September, 2010

  • CGI: Guest Post - Helping Girls in Kenya to Give Back

    Linda Lockhart, Managing Director, Global Give Back Circle

    Imagine you are a disadvantaged girl in Kenya, categorized as coming from the bottom of the economic pyramid. Imagine you grew up sleeping in a hut made from mud and dung, and next to you, in another hut your grandparents kept a cow, some chickens and maybe a goat. Imagine that you lost both parents, within a 12-month period, when you were just five. Nobody talked about how or why they passed away, but everyone knew it was because of HIV/AIDS – because this is how HIV/AIDS was attacking the parents of other children in your rural community – it was attacking them quickly and without discrimination. You were not aware of it at the time, but YOU were among the first generation of AIDS orphans.

    Primary school in Kenya was free back then, but you still had to walk an hour each way to the closest school, and you walked barefoot. Imagine that a charity organization sponsored you through high school. Your village chief recommended you, because you were a bright girl. For the first time in your life you traveled out of your district and into the Nairobi area and you boarded in a safe and nurturing environment for four years. You received a uniform and a pair of sturdy black shoes that reminded you that you were functioning, and learning. The shoes reminded you every day that you could have dreams – dreams about all of the opportunities that awaited you in your society. But, after high school graduation you had to hand back your black shoes, forfeit your dreams and return to the bottom of the pyramid because you did not have the skills that lead to employment – and because you were a girl.

    When a disadvantaged girl graduates high school, she has already overcome extraordinary odds. Unfortunately, the gap period between high school graduation and university is from 12 – 22 months. So, where does a poor girl go? Just a little more investment in her tertiary education provides the world with an extraordinary return on benevolent human capital investment.

    It’s important that girls do not fall through the cracks after high school graduation. That’s the objective of the Global Give Back Circle (GGBC). It gives her a support system that will enable and empower her to step change her life by ‘completing her educational journey’. It was created in such a way that private sector corporates in Kenya treasure the investment in her tertiary education – since an investment in her is an investment in ‘benevolent human capital development’, because she is connected to a circle of giving back that has embedded a give back ethos into her DNA.

    The GGBC connects mentoring, private sector investment and local community support in a process which guides a disadvantaged girl to complete her educational journey, gain employable skills and become an agent of change herself. The girls are guided to apply to university and leverage higher education loan packages. They are from all parts of Kenya and they are awarded mentors from all over the world. The mentors give back ‘time and talent’, the private sector gives back ‘treasure’ and the girls commit to giving back time, talent and eventually treasure to their communities.

    The vision is that all girls who commit to a circle of ‘giving back’ (270 currently) are able to complete a tertiary education path which will enable them to find employment to step change their destinies – breaking through cultural, economic and political barriers. Gaining IT skills is a critical component of the plan.

    In 2008, Microsoft’s Woman of WECA (Western, Eastern and Central Africa) collaborated with GGBC to implement Microsoft IT Labs in Kenya, with a goal to turn the Gap Period into a ‘Gateway’, as each girl completes a 9-month Microsoft IT course with marketable applications like, Word, Excel, Power Point, Programming, Website Design, Accounting, etc. Today, there are two Microsoft IT Labs with a goal to implement a third.

    The Labs are much more than IT training facilities. The girls actually live in dedicated dormitories just next to the Lab. They form a very special bond during this time period, with each other and with their mentors. Up until the Lab, they communicate with their mentors through letters. Once they enter the world of Internet access, they begin communicating with their mentors in a much more robust manner – weekly/daily.

    They take courses during the day and connect to the world in the evenings. They NEVER want to leave the Lab! They learn about university options, scholarship opportunities and career planning. They research new give back commitments and they learn about the global world they are now a part of. The IT Lab EMPOWERES them in ways we never could have imagined when developing the concept.

    IT Skills are transformational….

