SEATTLE — The Asante Africa Foundation, founded in 2006, is dedicated to assessing the root cause of why East African children are not being properly educated. Its members work on the ground in Kenya, Tanzania and Oakland, CA to impart change.
“In 2006 I was vacationing in Tanzania when I witnessed the desperate need to improve educational opportunities for the youth of Africa,” said Erna Grasz, the CEO and co-founder of the Asante Africa Foundation. “I left Tanzania realizing that talent and intelligence can occur everywhere, but opportunities do not.”
According to Grasz, that was the idea that drove the mission of the foundation: to ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a quality education. From there, she built a global team that would focus its effort in East Africa, a region where girls are least educated and more likely to become child brides.
Especially in Africa, education often comes as a secondary goal when other basic needs for food, shelter and health are not met. “Food, shelter and health all take priority,” says Grasz. “But people, especially youth, still have dreams.”
Additionally, studies show that educating youth is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote economic growth in a country. Girls who receive education are more likely to earn an income, have healthy babies and instill the value of an education in their children.
In its 10+ years in operation, Asante Africa has found that students are dropping out of school, teachers lack proper training, girls are marginalized and youth are not trained for jobs they need. In East Africa, 56 percent of people are unemployed and youth make up 40 percent of the working population.
The Asante Africa Foundation put three programs into place to combat these challenges: The Leadership Entrepreneurship Incubator, Girls’ Advancement Program and Accelerated Learning in the Classroom Program.
Beyond an education, teaching impoverished youth important job skills is paramount to growing an economy. This is one of the main goals of Asante Africa’s three-year Leadership Entrepreneurship Incubator program, which is designed to help educate people for the workforce. It works on personal development, job readiness and entrepreneurship.
In 2015, the foundation improved the educational opportunities in 133 schools in Kenya and Tanzania. Their work has also trained upwards of 11,000 teachers in Africa and the programs have helped keep 240,000 students in school.
When asked about the future, Grasz says, “Our immediate goal for the next few years is to scale up. We’d like to see our girls’ program across more areas of Kenya and Tanzania, have more of our youth’s enterprises impact the communities where they’re established and to make digital resources available in 1,000 schools in the region.”
– Madeline Boeding