The Power of Partnership in Transforming Girls’ Education

November 3, 2014
© Discovery Communications/2014

© Discovery Communications/2014

As part of the Girls’ Education Challenge, The UK Government’s Department for International Development is partnering with four large private sector companies – Avanti Communications, The Coca-Cola Company, Discovery Communications and Ericsson – to boost educational outcomes for over 100,000 marginalised girls across Africa and Asia.

These partnerships are at the forefront of collaboration with the private sector in international development and are unique within DFID. As well as contributing finance, these companies are working with NGOs, local enterprises and civil society to deliver education programmes on the ground.

Collectively, the companies have committed to an investment of almost £30 million, match funded by the UK government. The initiatives will be implemented in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Burma.

The partnerships are ambitious and innovative. Many of the solutions that the companies are using are based on ‘edtech’ approaches – bringing the 21st Century into classrooms and communities. Pioneering uses of educational technology include Avanti’s ‘iMlango’ initiative (from a Swahili word meaning ’doorway’), which will introduce an internet learning platform and high-speed satellite broadband connectivity. Ericsson’s initiative will also connect schools to the internet and deliver English language and life skills curricula on tablets. These initiatives are also using technology to improve data collection – for example, Avanti’s initiative collects attendance data in real time through a smartcard.

The initiatives are also working directly with girls, their families and communities to engage them and raise awareness of gender issues. The Discovery Project is involved in the production of nationally broadcast television discussion programmes, reaching millions of viewers, to bring gender issues into the public dialogue. Coca-Cola’s programme is working with traditional and faith leaders in Nigeria to advance girls’ education, as part of a broader initiative to provide older girls with vocational skills.

Developing these partnerships has required careful brokering, time, patience and a firm commitment to work together in a new and impactful way. There have been lots of lessons learned along the way that can inform similar partnerships in future. These include the importance of communicating the purpose and means of collaboration in terms that both the private sector and government can relate to; flexible and appropriate requirements and processes, a balanced contracting vehicle; and early match-making of organisations to help fill technical and operational gaps.

Ultimately, both partners are focused on the same goal. Improving the life chances of some of the world’s most marginalised girls, through education.

Notes: The Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) is helping up to a million of the world’s poorest girls improve their lives through education. The initiative calls on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), charities and the private sector to find better ways of getting girls in school and ensuring they receive a quality of education to transform their future.

The GEC supports projects that are able to demonstrate new and effective ways to expand education opportunities to marginalised girls, and which can be robustly evaluated to widen their impact. There are now 38 projects in the GEC portfolio working across 17 countries.

To learn more about the Girls’ Education Challenge, please click here.

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Sally Gear is a Senior Education Adviser at the UK’s Department of International Development . She currently leads the UK’s £355mn Girls Education Challenge programme and has worked on girls...

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