youth to identify the most relevant content for them, and we are aligning our content to government directives on COVID-19. We have been testing the theme of small space farming, looking at topics including vegetables and sack gardens. Additionally, we have found that content delivered through stories rather than how-to messages have had better initial feedback from early adopters, and we are eager to continue learning about the best ways to engage youth through virtual platforms.

Virtual Learning via Radio

We are rapidly working to convert our practical Skills Course lessons from our proven Educate! Experience model in Uganda to a format that can be delivered via radio. These lessons will be broadcast to youth across Uganda, reaching youth in even the most rural and under-resourced areas, including refugee/IDP youth. We aim to engage as many of our Educate! Scholars in Uganda as possible with these lessons, as well as potentially thousands more youth across the country. As in our flagship program, lessons will focus on developing and practicing core soft/21st century skills, like leadership, conflict resolution, problem-solving, grit, and more.

Currently, we are piloting our radio program in the South and West regions of Uganda, with plans to move to the most-listened-to nationwide radio station next month. 

Engagement via telecommunications: Robocalls and SMS

We want to create deeper engagement with youth during this time, moving beyond simply distributing educational content via radio. We believe it is critically important that youth have two-way engagement with their education – designed according to their learning curve – and that they receive direct and immediate feedback. As such, we are developing and piloting an innovative telecommunications learning initiative to engage with our Scholars while schools remain closed. Educate!  testing automated phone calls (“robocalls”) to deliver educational content and learning prompts. Students then engage with these prompts and are assessed on what they learned in follow-on SMS (text) messages.

Social media engagement and creatively leveraging our countrywide youth network

Educate! in Uganda has an extensive countrywide youth network of more than 118,000 youth that have graduated from the Educate! Experience program since 2009. At the same time, we have over 300 highly trained youth Mentors living and working in their communities across Uganda. Our Mentors are currently conducting outreach to their Scholars, checking up on them over the phone and collecting information about their core needs. 

We are leveraging the strong engagement we already have with current and former Educate! participants on social media to: 1) combat the spread of misinformation and panic, and contribute to the spread of balanced and reliable information (which is particularly important for the many youth we work with who may receive the majority of their news information via social media and have limited media literacy skills or access to other sources of information) and; 2) foster youth’s continued engagement with Educate!’s mission and their broader education. Currently, our team is disseminating infographics about coronavirus to our youth network and running a social media challenge for youth to share this information as broadly as possible. Already, our top post has reached more than 14,000 people, and we plan to continue to develop this strategy with content that targets girls specifically to address their unique needs in this crisis. We also plan to launch a virtual Educate! alumni group. We are still looking at other ways to leverage our youth network, and plan to expand these efforts in the coming weeks and months.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Educate! has 10+ years of experience providing skills training in leadership, entrepreneurship, and workforce readiness to Ugandan youth, as well as extensive experience partnering with governments across East Africa. We believe that by transforming educational pathways in East Africa, we can equip youth with the skills to disrupt the systemic problem of youth unemployment and realize their full potential. Experiential learning should not be confined to a classroom setting. Through the integration of these new strategies, there is more cohesion between stakeholders in education which encourages parents, teachers, the government, communities and most importantly students working towards improving learning outcomes for students even when on a break from school. This will further help to ensure that youth maintain a connection with their education while gaining critical skills.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

Since launching in 2009, Educate! has scaled our skills-based model to more than 25% of all secondary schools in Uganda (800+ schools), reaching a total of 100,000 youth across three countries in the last ten years. Two rigorous external evaluations, including a randomized controlled trial, found that towards the end of secondary school, participants of our program earn nearly DOUBLE the income of their peers. A follow-up RCT found that four years later, our graduates demonstrate large and durable shifts in skills, coupled with significant improvements in education and gender equity-related outcomes. 

Faced with the new challenges that 2020 has brought into our lives and our communities, we believe Educate! is uniquely positioned to contribute to coronavirus response efforts in East Africa, particularly as they impact youth. As the largest youth skills provider in East Africa, we have a massive network of partnerships with schools, teachers, governments, and thousands of youth.

Educate!’s coronavirus response activities intend to leverage our core competencies as an organization to address a critical need within the overall coronavirus response efforts: keeping Uganda’s youth engaged with their education and gaining core life skills.

What region are you located in?

  • Eastern Africa

Where are you located?

Uganda has a population of about 42 million people. Of those, over six million are secondary age youth who are effectively out of school due to COVID-19 – and for many 2020 might be the last time they ever step foot in a classroom.
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Engagement via telecommunications Robocalls and SMS.png

Across the board, we have considered these strategies prior to this crisis. We had previously discussed radio, robocalls, SMS, and social media all as ways to engage youth during school holidays and breaks, when we cannot physically meet them and when we often observe a backslide in their learning. We also have explored developing a dedicated Educate! youth network. Now, we have both a critically urgent reason to begin prioritizing these solutions, as well as the time and the team to do so.

Social media engagement and creatively leveraging our countrywide youth network (2).jpg

The restrictions on gathering will remain longer-term and may impact our ability to reach youth directly in schools, like before. The virtual learning strategies we are developing now prepare us for this possibility, for example, of supplementing in-person, small group community-based mentorship immediately post-full lockdown, in compliance with social distancing orders and school closures. This crisis is a marathon not a sprint, so it’s crucial for our strategies to have this reality in mind.

Virtual Radio Learning.jpg

When Educate! is once again able to implement our model in schools, we plan to continue what we find works from the above strategies, integrated with our proven model, as these strategies should drive greater scale and cost-effectiveness over time when blended back in with in-person delivery. In this way, we envision strengthening our impact even beyond what was possible prior to the coronavirus crisis.


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