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Archives for Education and Universities

Preparing Youth for Employment

When it comes to preparing youth for employment, what strategies work best? As USAID’s recently-released State of the Field papers conclude, there is a need for more research and evidence on what types of interventions make a difference in strengthening youth livelihoods and employment. In Mali, Education Development Center’s (EDC) youth program  – PAJE-Nièta (Projet d’Appui aux Jeunes Entrepreneurs or Support to Youth Entrepreneurs Project) – is tracking several factors that affect youth livelihoods while highlighting issues and challenges that need to be better understood.

PAJE-Nièta has shown that young people are most eager for the business technical skills training and less for literacy and numeracy, so program delivery was adjusted to offer more business training earlier on. We also hope to learn which literacy and numeracy skills are most important for young people to have successful businesses in places where there is very little written local language.

Women in Mali using "Stepping Stone." Photo credit: EDC

Women in Mali improve literacy and numeracy skills through “Stepping Stone.” Photo credit: EDC

The PAJE-Nièta Project aims to increase access to local value chains by offering agro-enterprise development for 12,000 out-of-school rural youth. The project works in rural, often remote and difficult-to-access villages in Mali, where more than half of enrolled project youth have never been to school, while 80 percent are illiterate. Because of the major literacy gap, the project is offering literacy and numeracy training integrated with agri-business support services, business training, and audio instruction using a mobile phone platform created by EDC called “Stepping Stone.”

Results to date from the PAJE-Nièta Project show that 56 percent of youth who completed technical training have gone on to successfully start a micro-enterprise, with the proportion expected to rise as more data is received. Women outnumber male youth by 2 to 1 as participants, and in starting agriculture-based income generation activities. Young women, however, report lower profits with their businesses. Existing research on gender and agriculture suggests that results vary based on the resources available to men vs. women and inputs used. We are now studying these factors to learn more about gender differences within youth livelihoods, since this topic is not consistently analyzed under youth programs.

Another issue that has emerged in this youth work in Mali and elsewhere is the role of youth in family structures and how it may impact the benefits they gain. Our programs generally target youth with trainings and support based on the assumption that they are autonomous individuals and make decisions for themselves about what activities they engage in, or on whether they spend or save money. And yet, young people are a part of large and small family structures that influence their decisions  (particularly young women) about what work they do and when, as well as what they do with their earnings. This is important to consider when evaluating results from livelihood programs with youth; it is central to shaping the questions we ask and what we are measuring.

EDC is also tracking improvements in technical competence with respect to production techniques and business management; input costs; products sold; commencement, duration, and increase in the volume of both production and sales. We track literacy and math skills through exit interviews and performance tests and data on sales, production, and business management indicators. We are also assessing the use of mobile phones to increase literacy and numeracy.

The project seeks to prove the hypothesis that longer-term self-employment requires not just technical competence, but a commitment to entrepreneurial culture nurtured through mentoring. Toward that end, we conduct appraisals of youth microenterprises that are successfully managed for at least six months to determine the benefits realized by out-of-school youth and their families in the long term.

EDC’s work in Mali and around the world is contributing to a broader evidence base on youth livelihoods and employment with the goal of expanding opportunities for young people to support themselves and their families.

Nancy Taggart is a youth development specialist at Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC). She has worked in the field for 20 years, and is currently the Team Leader for EDC’s Youth Technical Team. EDC manages more than 200 projects in 30 countries. Visit www.edc.org.

Study Highlights Way Forward for African Higher Education Institutions

What do leadership, governance and management have in common? According to a recently released study by the Association of African Universities (AAU) commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development through the Higher Education for Development (HED) program they are three main obstacles to growth and sustainability in African Higher Education Institutions.

The Sub-Saharan Africa Higher Education Leadership Development (SAHEL) Study maps a strategy for institutional capacity building in senior- and middle-level management and leadership. The study identified the following challenges:

  • Lack of clear strategy for leadership development
  • Differences across countries and institutions regarding government appointments versus merit-based appointments
  • Poor or lack of succession plans
  • Lack of policies and/or commitment to implementing gender policies that support the advancement of women in leadership roles

Students in the Tabia Debre Abay community at an Alternative Basic Education Center in Tigray, Ethiopia. The community is now actively involved in the education of their youngsters. Photo by Nena Terrell, USAID

“Leadership and administration capacity are the most critical challenges in the effort to make higher education in sub-Saharan Africa more effective and responsive to development, while ensuring its quality and relevance,” stated Teshome Alemneh, Africa program officer at HED. “Access to higher education in sub-Saharan Africa is expanding. This study has reaffirmed the importance of leadership and administration capacity and proposes several mechanisms of developing such capacities in Africa.”

