Photo Credit: Bryan Wesonga (Twitter)
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Kampala, Uganda – Global Vice President of Education, Anthony Salcito, will reaffirm Microsoft’s education investments on the continent at the Innovation Africa Summit in Uganda this week. Innovation Africa is the continent’s leading summit for education and innovation and brings together all education players, from schools and civil society toInformation and Communication Technology(ICT) and education ministers.

This builds on Microsoft’s announcement two weeks ago of a $75 million investment in community programmes to increase access to computer science education for youth around the globe. Through its YouthSpark initiative, Microsoft is providing cash donations and other resources to non-profits, including Silatech in the Middle East and Africa, to prepare youth with computational-thinking and problem-solving skills.

“More and better education, combined with early access to the tools and skills used in the workplace, are proven to help create healthier communities, economies and workers who are ready to enter the workforce,” said Salcito. “At Microsoft we are committed to empowering this next generation of workers by building skills, providing access to technology, and giving young people tools to support their learning.”

An example of a school adopting an inclusive approach to eLearning is the Gayaza High School in Uganda. The teachers are attending further training on ICT in education and are actively embracing technology, with 90% using laptops. Homework is done on a cloud network and all classroom content is uploaded and accessible. At the recent Microsoft in Education Global Forum in March 2014, Gayaza was named one of the best academic institutions in the world for integrating ICT in the classroom.

“Microsoft has helped us find ways of using technology to improve our teaching. As teachers, computers have helped us improve our own knowledge on the subjects we teach. The benefits of this are passed on to our students and their marks have increased substantially,” says Milton Chebet, a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator and a teacher at Gayaza High School.

Considering Africa’s labour force will be larger than China’s by 2035, skill development that starts early in schools is becoming a priority. This is why Innovation Africa’s theme for 2015 is “Skills Development in the 21st Century”. Educators and their partners will lookat ways to incorporate digital and soft skills into the classroom so students are prepared for the future workforce.

An IDC study found that Office is the second most in-demand skill for the highest-paying/best jobs, after oral and written communications skills.To help students with these in-demand skills, Microsoft has made the Office 365 ProPlus Benefit available across the Middle East and Africa. With Office 365 ProPlus, students and teachers within a qualifying institution can install the latest version of Office at no additional cost, providing them access to familiar applications like Word, PowerPoint and OneNote.

In 2012, Microsoft launched its Employability Platforms to provide job-seekers with end-to-end career guidance, up skilling, job-matching and mentorship – all centred on a free online hub.These platforms aim at creating over 100,000 job opportunities and reaching over seven million people across the Middle East and Africa by the end of the year.

Microsoft’s investments in education continue under various programmes including the 4Afrika Initiative and YouthSpark. Through the 4Afrika initiative, Microsoft has committed to upskill 200,000 Africans by 2016.

Additional elements of Microsoft’s global commitment to increasing access for youth to the full range of computing skills include:

  • Microsoft Imagine connects students with the tools, resources and experiences they need to turn their innovative ideas into reality. Whether it’s building a game or designing an app, Microsoft Imagine makes learning to code easy and accessible for students and educators.
  • YouthSpark Hub resources are designed to inspire youth about the full spectrum of computing skills, ranging from digital literacy to computer science engineering. In addition to providing access to the Microsoft Imagine tools, the YouthSpark Hub brings together opportunities to participate in activities such as DigiGirlz and YouthSpark Live, attend free YouthSpark Camps, and access training through Microsoft supported nonprofits.

Follow us on Twitter @pctechmagazine or follow #InnovationAfrica15 for live updates from Speke Resort Munyonyo, Uganda.