KAMPALA — An education nonprofit called Educate! is offering in-school programs that give young people the skills they need to become entrepreneurs. Educate! was founded in 2009 by Eric Glustrom, Boris Bulayev, and Angelica Towne. The education nonprofit works primarily in Uganda, but spread its services to Rwanda in 2016.
Educate! was established with the purpose of addressing the high rate of unemployment among young people in Uganda. The country has the world’s youngest population and a 62 percent unemployment rate. Those who manage to get jobs are often in informal, low-paid ones.
To confront this problem, Educate! has partnered with many high schools across Uganda and Rwanda to bring business-skills teaching programs to the schools. In order to take part in the program, students must submit an application. Educate! Scholars are selected according to interest in the program, need and gender.
Both teachers and mentors teach the program. Mentors are 19-25-year-old entrepreneurs from the surrounding area who have managed to develop their own successful businesses. Mentors give guidance and advice to students who are going through the challenges of starting their own business, as well as train the students according to Educate! standards. Educate! also selects teachers from each partner school to deliver their leadership/entrepreneurship centered curriculum. The education nonprofit shows Ugandan teachers how to go from teaching the class in a traditional, teacher-centered, rote-memorization style to a more experiential and engaging style.
The curriculum consists of many crucial elements that develop students into confident leaders and innovators. In the “skills course” students learn how to access capital, how to save and how to plan for the future, as well as other entrepreneurial skills. In the “student business clubs,” student teams start one or more enterprises with the help of their mentors. They also take part in the annual National Student Business competition organized by Educate! where they present the enterprise they have created.
Students who graduate from the education nonprofit are expected to use their skills to solve poverty and unemployment in their society. For example, one graduate, Lillian, started the Namugongo Good Samaritan Project while she was still attending the Educate! program in high school. This project offers counseling services to women who are either widowed or affected by HIV/AIDS. At the same time, these women are taught to make and sell jewelry so that they can fund the project. With the money obtained from the jewelry, the women are able to start their own food and clothing shops.
Studies show that Educate! graduates are 64 percent more likely to start up business projects and 120 percent more likely to start up community projects. About 94 percent of the program’s graduates now run a business, hold a job or attend university. Female graduates more than doubled their income compared to girls who did not attend it.
The governments of Uganda and Rwanda have also worked with Educate! to implement skills-based education in their national education systems. As of now, Educate! programs operate in 500 schools across Uganda and Rwanda and reach a total of 240,000 students. Its aim is to reach one million students by 2024.
– Anna Gargiulo