Digital literacy for teenagers in marginalized communities

Precious Akintulubo

Chinelo Collins, a Junior Secondary School  3 student at Aquinas College, Akure had never been exposed to in-depth digital literacy. Despite limited exposure to technology, he lacked the necessary skills to navigate technological tools effectively. His understanding of the  Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and POST-UTME examination was minimal until the Teens Launch Africa  intervened.

Teen Launch in one of its sessions

Teens Launch Africa visited Chinelo’s school as part of its initiative to provide students with basic digital literacy skills and enhance their ability to utilize technology. Consequently, Chinelo now possesses the knowledge needed to navigate the cyber world responsibly, without resorting to cybercrime. He has also gained an understanding of how technology can be used to benefit society, shape his future, and contribute to the progress of Nigeria as a whole.

Mercy from Greater Height Academy participated in the FREE Girls in ICT Training program organized by Teens Launch Africa, aimed at bridging the gap of digital illiteracy among young girls. Through this initiative, Mercy was introduced to Graphics Design, during which she learned efficient use of Canvas, navigation of templates, adding colors, and incorporating lettering. By the end of the training, she could create beautiful designs independently.

The training has provided Mercy with the necessary digital skills crucial for success in the professional sphere. It has become her gateway to easy access to the corporate world.

Similarly, Aiyelola Damila Esther also took part in the digital literacy program provided by Teens Launch Africa. She gained proficiency in using Microsoft Office tools such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. For Aiyelola, this programme presents an opportunity to develop her digital skills, which she plans to pass on to others as she continues to learn herself.

These skills are essential in today’s corporate world, with entrance examinations often requiring basic proficiency in these tools. Early exposure to such training facilitates easy navigation, highlighting the significance of initiatives like Teens Launch Africa. 

STATISTICS OF AFRICAN JOBS THAT WILL REQUIRE DIGITAL SKILLS IN 2030 

According to a report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), about 230 million jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa will require varying degrees of digital skills by 2030,. Additionally, UNICEF highlights that nearly nine out of 10 young people who are not using the internet reside in Africa, Asia, or the Pacific, with Africa having the highest proportion of non-users. This lack of internet access deprives them of crucial opportunities to develop digital skills necessary for the modern workplace.

In the educational realm, a 2023 World Bank report reveals that only half of the countries in Africa include computer skills in their school curricula, compared to 85 percent globally.

TEENS LAUNCH AFRICA APPROACH 

Teens Launch Africa, established in 2022, is a youth-driven initiative committed to narrowing the digital gap within underprivileged schools and marginalized communities across Africa, beginning with Nigeria. Through introducing teenagers to technology, the organization aims to enrich their academic achievements and digital skills. Their focus lies on underprivileged and vulnerable youth from low-income households with the goal of fostering digital equality among individuals.

Teens Launch Africa is dedicated to addressing this issue by delivering free digital literacy programs to teenagers in underdeveloped schools and marginalized communities. Their initiatives include outreach programs such as the STEM Enrichment Program, Digi-Learn Program, VR4Education-Virtual Reality, Holiday Bootcamp – TechSkills Program, and Digi-Know. These programmes span from days to weeks and even months to ensure sustainable learning outcomes. By bridging the gap between communities and educational institutions, Teens Launch Africa facilitates access to digital education for those who lack it in Africa.

Ambassador Olumuyiwa Sobowale, the founder of Teens Launch Africa, reflected on the genesis of the initiative, which stemmed from his personal experience with digital illiteracy. Having struggled with the lack of necessary digital skills, he attempted the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) examination thrice. Determined to prevent such challenges from affecting future generations, he launched the initiative in 2022.

Sobowale said Teens Launch Africa exposes the teenagers to technologies that they ordinarily won’t have access to like Virtual Realities, STEM activities.

“These technologies will in a way foster their creativity and ability to be equal with their mates digitally in the global world,” Sobowale said. 

PROBLEM SOLVING METHOD

Since 2022, Teens Launch Africa has made significant strides in Nigeria, directly impacting 1200 teenagers across six different states, including Lagos, Ondo, Kwara, Ogun, Edo, and Abuja, through free outreach programs in schools and communities. The organization has established dedicated volunteers in each state to ensure an inclusive effort.

In pursuit of sustainability, Teens Launch Africa equips these children with essential digital skills like Word Processing, Presentation slides, Graphics Design, Spreadsheet Creation, Web Development amongst others preparing them for future opportunities ranging from navigating digital-based examinations like Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) to accessing digital-based jobs since statistics states that most future jobs will require digital skills. This initiative effectively bridges the gap between communities and educational institutions, ensuring access to digital education for all in Africa.

VALUE ADDING AND SUSTAINABILITY

The organization’s initiatives have played a significant role in decreasing the prevalence of digital illiteracy within underdeveloped schools and marginalized communities across Africa. By providing free access to the digital world for underprivileged and vulnerable children, as well as youth from low-income families, they have effectively bridged the gap and reduced disparity.

Beneficiaries also acquire sustainable digital skills that not only bridge the gap of digital disparity but also improve their academic performance and equip them to navigate 21st-century job opportunities in Africa. 

EXPERTS VIEW

In an interview with Ajadioni Francis Olufikayo, a seasoned Technical Project Manager with a decade of experience in Africa, likened the organization’s approach of reaching out to teenagers to Immersion Methodology, which involves capturing their young, curious minds.

“It is truly good because this time around, they can explore different specialization in different technology. By doing this with them via immersion technology, on the long run when the teenagers are ready for the labour market, they will contribute massively, expertly and with excellence,” Ajadioni noted.

He suggested that the organization should be cautious in its outreach marketing efforts. While it’s tempting to advertise tech skills as quick pathways to success, such as “Study Product Management and start earning in dollars immediately or Japa with tech skills,” Ajadioni said it’s important not to oversimplify the journey. Instead, they should communicate quality information to avoid leading to frustration among aspiring tech enthusiasts.

5- YEARS CONTINUOUS PLAN

Teens Launch Africa plans to impact over 25,000 students and spread across Africa. It aims to see Africa children and teenagers become problem solvers through their creativity ability.

CHALLENGES 

Teens Launch Africa faces significant challenges, with funding being a major obstacle that hinders the widespread implementation of the project. Additionally, the organization encounters restrictions from certain school managements, lack of support from some communities, language barriers, and infrastructure issues such as unreliable electricity and internet access. 

Africa Change Stories platform is established to tell African stories which are empowering and are at variant to stereotypical views of wars, famine, diseases. At African Change Stories, we believe narrative and angle matters. So we responsibly tell stories ethically. The platform therefore pushes forward great and energizing stories which will propel its people to consciously strive to do more. You have a story? Info@africanchangestories.org

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