NEW YORK, New York — The Global Impact Initiative (Gii) is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that provides academic and professional development programs for marginalized populations. Its efforts focus on skill-building through different programs including mentorship, training and workshops to individuals, families and communities. Over the last several months, Gii launched a training program through a partnership with a local nonprofit organization in Guinea’s second-largest city, N’Zerekore. The program focuses on improving educational resources for the Guinean youth and community. The Borgen Project spoke with Gii’s vice president of operations, Shawn Smith, to further elaborate on this program.
Education in Guinea
According to the 2020 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme, Guinea’s Human Development Index (HDI) measures at 0.477, which categorizes the country in the low human development division. The HDI is a measure to examine long-term progress based on “three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.”
Though considered a low human development country, Guinea has shown improvement in all three indicators, which brought Guinea’s HDI from 0.282 in 1990 to 0.477 in 2019. Specifically, in education, expected years of schooling for Guinean youth increased from 2.9 years in 1990 to 9.4 years in 2019.
However, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, access to education in Guinea remains limited as educational resources run scarce due to poverty conditions. As of Guinea’s most recently reported Multidimensional Poverty Index, 66.2% of the population live in multidimensional poverty and an additional 16.4% are considered vulnerable to multidimensional poverty.
According to a review of the 2016 Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey of Guinea, nearly 1.5 million children between the ages of 5 and 16 were not enrolled in school. Further exacerbating the situation, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused 14,326 schools to close.
Global Impact Initiative
Gii’s mission is to provide educational tools to foster skills among youth and young adults. By facilitating connections between local and global communities, Gii promotes lifelong learning through its programs. The organization focuses on serving marginalized populations, rural communities and refugees of foreign conflict. Smith tells The Borgen Project about some of Gii’s successes, which include building several domestic partnerships with educational institutions as well as foreign partnerships such as the new program in Guinea.
The Organization for the Rescue of Vulnerable Children (OSEM)
OSEM is a charitable organization of former educators and volunteers that built an English-speaking school for permanently displaced refugees from Liberia’s civil wars as well as impoverished Guinean youth.
The First and Second Liberian Civil Wars resulted in hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to nearby countries, of which Guinea received some 44,000. The wars have put Liberia into a deep economic recession that has resulted in an 80% unemployment rate, low growth rate and extreme debt. Following the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2006, 28,000 refugees living in Guinea returned to Liberia.
For the remaining Liberians who have stayed in Guinea, OSEM formed a school operating in an old rented building. There was a need for an English-speaking school for native Liberians as Guinea is a French-speaking country. In 2005, the first year of operation, 45 students attended the school. To date, 740 students have received an education from the school, which goes up to the eighth grade.
Families of the enrolled children are charged an enrollment fee the community can afford. Many of the families are single mothers working in farming and petty trading. Although the school is certified by the government, it does not receive funding and teachers and staff of the school do not receive salaries. The school struggles with a lack of proper infrastructure, equipment and educational materials.
The Educational Impact of the Global Impact Initiative
Though some of the OSEM staff are former educators, there are some without training in education. According to Smith, Gii uses its volunteer resources to provide training programs to OSEM staff via Zoom. The training is diverse and includes best practices for lesson planning as well as classroom management.
The training sessions are developed by K-12 teachers and other educational professionals based in the United States. At Gii’s first teacher training season, eight OSEM teachers attended. Gii expects this number to grow as the school continues to grow.
By developing upskilling programs for OSEM staff, Gii hopes to make a significant impact in education. In addition to teacher training, it will offer vocational training and workshops for the young adults of the community, focusing on workforce skills.
Smith believes that by impacting youth at an early age, Gii may be able to instill the skills and knowledge required for the community to thrive over the next several decades. As such, Gii funnels its resources where they are most needed and where they will make the most impact.
The Global Impact Initiative is an organization that has only been operating for less than a year. The program in Guinea is the first of the organization’s work in developing Africa. As the organization and programs continue to grow, so will Gii’s impact.
– Malala Raharisoa Lin