            

    Vivian Onano was raised by her mother and in a rural village in Kisumu, Kenya. She walked an hour to and from primary school each day. Through charity, she graduated high school from Starehe Girls Centre in 2008. Throughout 2009 she lived in the Microsoft IT Lab 24/7. Her experience in Microsoft’s 9-month ICT Course transformed her life. She started communicating with her mentor on a daily basis, and her mentor inspired her to believe that anything is possible.

    Her new IT skills helped her secure an Internship at the Mama Maria Clinic where she computerized data on HIV/AIDS to allow for easy calculation of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in regions. She taught computer skills to the staff and residents of the rural village. She used the Internet to research college scholarships abroad, and through an on-line application process she secured a full scholarship to Carthage College in Wisconsin. Vivian will return to Kenya as a physician.

    Truphena Wambui lost both parents when she was 5 and was taken in by St. Martin’s Girl’s Centre located in Nairobi’s Kibagere slum. She lived there and received an education for 12 years. Truphena was an average student with an above average will to achieve. Truphena’s mentor became Truphena’s light as she guided her to visualize what success looks like and the types of career options that can lead a poor girl into financial and societal independence.

    Truphena always struggled with math, but still dreamed about becoming an accountant. Truphena entered the Microsoft IT Lab in early 2010 and discovered a ‘second brain’. The computer compensated for her mathematical learning challenges and allowed her to make spreadsheets sing! Truphena will begin a course in Financial Accounting at Visions College in Kenya starting January 2011. She will enter the workforce with IT and accounting skills and she ‘will’ find employment!

    We now have over 60 sixty girls who have gone through the IT Course with another 50 due to start in January 2011. Their individual success stories provide tangible evidence that this societal intervention is working and creating a movement of its own.

    To learn more about the Global Give Back Circle visit: www.globalgivebackcircle.org

  • CGI: Accelerating 21st Century Education in Kenya

    Last year at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, the Government of Kenya and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a collaborative project focused on improving education in up to 60 primary and secondary schools in Kenya. This was an incredible announcement for a number of reasons, including the fact that students and teachers in that region would now finally have access to relevant and engaging education technology and content. The last year has shown progress towards this commitment on a number of fronts, and we are nearing the beginning of implementation.

    On a personal level, I’ve been excited about this project because of my life-long connection to Kenya. I lived there for six years growing up and experienced the country’s challenges with education firsthand. It’s a country with a deep and rich culture, full of amazing people who have a thirst for learning. But the resource limitations in the country are vast; many schools have more basic needs than technology – clean water, sanitation, basic supplies and well-trained teachers.

    Despite this, an increasing number of schools are ready to start integrating technology into their curricula and pedagogy, and in those schools we see the opportunity of this commitment. The technology and skills training that come with this commitment gives teachers the training they need to appropriately use technology in the classroom and provides hope for kids who want to learn but didn’t previously have the best means to do so.

    Through this project, up to 60 Kenyan schools will receive:

    • Computers for student and teacher use
    • Training for approximately 7,000 teachers to effectively integrate technology in the classroom
    • Training of technical support staff at each school
    • Access to digital educational content

    In addition, Microsoft and Intel will open a School Technology Innovation Center at the Kenya Institute of Technology in Nairobi, the main teacher training center for the Ministry of Education. At the Center, teachers from across Kenya will learn how to effectively use technology in their classrooms, and the Ministry will conduct research on innovative emerging technology solutions. The Center will serve as a repository and showcase for best-known methods of teaching, learning and educational technology in the region.

     

    President Mwai Kibaki visits the School Technology Innovation Center to kick off the construction project in March 30, 2010.

    Over the course of the next three years, the project is expected to directly benefit an estimated 39,000 students and 7,000 teachers through improved educational infrastructure and training.

    In my role I get the opportunity to meet teachers and school leaders from around the world. One thing I’ve learned is that teachers and students have the same needs and questions when it comes to education, despite geographic and cultural differences. ICT gives teachers and school leaders the ability to connect with one another to share successes, address challenges and help each other. In my opinion, ICT is one of the tools that can equalize students across social and economic and geographic boundaries. That’s why I’m excited to have so many teachers in Kenya connected with their peers in the country, and around the world.

