By: Mayank Dhingra: HP’s Senior Education Business Leader for Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa and Maggie MacDonnell, acclaimed educator and Global Teacher Prize  Winner 2017
If one thinks back to their earliest influences on how they chose their career path – you’ll often find an educator’s name hailed as a guiding light. Whether it’s early on in one’s schooling years or later as a tertiary student, teachers have the innate ability to recognise potential in their students, encourage them to work hard and thrive in their talents, and importantly, act as a source of inspiration and motivation.
Every student has the potential to reach their true academic potential and rise above the socio-economic conditions they live through – however, this can only be attained through targeted support. This is why it’s critical to continue empowering not only our students, but also the teachers on the frontlines of education.
According to UNESCO data, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of education exclusion in the world, with over one-fifth of children between the ages of six and eleven out of school, and girls particularly disadvantaged. Moreover, we know that teaching has its own bevy of challenges across the continent.
Findings from HP’s recent education-focused survey in Africa, sheds light on the education landscape in the region. How teachers’ skillsets can be improved so that students’ learning experiences enhance and how we can overcome challenges faced by educators, that can negatively affect teaching outcomes. These include a lack of basic materials, adequate technological resources, having too many learners in their classrooms and not sufficient time to assist individual students.
Despite these challenges, at least 95% of teachers surveyed in South Africa and Nigeria are optimistic about their jobs and their roles in shaping and inspiring the future leaders of tomorrow.
Maggie MacDonnell, a Canadian educator based in Tanzania working on teacher training, recalls her earliest and biggest influence in teaching: “There were key moments where I saw my work as a teacher really pivoted in the right direction. I was teaching in an isolated context, an Inuit village in the Canadian Arctic that could only be reached by plane. My school board at that time, did so much heavy lifting, to provide us with some specific and high-quality professional development training that just hit home, it spoke to our reality. “
She continued, “We had one trainer help us understand intergenerational trauma – and how this affected our students – from a neuroscience perspective to their wellness. By understanding them better, I was able to figure out how I could be a better teacher to them. To meet them where they were at.” After the weekend workshop, MacDonnell said she stepped back into the classroom with new ideas, outlooks, and tools.
“I could better connect with my students and was no longer failing them. When you uplift and support a teacher with quality training, you uplift the hundreds of kids they will work with through their lifetime. It is such a strategic investment.”
That early inspiration has come full circle today, as she too works to encourage and advocate for learners and educators– and hopefully, inspire them to believe in themselves too.
MacDonnell has had a long-held passion for teaching in marginalized communities. Presently she is in Tanzania, East Africa with her partner and children, working on teacher training programmes.
MacDonnell added that she was excited to know HP was leading custom trainings for the teachers across Africa. “Teachers on this continent face incredible challenges, and by working with them to provide trainings – you are releasing bottlenecks in these systems – that can affect a whole generation.”
By joining forces as educators, institutions, NGOs, government, and the private sector, we can turn the face of education around for the African children. It is heartening to see companies such as HP champion this ideal by not only supporting students but educators too – and that can only lead to wider progress for the sector.
The HP Innovation and Digital Education Academy (HP IDEA),offers educators in Africa, and many other parts of the world, the opportunity to create digital capabilities based on educational frameworks from leading global universities.
The programme is part of HP’s commitment to enabling better learning outcomes for 100 million people globally by 2025 and has thus far been launched in 19 countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
Our next frontier in education is bridging the digital technology divide across the continent, for both educators and students.
Providing increased access to quality education in Africa is the key to not only alleviating poverty for millions of young people, but it also can inspire hope and enable change for generations to come.
 Global Teacher Prize is an annual US$1 million award by the Varkey Foundation to a teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession. Nominations of teachers who meet specific criteria are open to the worldwide public.
 The HP Innovation and Digital Education Academy The HP Innovation and Digital Education Academy (HP IDEA) is an immersive instructional leadership program for educators, offering two pathways – HP IDEA Fellowship and HP IDEA Associates – that foster digital pedagogy skills and help develop an innovation mindset.