The SAHEL study offers an analysis of AAU’s Leadership and Management Development programs and recommends strategies to build upon achievements by designing new elements that draw from the experiences of regional and international leadership training organizations.

AAU and HED presented the findings during AAU’s 13th General Conference held in Libreville, Gabon in May 2013. USAID and HED commissioned the study in an effort to gain a better understanding of the causes and current climate of leadership and management inefficiencies in tertiary education.

Read the complete Sub-Saharan Africa Higher Education Leadership Development (SAHEL) Study Report.

Creating Opportunity in Nepal through Education for Income Generation Project

For eighteen-year-old Sitara Bano Bagban, living in the rural village of Karamohana, Banke District in Mid-Western Nepal, educational opportunities were very limited. Extreme poverty along with conservative cultural beliefs, that require male family members accompany females outside the home, as well as extreme poverty had prevented her from getting a formal education. This is not uncommon in rural Nepal where families often depend on their children to stay at home and work to augment income. Since married women are sent to live in their in-laws’ homes, parents traditionally give priority to educating boys who will stay in their parents’ house.

Those without an education in Nepal have few options. Without the ability to read and write they  are less likely to use government services or send their children to school. Also, their ability to find gainful employment or own and operate successful businesses is hampered by the fact that they are not able to do basic mathematics, leaving them vulnerable to being cheated in the market because they are unable to count money.

During EIG’s entrepreneurial literacy course, Sitara learned how to read and write, and how to use a calculator. She also learned about proper nutrition, peace-building, and how to access loans, credits, and other government services. Photo credit: Winrock International

Everything changed for Sitara when her parents allowed her to enroll in USAID’s Education for Income Generation (EIG) project, which provides income generation training as well as basic literacy training to underserved groups. Because her brother also began to attend EIG’s entrepreneurial literacy class and agricultural training, her parents agreed that she could participate because she would have someone to accompany her.

The EIG Project, which is implemented by Winrock International, has trained 74,000 disadvantaged youth (78% of whom are women) to increase their income through employment and agricultural production. EIG uses a market-driven approach consisting of four basic activities: a nine-month entrepreneurial literacy course; demand-driven vocational training tied to job placement; high-value agricultural training linked to markets; and scholarships for people from low castes (dalits) for professional certificates that lead to employment.

After attending EIG’s entrepreneurial literacy class and agriculture training, Sitara and her family increased their productivity and income by producing higher quality vegetables in their family farm. Photo credit: Winrock International

During the class, Sitara learned how to read and write and how to use a calculator. She learned proper health and nutrition practices, peacebuilding skills, and how to access loans and other government services. In addition to literacy, Sitara enrolled in EIG’s agriculture production training where she learned how to produce off-season, high-value vegetables including nursery development, integrated pest management (IPM), micro-irrigation technology (MIT), and post-harvest handling. As a result, Sitara convinced her parents that MIT could increase their farm’s productivity. Because she was able to attend this training her family decided to install a small well and pump and which have allowed them to grow fresh vegetables for their home and to sell in the market. Sitara’s income has increased significantly and Sitara has even been able to save  a little money at the local saving and credit cooperative.

Sitara’s story is just one example of the impact this type of training has had on thousands of disadvantaged youths. These programs prepare young people to be more involved in their governments in a positive way, to get jobs that improve their country’s economy, and to ensure a better and brighter for future youth.

Photo of the Week: Learning How to Read

 

In the second grade, students learn to read through new learning techniques at USAID-supported Kakila Primary School in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo is from Alain Mukeba USAID/DRC.

 

Youth Empowerment is Key to President Obama’s Vision for Africa’s Future

Throughout his recent trip to Africa, President Obama returned again and again to the theme of economic opportunity and empowerment: building the capacity of people and institutions to lead their countries forward. Central to his vision is the critical role that African youth must play in the region’s social and economic transformation. The USAID-funded Youth:Work program is already at work to make this a reality.

In partnership with the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the Youth:Work project is working in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to assess the needs and aspirations of young people, the hurdles they face in seeking employment, and the opportunities that can help them improve their lives and prospects. This holistic mapping exercise, called Youth:Map, is developed through interviews with business, community, government, and youth leaders. The resulting assessments consolidate critical evidence and expand our knowledge about youth issues in Africa that will help the private sector and governments alike to make smart, targeted investments in the years ahead.

