An Initiative of the International Youth Foundation an initiative of the international youth foundation

YouthActionNet Blog

Solving Africa’s Teacher Shortage, The Youth-Led Answer

Lisa Jones | March 19, 2015

In Sub-Saharan Africa, local governments and NGOs alike have invested millions in developing solutions to increase access to quality education for Africa's young people--the majority of whom attend overcrowded, understaffed schools. But what if the tools to solve Africa's education challenge already exist?  

In a recent YouthActionNet webinar, Peggy Mativo, founder of Promoting Access to Community Education (PACE), explained how Africa's youth may be its greatest asset in transforming the education sector for the next generation. In Kenya alone, there is a shortage of more than 70,000 teachers—each public school needs at least four more teachers than it has today. Her solution? Help teens use their ‘gap year’ between high school and college as an opportunity to volunteer in primary schools, giving back to their communities and developing invaluable experience to set them on a path for academic and career success.

Tweet: Solving Africa’s Teacher Shortage, The Youth-Led Answer: @PeggyMativo on why #Kenya already has the tools to fix #Ed.

“If someone was donating $110 million dollars to education in Kenya, it would make the news,” Peggy says, “But it’s true that time is money.” She explains that if the 400,000 Kenyan high school graduates who spend a nine-month period waiting for university to begin volunteered twenty hours per week, 320 million hours each year would go to Kenyan primary schools—those hours are valued at $110 million.  

With 50+ assignments to review each time homework or tests are issued, teachers in overcrowded classrooms struggle to monitor the academic progress and personal development of so many students—and many get left behind. Volunteers help teachers with the many burdens they face in overcrowded classrooms, allowing them the time they need to focus on the students who need the most help.

But PACE volunteers don’t stop with academics—many have found ways to channel their evolving passions into projects that enrich student’s lives in ways that were not possible before. Examples include making time for hands-on outdoor science experiments, a school-wide cultural festival with more than 2,000 participants, reading and language clubs with donated materials, and health initiatives, like the Pledge-a-Pad campaign, which provides girls with sanitary pads, resulting in fewer days of absenteeism.

While other volunteer programs focus on volunteering as a luxury for the rich, an outlet only for international citizens, or a one-day event, PACE is pioneering the long-term local ownership of volunteering, encouraging Kenyan youth to confidently say “I can solve problems for my country.” By providing enrichment activities for the volunteers that help prepare them for college and careers, PACE creates a win-win opportunity for high school graduates and the next generation who looks to them for hope and evidence of a path to success.

When asked during the webinar if she knows how many volunteers have decided to become teachers, Peggy cites the anecdote of a young man who was set to study engineering in university, but found his calling as a teacher after volunteering with PACE. But, she says: “Whether our volunteers become bankers, parents, or the President, they will have a better understanding of our country's educational challenges.”

Watch the webinar recording below (and view the slides here) to learn how PACE has already achieved measurable results in Kenyan schools, and how Peggy envisions replicating PACE's innovative youth-driven model across Africa.

Brought to you with support from Laureate International Universities and the American Express Foundation, this webinar is part of YouthActionNet's Living Leadership Series, designed to equip emerging leaders with the knowledge and tools to tackle the world's toughest challenges.

Join our mailing list for news about webinars like this one!