In Kenya, well-educated people find it harder to find work opportunities, and those from slums twice as hard. Getting a decent job is a difficult task due to the lack of comprehensive information on tutoring programs or quality networks appropriate to the level of literacy. Douglas Mwangi knows the effort it takes to acquire the basic skills to work. He is the youngest in a family of eight children and grew up in the Nairobi suburb of Mathare.
Mwangi couldn’t get into high school because her mother couldn’t raise the money for tuition. “I started to work, but not in what is usually understood by work. My job was to perpetrate criminal activities. After an accident in which I almost died, I decided to turn my life around. I started as an apprentice in a barber shop and then I was hired,” says Mwangi.
After two years as a barber, he managed to save enough to study at the institute. He later received a scholarship to pursue a degree in web development at a multimedia design school in Nairobi. “After the course, my life changed completely because many job opportunities opened up for me. That made me aware of the difficulties faced by the youth of Mathare. Not even the most talented get that first chance to help them make ends meet,” laments Mwangi.
The African Youth Charter of the African Union (AU) declares that the continent’s youth are its greatest resource, and that their growing numbers offer enormous potential. According to the iMo Ibrahim Forum Report 2019Almost 60% of the African population is under the age of 25, making Africa the youngest continent in the world. However, currently 16 million young people are unemployed. The average correspondence between educational level and skills required by companies is worse in Africa than in the rest of the world.
In 2013, Mwangi began working as a community leader and champion of digital technologies for the Digital Opportunity Foundation (DOT). The organization trains young men and women in business management and basic digital skills, then sends them back to their communities, where DOT has several centers. “I was posted to Eastleigh and Mathare. In 2014 was born Mathare Oasis”, says the now entrepreneur.
Oasis Mathare was the first digital community center in the suburb of Nairobita. It had a few computers, wireless internet, and a quiet room where students, who normally have to confine themselves to crowded and noisy rooms, can concentrate and study. The center also strengthens the resources of marginalized children and adolescents with a library service. Users can go to it and study outside their homes, where they face obstacles such as power shortages and a lack of a safe space.
According to Mwangi, who has worked in Kibera, Kakuma and Mathare, there is a widespread belief that everyone who lives in the slums needs help. Indeed, in slum communities there are many gaps that need to be filled. However, the most important question should always be what kind of help do they need? “In my case, growing up in Mathare I didn’t have a safe place to study. I couldn’t go to the library in the city because I didn’t have money for transportation, and the only public one that served the outskirts was always full. Studying at home was impossible because it was very small, we had no electricity and the neighbors were noisy. For this reason, creating Oasis Mathare was for me a response to the problems of the youth of the neighborhood, because I had suffered them myself”, she reflects.
One of the center’s programs is economic training, aimed at young people – including mothers – who have no real income. They learn basic business knowledge and social entrepreneurship, as well as detect opportunities in their environment and organize themselves to start their project. They also receive training in computer engineering and graphic design, which enables them to be more competitive when it comes to getting a job or starting a business.
The goal of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and Design (STEAMD) program is for girls to gain confidence through coding and robotics. It also helps those who are unemployed to devise solutions to the problem they have in the community. “Basic information and communication technology training is free because DOT funds it. Instead, students who need advanced skills such as mobile and mobile app development and web page development have to pay 5,000 Kenyan shillings” (about 40 euros), explains Mwangi.
Another service is the Safe Spaces for Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Literacy, where children can go to play with toys for free. According to Anastasia Adiambo, an ECD teacher at Oasis Mathare, they also offer early childhood development classes with entertainment groups, educational computer games that develop children’s critical thinking, and various forms of recreation that encourage learning at a short time. age. The class schedule is from eight in the morning to two in the afternoon.
TextSchool has been chosen as one of the 10 best educational innovations in Africa by the African Union
“The main target audience for our ECD program is young single mothers who want to go back to school or find a job. The center is a safe place where you can leave your children. Parents pay a commitment fee of 1,000 Kenyan shillings (eight euros) a year to ensure that they regularly bring the child. During recess we give them porridge and we also give them lunch if there is a party like someone’s birthday. I hope that we can replicate these beneficial programs in other suburbs, because most of the marginalized communities have the same deficiencies”, concludes Adiambo.
Oasis Mathare has collaborated with various organizations such as Digital Divide Data, Ajira Digital, Nebu Cafe, and Techno Brain to recruit job-seeking students after successfully completing their basic information and communication technology training. . Since its creation, the center has given access to the opportunities offered by the digital world, such as online courses and interconnection, to more than 500 young people. In addition, it has provided more than 1,000 children with a safe place to study.
“Currently, most of our students are primary school students, because we have seen that laying a good foundation at an early age paves the way for them to be interested in careers in information and communication technologies in the future. We can track how they progress over time,” Mwangi muses.
Being an organization that works in close contact with people, the restrictions due to the coronavirus forced them to look for new alternatives. Oasis Mathare knew that not everyone could access the internet, so they created the project TextSchool. It is an innovative mobile phone application that allows students with limited access to the internet and computer equipment to access unlimited content using text messages. You can access it through any phone, whether it’s a smart phone or a regular cell phone, as long as the device can send and receive text messages. Furthermore, it is accessible for students living in remote areas of Kenya as it works with Safaricom, which offers good coverage in the country. TextSchool has been chosen as one of the 10 best educational innovations in Africa by the African Union.
In Mwangi’s opinion, the future of everything lies in information and communication technologies. Companies are run over the Internet, there are online classes, basically anything can be found on the Internet. However, most young people, who are always connected, do not know how to use it to their advantage, especially in Africa.
“You can get financial benefits from Facebook and YouTube, you can study online, but most young people only go there to watch music videos. You can start a business online, it’s not complicated at all; just open a page on Facebook, very easy. You can study a whole degree on YouTube”, he adds.
On June 26, 2018, Mwangi received the Young Leaders Award from Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London. The award is a recognition and encouragement to exceptional young people from across the Commonwealth. “Winning the Young Leaders Award was incredible, fantastic. It gave me hope. I see a bright future. We have worked with a group from Githurai and Kibera to bring our program there”, emphasizes the young entrepreneur.
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