Group of African young adults. Photo credit: USAID

In fact, this comprehensive information gathering has already become the basis for designing and implementing innovative pilot programs to specifically address the issues raised through the studies. One consistent theme from all Youth:Map studies is that Africa’s young people do not have access to the life skills and vocational training they need to get good jobs or start their own businesses. USAID and IYF are addressing this deficit in a number of ways.

In Uganda, for example, a 6-month internship program has been launched to help young people join the labor market and contribute to the country’s broader economic development. “This is the kind of program that we need to ensure that Uganda’s youth have real opportunities to achieve their dreams and build their futures,” said Commissioner Kyateka F. Mondo of Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, at the program’s launch.

In Tanzania, orphans and vulnerable youth are gaining access to education and job training opportunities through the Tanzania Youth Scholars program, which offers educational scholarships and livelihood training.

Passport to Success®, a global life and employability skills curricula that has been translated into 18 different languages, is improving the employment prospects of young people in Senegal, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Build Your Business, an entry-level curricula for young people interested in starting their own micro-businesses, developed by IYF in collaboration with Microsoft, is being used to teach entrepreneurship and life skills to young people in Liberia and Uganda.

USAID and IYF are also joining forces to respond to another significant assessment finding – that young people feel marginalized and seek a greater voice in society. Two regional youth leadership institutes are opening in Senegal and Uganda to ensure more African youth become strong, innovative, and confident leaders in their communities.

In his speech in Johannesburg, President Obama declared that Africa’s young people “are going to determine the future” of their countries. While significant challenges lie ahead, USAID is working with IYF and many others to help build the kind of infrastructure and enabling environment needed to ensure Africa’s youth can fully realize this vision of hope.

About the International Youth Foundation
The International Youth Foundation (IYF) invests in the extraordinary potential of young people. Founded in 1990, IYF builds and maintains a worldwide community of businesses, governments, and civil-society organizations committed to empowering youth to be healthy, productive, and engaged citizens. IYF programs are catalysts of change that help young people obtain a quality education, gain employability skills, make healthy choices, and improve their communities. To learn more visit www.iyfnet.org

Building a Future in Tanzania – Brick by Brick

Rajabu faced many troubles in his young life growing up in a poor family in rural Tanzania. But now he is building a better life for himself and his family. Back in 2010, Rajabu finished primary school, but could not continue his studies due to his family’s low level of income. The death of Rajabu’s father led to even greater distress, leaving his mother and siblings struggling to survive. To help support his family, Rajabu began taking small jobs in the community.

Rajabu (far right) hones his bricklaying skills through the Tanzania Youth Scholars Program. Photo credit: International Youth Foundation

Life took a more positive direction last year, however, when Rajabu joined the Kiwanda Folk Development College in Tanga, thanks to a scholarship he received from the Tanzania Youth Scholars (TYS) project funded by USAID. TYS aims to reduce the vulnerability of the country’s youth, ages 15-24, by equipping them with job and professional skills to help them improve their employment prospects and become productive and active members of the community. Participants can choose courses that include tailoring, hotel management/food production, vehicle mechanics, carpentry, masonry and bricklaying, agriculture, driving, and computer and office services. At the College, Rajabu chose to study masonry and bricklaying – a three year course that includes full boarding.

“I never realized that the soil that is available everywhere can be made into bricks to build houses,” he said. Today, he knows how to make bricks and has starting setting and building a wall. His plans for the future? To go back to his community and sell his bricks to generate income that will help him provide much needed financial support for his family. “I am very glad to have this opportunity,” says Rajabu. “My dream was to be an entrepreneur. May it come true!”

Yes, Youth Can: Empowering the Voices of Youth in Kenya

Young adults huddle around laptops scattered about the room at a hotel near Nairobi. Seeing this brings to mind the words “energy” and “focus”. They hardly notice a contingent of USAID visitors looking over their shoulders. They near the end of a busy day of preparing “trial balances” and they’re taking the work seriously, as they should. As leaders in a movement in Kenya called “Yes, Youth Can”, they are legally responsible for the accounts of their Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies(SACCOs). Today they practice balancing budgets for these small credit unions they have created to help their members start small businesses.

Members of Yes, Youth Can, work with tin and recycled materials to make jewelry and boxes. Photo credit: Christie Vilsack

Seventy-seven percent of employed youth in Kenya work in the informal sector, which means they are not in salaried positions. They may be selling flowers or furniture by the side of the road or, like these young people, they may be using $20-$60 dollar Coca Cola grants to start a Coke kiosk or a fishing business. If they are saving money in their accounts, they may borrow from the SACCO.

