Innovation Brings Education to Kids in the Global South

While many Canadian parents have found themselves grappling with remote learning during the pandemic, these same tools are helping to provide a promising future for kids living in poverty, especially girls.

Supported by the Fund for Innovation and Transformation (FIT), Canadian organizations are partnering with organizations in the Global South to test innovative solutions that advance gender equality, such as increasing access to education. Several of these innovations involve providing remote or blended learning opportunities to areas that lack educational resources, or where girls are unable to attend school regularly.

Christina MacIsaac, FIT’s Director of Innovation, said remote and blended learning opportunities have the potential to change the lives of students who would otherwise have extremely limited opportunities.

“These innovative solutions were tested at the height of the global pandemic when remote and blended learning were being used around the world. But for these communities, these flexible technologies didn’t just allow a continuation of education. In many cases, students were given access to quality education for the first time, including information about human rights, gender equality, reproductive health and other essential topics that are incredibly empowering.”

Ivania Fiallos Cornejo, a Grade Two teacher in an Indigenous Miskito community in the Bosawas region of Nicaragua, was watching her young students drop out one by one. Her school’s remote location, limited resources and lack of access to culturally and linguistically appropriate material meant students were disengaged. The Bosawas region of Nicaragua has the worst educational outcomes in the country. Home to mainly remote Indigenous communities, schools lack even basic supplies such as textbooks.

In 2020, Change for Children and local partner SIMAS (Servicio de Informacion Mesmericano Sobre Agricultura Sostenible)  tested a solution that provided mobile learning labs consisting of RACHELs (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning), as well as laptops and a robust solar power system to four Miskito Indigenous communities in Bosawas.

The results were remarkable. Nearly all teachers (98%) are actively using RACHEL resources and have incorporated Miskito, gender and sexual & reproductive health & rights education.

The majority of teachers are now able to teach classes entirely in the Miskito language as a result of their access to a variety of linguistic and culturally appropriate materials.

Students are demonstrating enthusiasm for school, more awareness of gender and SRHR issues, and gaining skills in the use of technology through the mobile learning labs.

“Today, I can proudly say that we use technology to better develop content and teach the children. My classroom environment is entertaining, and the children are excited with the new way of learning. It has raised our self-esteem as Indigenous Peoples – to feel proud of who we are and not abandon our culture.”
- Ivania, Grade 2 Teacher
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Canada Students Offering Support (SOS) and local partner Semillas de Innovacion para Innovacion y Desarrollo Sostenable (SIDS), tested an innovation where Mayan adolescent girls were empowered as mentors to lead learning circles using e-learning resources.

The innovation aimed to improve academic performance and retention among Indigenous Mayan youth, with a focus on girls.

It also engaged the broader community, including parents and local leaders. a Mayan youth in Guatemala, wanted to pursue an education, but faced cultural barriers and resistance from her father, who thought women were best suited to home life.

Maria*, a Mayan youth in Guatemala, wanted to pursue an education, but faced cultural barriers and resistance from her father, who thought women were best suited to home life.

*Name changed to respect privacy

"My Dad used to think that men take advantage of their studies but women not so much. He thought girls just wanted to get married and drop out of school. After he saw my commitment to school, he has been encouraging me to continue fighting for my dreams and studies. I have spoken with my brothers and parents about what I have learned in the gender equality workshop that both men and women have the same rights.”

- Maria, Mayan Youth

 SOS classroom with girls and tech.jpg (87 KB)

Wilbert Kihembo, a non-verbal student with cerebral palsy, discovered an incredible aptitude for computers when he participated in e-learning innovation by Embrace International Foundation and Kyaninga Child Development Center.

The center facilitated e-learning opportunities for children in Uganda, with a focus on girls and children with disabilities. So far, the innovation has seen incredible results – especially from children with disabilities who now have ways of learning and communicating through technology.

Wilbert has subsequently been employed by Embrace, and now develops apps for students with disabilities.

“E-learning options can be especially impactful for students who may be facing cultural or gender barriers at school. Embrace is looking at how vulnerable groups, namely girls and children with disabilities, can be empowered through the use of digital education tools. ” 

-Christina MacIsaac, Director of Innovation, Fund for Innovation and Transformation

EMBRACE Explaining the FIT project to students.jpeg (1.82 MB)

More information and stories about FIT-funded testing by organizations from across Canada collaborating with partners in the Global South are available on FIT’s website

Please direct all media inquires to:

Allison Langridge, Communications Specialist, The Fund for Innovation and Transformation Tel : 1-204-987-7409