    The synergies from sharing and collaborating are unmatched and thanks to technology, are free from the bounds of things like oceans and time zones. I encourage parents of students, teachers and all kinds of educators to connect with one another anytime they can. Tools like the Partners in Learning Network (LINK to previous UP blog post) for example is a great resource for connecting and sharing lesson plans, educational content and helpful tips from teachers and schools all over the world.

    There are a lot of great opportunities and positive changes being made in education right now. To get more information on this project, how to get involved and ways you can contribute, keep an eye on this blog and the Partners in Learning Network.

    James Bernard is Worldwide Director for Partners in Learning at Microsoft

  • CGI: Teachers are the key to providing children with quality education

    In 2008, we announced a commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to train 10 million teachers by 2015. We undertook this goal, because we believe that every child has the right to a quality education. Throughout the course of a child’s education, there is perhaps no more important influence than the teachers that guide, nurture, and inspire learning.

    Strong teacher education programs are one of the key ways that we can help ensure that all children have access to great teachers.  Through the Microsoft Partners in Learning Program, we have invested in 115 countries since 2003 to support quality teacher education, the use of technology in learning, and ongoing professional development as part of our commitment to education.

    A quick overview of the Partner in Learning program

    To date we have reached almost 8 million teachers, and we are continuing to invest in more teacher outreach and training to ensure we reach the goal we set as part of the CGI commitment.

    By working with teachers around the world through the Partners in Learning program, we’ve also learned that we need to do more to support the school environments in which teachers work. School leaders need training and ongoing professional development to support transformative change. One teacher can make great things happen in a classroom, but several teachers with supportive, strong leadership can make a whole school great.  And a great school has positive implications for a whole community.

    Our Partners in Learning Innovative Schools Program helps school leaders lead positive change within their school communities by providing the tools and resources they need to successfully envision and implement educational transformation.  The Innovative Schools program helps schools leaders inspire thought leadership, discover best practices, and create models that any school, any system can use in the future to prepare children for success in the 21st century.

    The program is built on findings from 12 pioneering Innovative Schools that have each taken a unique approach to assessing, improving, and evaluating their learning environments to successfully move beyond the limits of the classroom and traditional learning models. With mentor, pathfinder and breadth schools, there are now more than 2,500 schools in this program. 

    The sharing that happens within and across the communities of Innovative Teachers and Schools is simply amazing and inspiring.  These educators from around the world are committed to improving their teaching and their schools; to sharing experiences and learning from others; and to helping students develop a strong foundation for a college or career.

    In a few weeks, we will expand the program to include more than 70 new schools and growing the program to 23 more countries.  These new schools join the community of Innovative Schools and Innovative Teachers  that is today playing a crucial role in securing a quality education for every child.

    Learn more about Innovative Schools in action by looking at videos on Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Web site.

    Lauren Woodman, General Manager Government and Education Engagement Programs

  • CGI: Supporting skills, content and context in local communities

    A major focus of our global programs is about providing individuals around the world with access to information and communications technology (ICT) – what some still call digital inclusion or “closing the digital divide.” We aren’t a hardware infrastructure provider, so achieving the goal of increasing access requires deep partnerships. It goes beyond the nuts and bolts (or wires and airwaves) to skills, content and context. This becomes critically important in our work in communities around the world outside of the area of formal education - where we are also highlighting a large number of commitments at the Clinton Global Initiative this week.

    For our community programs the objective of serving the “underserved” takes a multitude of forms, many of which I have witnessed firsthand in my travels and learned from talking to individuals who went from fearful to confident based on their participation in the programs we support through our community partners. ICT has opened doors for them in ways that are as diverse as the communities in which they live. There are two programs I would like to focus on that show different perspectives of the skills, content and context components, both of which will have a spotlight on them during this hectic week in New York.

