BRAC commits to mobilize $ 271 million to empower the next generation through providing education opportunities to 7.5 million children and youth in five countries of Asia and Africa over the next five years.
BRAC and its partners, including BRAC USA, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, NoVo Foundation, and the Nike Foundation, will mobilize resources and provide a continuum of innovative educational opportunities for poor children, especially girls, in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Southern Sudan. The program will include pre-primary education; non formal primary education to children never enrolled or who have dropped out; secondary schooling; special life skills training and support for adolescent girls to regularly meet in centers to maintain literacy, boost self-esteem, and learn skills while earning income via microcredit and developing savings; and BRAC University undergraduate and advanced degrees relevant to the needs of developing countries.
BRAC's policy choices, program choices, and commitments towards enabling and empowering the 1.3 billion young people aged 12 to 24 in the developing world will determine the quality of the next generation of economic and social actors. This age group has an important role to play in attaining the MDG targets that their parent's generation has promised.
Yet, the reality that the majority of our youth face in developing countries is often the opposite of being empowering and enabling. There are huge disparities in the opportunities afforded to young people from rich families versus poor families, boys versus girls, and developed countries versus developing countries. Our youth suffer the most from our conflicts and wars. Changing family and community structures, isolation, and the lack of healthy socialization platforms keep our youth disconnected, marginalized from the mainstream and ill-prepared for adult responsibilities. Sadly, this reality is more acute for girls in many parts of the developing world where entrenched social customs of seclusion of women begins at puberty.
A statistic that may create some confusion in regards to the availability of education in the developing world is the high level of enrollment in primary school. But the truth is that a low percentage of those who enroll in primary school complete their education and an even lower percentage of these primary school graduates enroll into secondary school. Further, school curriculum and pedagogy generally focus on rote learning to pass exams, making the classroom experience one devoid of the joys of learning. This reality combined with poverty leads to high dropout rates and a feeling among dropouts of being failures, a mindset that is disempowering and diminishing.
Additionally, most programs for youth in the developing world are not adequately interlinked to provide a pathway for economic empowerment and success. While microfinance exists for adults, by and large, microfinance programs are unavailable to young people, especially unmarried ones, perhaps because youth are perceived as a risky group to serve. However, there are ways in which youth can be brought within the fold of microfinance through a process that starts from building their social capital and life skills.
BRAC was invited to participate in CGI last year and Fazle H. Abed spoke on a health panel. CGI inspired BRAC to commit to raising $250 million for at least five countries in Africa over the next 10 years in order to implement its comprehensive health, education, microfinance, and empowerment programs. This commitment inspired NoVo Foundation and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to underwrite the creation of BRAC USA to help mobilize support for BRAC's expansion to Africa and other parts of Asia. BRAC USA will be launched at the CGI this year in follow up to BRAC's 2006 commitment and as part of this new 2007 commitment. CGI staff reached out to BRAC to participate in the education track and requested the organization to consider making this commitment. The Nike Foundation has also played a key role in developing this commitment with BRAC USA, which builds on the Nike Foundation's innovative support to BRAC to work with adolescent girls.
BRAC has been a pioneer in the education arena for disadvantaged children and now runs programs along the whole value chain - from pre-primary through graduate school. BRAC's highly reputed informal primary education program was widely promoted by UNICEF and others as a high impact, low-cost model for children who had never enrolled or who had dropped out of primary school. BRAC's track record of success in graduating students and continuing their education in government schools led BRAC to create programs to improve government schools through teacher training and the formation of school management committees and Parent Teacher Associations. Additionally, BRAC formed Adolescent Centers that gave the girls an opportunity to maintain their literacy skills, because many of these girls were not permitted to continue their studies through conventional tracks. With the initial success of these Adolescent Centers, the girls requested skills training, access to credit and a safe place for savings. With Nike Foundation's support, BRAC has pioneered an innovative model to provide centers for adolescent girls, 'ELA Kendras,' which will be tested in Tanzania and Uganda and scaled up if successful. BRAC staff, who are experts in education, will recruit and train new staff in each country, manage and implement the program. BRAC is making this commitment to scale up what is working in educating the poorest children, particularly girls, in highly challenging developing countries. Further, BRAC's track record of working in Muslim-majority countries is an additional advantage in finding culturally appropriate ways to widen opportunities for girls.
October 1, 2007 - Launch of Commitment
July, 2008 - Launch of the Adolescent Girls Program and Non-formal Primary Education schools in Tanzania, Uganda and Southern Sudan
BRAC welcomes additional partners to provide resources to realize this commitment, particularly for its work in Africa. Volunteers are welcome to join BRAC USA and partner with NoVo and Gates foundations. Corporate partners are welcome to join with the Nike Foundation to expand and scale up BRAC's work with adolescent girls. Volunteers are welcome to join BRAC USA and partner with NoVo and Gates foundations. Corporate partners are welcome to join with the Nike Foundation to expand and scale up BRAC's work with adolescent girls.