The session, organised under the framework of the PROSPECTS programme, focused on country and regional level experiences in their various responses to ensure continuity of learning at home through remote learning using different delivery modes. It examined some of the innovative interventions being implemented by PROSPECTS and other programmes to address challenges, expand outreach and bridge the digital divide among the most vulnerable children and youth.
Digital solutions have great potential to increase outreach in theory, but in practice we know that internet connectivity and hence digital inclusion is a major challenge, particularly for the populations with which we work. Digital solutions therefore risk increasing inequalities at a time when such fault lines are already being further exposed by COVID-19 (...) Yet, as is so often the case in times of crisis, it has mobilised great potential for innovative solutions."Nicholas Grisewood, ILO’s Global Programme Manager for PROSPECTS.
PROSPECTS ProgrammeThe joint learning event was the first in a wider series of discussions organised under PROSPECTS aimed at sharing information on digitalisation and the digital economy. Follow-up sessions will focus on the role of digital platforms and digitalisation more broadly in promoting youth employment, self-employment and enterprise development opportunities.
The PROSPECTS partnership is about new ways of working, and it is about achieving collective outcomes jointly, and strategic learning is also envisioned through collective outcomes. We are excited to have this first UNICEF-ILO learning event (…) it is informed by country-level experiences, which makes it incredibly important as it is based on the realities of our programming."Ana Uzelac, Lead Adviser of PROSPECTS from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
Country and programme highlightsThe webinar highlighted examples of digital solutions implemented by UNICEF and the ILO in four out of the eight countries where PROSPECTS is operating, namely Kenya, Uganda, Jordan and Lebanon. The examples shed light on some of the practical challenges facing the implementation of such programmes, such as ensuring the most vulnerable youth, who lack adequate access to technological devices, internet connectivity and digital literacy can benefit from the platforms that are available.
In doing so, countries shared good practices and potential opportunities for promoting more inclusive and affordable digital learning and skills development solutions, including forging strategic partnerships, aligning with national institutions and building capacities of partners who are supporting children and young people from the various communities.
From Kenya, the ILO shared its experience in implementing an industrial welding skills and apprenticeship programme, which faced challenges as a result of the physical restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A learning management system – an online and offline learning platform - was developed to include lectures, chat sessions and audio-visual learning material, in various topics including digital skills, entrepreneurship, employability and Occupational Safety and Health, among others. The programme provided initial classes on digital literacy to students, many of whom were not computer literate and upgraded internet connectivity to accommodate traffic to help facilitate the process of learning. “The approach depends highly on the trainers’ capacity to deliver digital lessons and there is a real need to look at how the capacities of the trainers themselves to deliver digitally can be enhanced,” said Caroline Njuki, ILO's Chief Technical Advisor for PROSPECTS in Kenya.
UNICEF Uganda presented ‘Kolibri’, a digital learning platform aimed at improving access, learning outcomes and skills of adolescents. The platform fosters innovative teaching and increases the availability of relevant learning materials. It focuses on overcoming infrastructural barriers that prevent equitable access, while promoting learning pathways and self-guided learning. It has leveraged existing computer labs in government secondary schools and is also accessible online. The platform has reached over 12,000 adolescents and 4,000 online users. “Many children have been able to benefit through the partnership with the government. Yet, we are looking at more partners so we can bring in more innovative models, especially for skills building for adolescents and explore partnerships with the private sector and public institutions for research and innovation,” said Janet Akao, Technical and Education Innovation Consultant at UNICEF.
UNICEF also gave an overview of the ‘Youth Learning Passport in Jordan’, a platform launched in June 2020 providing support to hard-to-reach and disadvantaged youth—especially girls, refugees, and adolescents with disabilities—through access to digital learning and training. It provides a wide variety of free content, including courses on basic and advanced digital skills, life skills, social entrepreneurship, financial literacy, technical and vocational options. Its offline mode enables those with low internet bandwidth to access all the materials and download content. “We wanted adolescents and youth to continue building their skills and continue engaging during this difficult time, so they don’t stop their education,” said Ayat Alkurdi, Youth and Adolescent Economic Engagement Officer at UNICEF in Jordan. Various ministries in Jordan are currently utilising the platform and UNICEF is partnering with the ILO and ministries to include more technical and vocational training, career counselling and guidance materials.
UNICEF’s ‘Digital Skills for Better Future Programme’ used in Jordan to equip vulnerable young Jordanians and Syrians with the needed digital skills to access the labour market was also highlighted. The programme consists of basic and advanced skills helping youth find apprenticeship opportunities. “Because empowering women in our communities is a priority, the female participation in the training programmes has reached 70 per cent,” said Sonia Ziadeh, Youth Economic Engagement Programme Officer at UNICEF in Jordan. As with other programmes targeting vulnerable young people in the countries in focus, lack of access to internet connectivity and laptops was a major challenge. The programme provided connectivity material, laptops and e-wallets to ensure the engagement and financial inclusion of the targeted groups.
From ILO Lebanon, a course being carried out as part of the ILO’s SkillUp project supporting formal and informal Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and skills training systems was presented. Under the programme, a training course for ‘foreman in road maintenance’ was conducted on-line to address COVID-19 restrictions, but also to ensure that technology and innovation are integrated in TVET in response to the technological transformation being witnessed in the world of work. The training was divided into an online and face-to-face on-the-job training programme, focusing on 16 competencies, and using various technological tools and training trainers to deliver the material digitally. “On-line training does facilitate inclusiveness but we need to work more to ensure community and private sector campaigns promote cultural change,” said Rania Hokayem, ILO National TVET Programme Coordinator.
The session concluded with discussions on the bottlenecks and possible solutions to tackle the digital divide through strategic partnerships, effective roll-out of online solutions, capacity building and sustainability of digital platforms.
Lots of questions have been raised. What is the role of the employers, what are the opportunities out there to reach deeper into the communities of the most vulnerable and how do we tap into the infrastructure that exists across the partners (…) and create an ecosystem that is designed for youth and with youth."Verena Knaus, UNICEF’s Global Chief for Migration and Displacement.