    Community Technology Access

    One of our CGI commitments, made in 2008, is the Community Technology Access (CTA) program. Working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), this program is increasing access to technology in the most challenging of settings – refugee camps. This is a CONTEXT that unfortunately too many people experience (over 40 million right now) but one that the vast majority of us on the planet have no concept of. The camps are remote with intermittent on non-existent infrastructure and connectivity. The camps frame the world view of their residents not just for a few weeks, but often for years or decades – in fact 15 years on average. Children may grow to adulthood in a camp knowing very little of the world outside.

    The fundamental goal of CTA is to give people the SKILLS and CONTENT needed to pursue opportunities inside and outside the camp, whether it is education, entrepreneurship, communication or otherwise. The key technology innovation of the CTA program is standardized solar-powered computer classrooms and labs with the capability of handling the rugged conditions of the camps. To date, CTA sights have been opened in Rwanda and Bangladesh, with 26 additional locations planned through 2010.

    Women in Technology

    We’re celebrating another program this week: the Women In Technology (WIT) initiative. In fact, Microsoft is being honored by the Institute of International Education (IIE) for our contribution to WIT at their gala event. The real honor goes, of course, to the local organizations and program participants in nine countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. I have had the privilege of seeing WIT programs first hand in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and have been consistently impressed with how these women are driving change.  They believe in the power of technology and understand how it can fundamentally change their ability to become meaningful contributors in their society at a large scale.  This week I was fortunate to have the opportunities to meet three participants in the program here in New York and came away with a similar sense of optimism –the future is safe in the hands of these very young yet powerful women.

    Their experience reflects that of nearly 10,000 other women from societies where women struggle for equality at many levels. The particular focus of WIT is to provide the SKILLS needed in the job market and to support women entrepreneurs – and the key to success has been working through more than 60 local organizations to ensure that both the CONTENT and CONTEXT are appropriate across a very diverse region. In addition to its impact, the program illustrates a public-private partnership between Microsoft, IIE and the Middle East Partnership Initiative to leverage resources, knowledge and opportunities for WIT success.

    I want to close by saying that both of these programs represent one of our fundamental principles – stay local. I don’t mean to say there aren’t best practices that apply broadly or opportunities for scale at the regional or global level, but you will never be successful if programs aren’t appropriate for the specific community. Through our staff and partners around the world we are able to identify and support programs that remain true to this principle.

    Front row: Najla Abou Hamzeh (Lebanon), Khadija Ait Kaddour (Morocco), Salma Yassin, (Interpreter), Rana Hadi (Iraq).

    Back row: Akhtar Badshah (Microsoft), Karin Eisele, (Executive Director, IIE West Coast), Peggy Blumenthal (COO and Executive Vice President, IIE), Pamela Passman (Microsoft), Zaki Khoury (Microsoft), Heather Ramsey (Director, Women in Technology & Global Partnerships, IIE) Kit Bartels (U.S. Department of State, Middle East Partnership Initiative).

    Photo courtesy of Lyn Hughes for the Institute of International Education

  • CGI Week: Turning ideas into actions that address social and economic issues

    Founded in 2005 by President Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative was created to turn ideas into action creating a more integrated global community with shared benefits, responsibilities, and values. It brings together people from around the world, and channels the capacities of individuals and organizations to realize social and economic change. It focuses on practical solutions to global issues through the development of specific and measurable Commitments to Action.

    Microsoft is a proud partner of the Clinton Global Initiative. We share the same belief that collaboration between individuals and the private, public and nonprofit sectors can address the world's most pressing problems.

    This week, the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting takes place in New York from September 20-23 and we plan to share stories throughout the week that illustrate how our CGI Commitments to Action are having a positive impact addressing education, social and economic issues.

    To mark this year’s event you can find a wealth of resources on the Microsoft Citizenship website.

    Each day we’ll be bringing a different story or initiative to life with content, videos and photography, as well as a daily post on the Microsoft Unlimited Potential blog.

    If you’re not in New York this week but are interested in following the proceedings, why not visit the CGI website where the events will be streamed live through your web browser.

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