Some of these young adults have completed high school. Others have attended college, but there are few jobs for young adults, so they are taking matters into their own hands with the help of USAID and its implementing partners. Susan Mugabe is one of them. She has two children. She is very proud that she employs six people at her hair salon. Her parents helped her with a loan.

After their presentations some of the youth stay to talk about the effect they think they will have on their country. They say what they are doing is “an opportunity for youth to get a chance at saving money and getting a loan so they can start a business.” They want to take advantage of the opportunity to make Kenya a more productive country. They are also proud that recent elections were peaceful and many credit their organization for using the peacebuilding skills they’re learning to help make this happen.

Over 1 million youth in Kenya belong to Yes, Youth Can, which was started with the help of USAID. Kenyan youth made it clear that they wanted control over their own programs. They elect representatives to local bunges (parliaments) and representatives are elected from the local groups to regional and national councils.

On the other side of the country, in Kisumu, a young woman named Katherine gives an impassioned speech at a meeting of her local bunge. “It’s not that hard to save 20 shillings a day!” she says to her audience. “I want to help you utilize what you have to create what you don’t have. Think big, start small, start now!”

Duncan, the president of the group, explains how one SACCO started a motorbike taxi business. At first they got a loan from the SACCO to buy four motorbikes, now they have eighteen. Their spouses are involved in the business as well. They now have two accounts, one for development and the other for welfare, so if one of them gets hurt, they can help pay the medical bills. Next they want to offer small loans to first-time home-buyers.

As young leaders take the microphone, others sit at tables cutting recycled tin to make earrings and small boxes, which they sell at their gift shop, which also sells furniture and handmade greeting cards. They are taking action to help improve their lives and create a more prosperous country for more youth.

Equipping Women Teachers in South Sudan with the Skills to Succeed

Traditional gender roles in South Sudan have hindered women from improving their professional skills and limited their contributions as teachers and leaders of parent-teacher associations, school management committees and boards of governors. As a result, children lack female role models and South Sudan has a shortage of teachers.

Most of South Sudan’s teachers lack professional training, a legacy of decades of conflict. Women constitute only 12.3 percent of the teaching force in South Sudan’s primary schools and 10.5 percent of teachers in secondary schools.

USAID is helping to improve female teachers’ professional skills and retain female teachers in South Sudan’s workforce through training and providing working mothers with childcare so that they are able to focus on their professional development.

Teacher Samna Basha (middle) with colleagues. The women are benefiting from USAID-supported child care services that enable them to improve their professional development as teachers. Photo credit: Creative Associates International

Samna Basha, a third grade teacher enrolled in USAID-funded training, said that childcare helped her to concentrate and avoid inconveniencing colleagues in the classroom. “I did not expect to complete the training because I am a nursing mother and therefore unable to focus my undivided attention on the training material,” said Basha, who teaches at the Lokoloko Primary School in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal state. “I was pleased when a … staff member [told] us that child care services would be provided by a caretaker of our choice at a venue provided by the school and that the service would be paid for by the project. It was a great relief for all the mothers … this is the first time in my experience that working mothers have been supported to fulfill their professional duties while caring for their children.”

Pasqulina Jackino is a mother of six and has been a teacher of mathematics, science, and religion in Primary 1, 2, and 3 at Ezo Community Girls School in Western Equatoria State for nearly seven years. She had received no formal teacher training until she was offered the opportunity to participate in a USAID-funded in-service training course. “I quickly packed a bag for me and my baby and set out to attend the training because I knew this was an opportunity to make me a better teacher,” she said.  ”I am now able to plan my lessons and make them more lively and interesting. Through interactions with fellow teachers and tutors from other counties, my English has improved. I am now able to explain the subject matter of the lesson to my pupils in English.”

Pasqulina can now effectively manage her classroom and encourage pupils to learn. As she explains, “to be a mother and teacher at the same time is a challenge but I am ready to take it up. This is the only way I can come out as a better person and contribute to the growth and development of my community and the entire nation.”

Behind the Scenes: Interview with Jeff Borns on Democracy-Building in Southern Africa

This blog is part of a new interview blog series called “Behind the Scenes.” It includes interviews with USAID leaders, program implementers, Mission Directors, and development issue experts who help fulfill USAID’s mission. They are a casual behind-the-scenes look into USAID’s daily effort to deliver economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world — and the results we’ve seen.

