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The Day of the African Child and a Focus on Access to Education

The Day of the African Child, is marked today, June 16, to turn the world’s attention to the experiences of children in Africa, with a particular focus on educational gaps that remain to be filled.

In Zambia, where 39% of girls are married before they turn 18 and 9% before they turn 15, child marriage and early pregnancy linked to poverty often prevent girls from pursuing their education. Even during non-pandemic times, 41% of children in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp weren’t in school receiving formal education.

One focus of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s (SNF) $100 million global COVID-19 relief initiative was in helping bridge educational gaps exacerbated by the pandemic. Recent SNF grants have sought to help increase access to education for three groups of children in Africa at particular risk of exclusion: refugee children, girls, and children in remote areas. To get help efficiently to where it is needed most, SNF has partnered with organizations with deep on-the-ground experience working to serve these populations.

CAMFED works in countries across Africa to help ensure that girls, particularly in rural areas, are able to access their education and the opportunities it leads to and are not derailed by child marriage or early pregnancy. A recent SNF grant for the organization’s work in Zambia supports it in providing direct financial aid to the most vulnerable families to reduce the likelihood that thousands of children will have to leave school. The grant also supports CAMFED in improving facilities at a hundred schools, training hundreds of teachers to support students with catch-up learning strategies, implementing meal programs for tens of thousands of students, and distributing self-study kits for catch-up learning at home. Of the girls reached by CAMFED’s work in Zambia, 96% complete their education.

Coming to terms with remote learning has been critical during the pandemic, but it’s also important in making sure that students in rural and remote areas don’t fall through the educational cracks. With support from SNF, Young 1ove is scaling up its work to deliver remote instruction via readily available low-tech methods—text messages and phone calls—and replicating trials of a model that showed success in Botswana in Kenya as well as Nepal. The grant will also enable the organization in taking an intervention for helping students who have fallen behind grade-level standards catch up and adapting it to these same low-tech delivery strategies. In Botswana, this intervention increased basic numeracy rates among participants from 7% to 53%.

Meanwhile, in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, Save the Children UK is working to help refugee children pursue their education in spite of the ongoing disruptions caused by the pandemic. To ensure that children are able to access the educational radio programming broadcast by the government, Save the Children is equipping them with at-home learning kits including solar-powered radios, as well as reading and play materials. Included in the grant is also direct support to some of the most vulnerable families living in informal settlements in Nairobi, helping preclude child labor, marriage, and malnutrition.

Other recent SNF grants have sought to help children around the world who are at risk of being excluded access their education, from support for Malala Fund in India and Pakistan, to Advocates for Children of New York, to United World Schools in Cambodia and Nepal.