UNICEF, Airtel Partner To Enhance Digital Learning In African Children

Children attending class with their tablets.

The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Airtel Africa have announced a five-year pan-African partnership to help accelerate the roll-out of digital learning through connecting schools to the internet and ensuring free access to learning platforms across 13 countries.

This development was announced via UNICEF’s official website on Monday November 1, 2021.

TheFact Nigeria observed that children living in Africa lacked basic digital skills and access to the internet, this was a major set back as they could not participate in online classes during the covid-19 lockdowns as their counterparts in technologically advanced continents.

Airtel Nigeria and UNICEF Nigeria are longstanding partners, and under this new initiative are planning to help connect schools in Lagos and Kano to the internet, to enable children to learn digitally. This pilot initiative is expected to benefit over 10,000 schoolchildren in the two states.

Airtel Africa, a leading provider of telecommunications and mobile money services in Africa, is the first African private sector partner to make a multimillion-dollar commitment to ‘Reimagine Education’, a global initiative launched by UNICEF in 2020 calling for public and private sector investment in digital learning as an essential service for every child and young person across the globe.

This initiative aims to to give children a chance to catch up on their learning needs amid the ongoing global pandemic.

UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore who commended the partnership said it would put children’s learning back on track. She said:

“Hundreds of millions of children in Africa have seen their education disrupted or put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By championing digital education for children in Africa, this partnership with Airtel Africa will help put children’s learning back on track”, she said.

In the same vein, UNICEF Nigeria Representative Peter Hawkins expressed delight in the partnership.

He said: “Digital learning is the gateway to equipping young people with the right skills – skills that will support them to transition from learning to earning.

“We are delighted that Airtel Nigeria shares in this vision, and is helping to drive the process of scaling up internet connectivity for school children in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins.

Airtel Africa’s financial and in-kind contribution for this partnership is $57 million over five years to 2027. The programme will call on technology and expertise, in addition to direct financial support to connect schools and communities to the internet, enable free access to online educational content for learners.

It will also provide vital data insights to inform UNICEF’s work to scale-up digital learning and help ensure it is sustainable and meets students’ needs across Africa.

Speaking on the partnership, CEO of Airtel Africa, Olusegun Ogunsanya said:

“As a business, we have focused on education as a key area of our corporate social responsibility, and we are delighted that this partnership with UNICEF will enable us to accelerate results. It also coincides with the launch of our new sustainability strategy, which lays out our commitment to education.

“We are excited to be working with UNICEF to advance the education agenda on the continent through facilitating connectivity and online access to play a role in driving change,” he said.

The Airtel Africa and UNICEF pan-African partnership will benefit learners not only in Nigeria, but also in Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

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