Recently, we chatted with Jeff Borns, Mission Director of USAID South Africa to learn more about our democracy-building initiatives in the region and how they impact governance at local levels. 

Can you tell us more about what is needed to build up a democracy? Is it just about voting?

What happens on election day is just one piece of democracy. The voting process must take place in an environment that respects the rule of law and has strong institutions like parliaments and independent judiciaries. This is not only necessary to a democratic government, but also necessary to development. And when you have the assurance that comes with these elements of good governance, it is easier for companies to invest and for economies to take off.

Southern Africa elections professionals on a USAID-financed program learn from members of the Independent Electoral Court in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo credit: UNISA

What is USAID doing to support democracy-building in Southern Africa? Can you give us an example?

USAID supports regional democracy-building and governance efforts by encouraging improvements to regional election management. This includes providing technical assistance and training to electoral management bodies in the region, as well as providing training and support to election professionals. These election professionals often toil in the shadows, and are rarely given development opportunities or the time and place to build professional networks. Through a five-year grant to the University of South Africa (UNISA), in partnership with the the South Africa Independent Electoral Commission, USAID is training and connecting election professionals with one another and helping them improve their technical skills to support free, fair and open elections around Africa. UNISA is the largest distance-learning university in Africa–a third of all higher education students in South Africa are enrolled there. With this grant, USAID and UNISA hope to support the training and connecting of over 375 elections professionals from across Africa.

What does this mean, in practical terms?

By teaching new skills, and by creating a web of dedicated, trained professionals, USAID is supporting a connected cadre of election experts.

Midway through the grant, results are already streaming in. It’s very exciting! Elections management officials are now clamoring to send their technical staff to the training, and UNISA has observed significant changes in the professionalization of elections bodies in participating countries. This year USAID will support two trainings of 75 officials at UNISA’s campus in Pretoria, South Africa. The selected elections professionals spent three weeks in classroom learning followed by a week of fieldwork at the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa.

The intangible benefits of the program are huge, and we anticipate that this trend of fantastic results will continue. USAID is providing the building blocks to a grassroots network of highly qualified, highly motivated election professionals – which will be tremendously beneficial to the region and population as a whole.

Learn more about our work in Southern Africa.

Follow @USAIDAfrica and @USAID_SAfrica on Twitter!

A Good Place to Start to Improve Schools

It could have been small town Iowa. Dignitaries arrived. The local sports team stood at attention in orange t-shirts. The drummers set the pace, and the musicians played. The town fathers presided in a ceremony in front of the church next to the school. Young mothers with babies and young children sat near the back. Students stood in rows by class. The parent organization sat together as did the teachers. The children sang. Mooing cattle provided background for a speech by a special boy, the school’s brightest. And they gave us gifts made locally.

But this scene played out in rural Congo (DRC). It was a soccer team with only one ball, and the children wore hand-me-down school uniforms faded from over-washing. The band didn’t march.

After the ceremony the “school board” showed us binders filled with budgetary detail. A capacity-building program sponsored by USAID is helping local leaders, both men and women, take responsibility for their school. They showed us the new latrines that the community had built with a side for girls and a side for boys. Now they need a new school to replace the one washed away by seasonal rains. In the makeshift school children sit on red bricks because there are no desks. Worse, there are no textbooks.

Click for more photos on the OPEQ program.

The problem is sometimes where to start. Should donors like USAID help with infrastructure? Research tells us that if we build more schools closer to where children live, they will feel safer coming to school, especially girls who are at risk of sexual violence. Do we train teachers,especially women, so that parents will feel more comfortable sending their girls to school? Or do we help find a way to alleviate school fees assessed to supplement the meager salaries paid to teachers. Can we do both?

In much the same way we value local control of our schools, local people, especially parents, are learning to have a say in the solutions to these problems. The International Rescue Committee through USAID’s Opportunities for Equitable Access to Basic Education (OPEQ) program is working with parent groups in targeted schools in Katanga province to teach civic involvement. These parents are creating and implementing a school improvement plan. The skills they are learning will carry over into many other aspects of community life.

OPEQ is also training the teachers. Armed with a piece of chalk, a chalk board, and newly acquired skills, these teachers are starting to teach reading by teaching the children of Katanga province in their mother tongue, then transitioning to French, the national language. This is a hard-sell for parents who need convincing that research shows starting with the language children speak is the best way to give them the tools to read in other languages.

A new latrine, teachers eager to show off their skills: small steps by western standards, but as anyone on Main Street knows, the key ingredient is always the parents. It’s a good place to start.

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