Posted by Pamela Passman
Corporate Vice President
While there is broad consensus that education is critical for social and economic development, relatively little attention is given to the issue of ensuring that education has a tangible impact on students’ lives once they leave school. This is particularly true in developing countries.
The unfortunate reality is that the hard work and resources invested in providing a great education are often lost when disadvantaged students finish high school but continue living in impoverished conditions. A high school diploma does not guarantee a job. In Kenya, high school graduates who qualify for the government’s university loan program typically must wait 22 months for a place in university. During this time, students often do not have an opportunity to join the workforce and many never resume their studies.
This issue of lost opportunity inspired Linda Lockhart in 2006 to launch the Global Give Back Circle, a program designed, in Linda’s words, “to complete the educational process of disadvantaged girls, so they gain employable skills and become contributing members of society.” The Global Give Back Circle provides female students with financial support, further education (including IT training) and access to local and international mentors. The program aims not only to help the girls complete their education, but also encourages them to become leaders and to give back to their own communities.
Over the past year the Global Give Back Circle has helped 35 disadvantaged girls who graduated from high school in 2008 to bridge the gap to college. Based on that success, the initiative is being expanded with a commitment to help 100 additional girls make it from high school to university.
We had an opportunity to meet Linda and learn about the Global Give Back Circle at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting a year ago. Following that meeting, we connected Linda with our Microsoft staff in Kenya and other parts of Africa. Our employees were enthusiastic about the program and have worked tirelessly with Linda and other stakeholders to bring our technology, IT curriculum and certification programs into the Global Give Back Circle. Additionally, a number of women in our Africa offices have become mentors to girls in the Global Give Back Circle.
This week in New York, again at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, I’ve had the pleasure to meet with Linda and the three young women from Kenya — Khadija Abdulla Said, Caroline Macharia and Mary Mwende — to hear first-hand about the Global Give Back Circle and its progress over the past year. Their achievements were showcased by President Clinton during the opening plenary session.
I am very proud of our involvement with the Global Give Back Circle, which is also supported by ATEbank Greece, Equity Bank Kenya and a host of other supporters and volunteer mentors. It has brought tangible benefits to several young women and has been an incredibly satisfying experience for the Microsoft employees who have helped these girls realize their full potential.
There is no question we all have a lot more work to do to ensure that children around the world have equal access to education. However, we also need to think about how we help high school graduates, particularly those in disadvantaged communities, access further education and secure workforce skills and jobs so they can create value for themselves, their communities and their countries. The Global Give Back Circle provides us interesting insight into how that challenge might be addressed. I look forward to seeing how the project develops.