To mark the second International Day of the Girl Child on Friday, UNICEF highlighted the power of innovation to get more girls in school and improve the quality of learning for all children.
Despite the decreasing number of girls out of school, too many around the world are still denied a quality education and a chance to reach their full potential. Evidence shows that even a single year of secondary school for a girl correlates with as much as a 25 percent increase in her future earnings. But today, millions of girls are still out of school, including 31 million elementary school-aged girls.
“Education can transform the lives of girls and strengthen their communities,” said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF. “Innovation can help us reach every girl by transforming education,”
With its partners, UNICEF is exploring how technology can increase access to education for out-of-school girls and improve the quality of learning for every child.
In South Africa, for example, the TechnoGirls partnership between UNICEF, the government, and more than 100 private sector companies is connecting 10,000 adolescent girls with mentors from the tech sector to boost their skills and job readiness.
Innovation is also helping governments and their partners to reach the hardest to reach children who are at the greatest risk of being out of school. In Uganda, EduTrack is using text messaging to connect students and schools with UNICEF, enabling them to report on learning, teacher quality, and violence in schools.
Innovation is not only about technology. It can mean embracing new ways to overcome other barriers that keep girls out of school, like improving sanitary facilities and keeping girls safe as they walk to and from school.
“Innovation is giving us powerful new tools to reach and teach more girls than ever before,” said Lake. “To help more girls go to school, stay in school, and complete their learning, we need to keep learning ourselves, using these new tools, generating new ideas, and scaling up the most promising innovations.”
UNICEF observed the International Day of the Girl Child with a series of events. These included a Google Hangout with students at the International School of Brooklyn and Anthony Lake to discuss girls’ education, and the unveiling of a unique interactive billboard by award-winning actress Freida Pinto that enables viewers to “erase” the image of child factory workers, revealing a hidden image of students in the classroom.
Together with Intel, UNICEF conducted a Code for Good Hackathon, an event that brought together students from Stanford University and Contra Costa Community College in a 24-hour coding marathon to devise new ways of increasing South Sudanese girls’ access to quality learning—a problem posed by UNICEF’s Innovation Lab in South Sudan. Only 800 girls in the world’s newest country reach the last grade of secondary school.