UAE Extends Digital School Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa Through MoU

During the United Nations General Assembly at the UAE Permanent Mission, an important moment unfolded as Sheikh Shakhboot bin Nahyan Al Nahyan, Minister of State, and Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications, who also serves as the Chairman of the Digital School’s Board of Directors, presided over the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The MoU, signed by Dr. Waleed Al Ali, Secretary-General of the Digital School, a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, and Ute Klamert, Assistant Executive Director for Partnerships & Advocacy at the World Food Programme, signifies a significant expansion of The Digital School’s ongoing initiatives. This expansion aims to strengthen partnerships and extend educational outreach to underserved rural communities and students across sub-Saharan Africa.

The signing ceremony also garnered the presence of Ester-Anna Nghipondoka, Minister of Education, Arts, and Culture of Namibia, and Estherine Lisinge-Fotabong, Director of Programme Implementation and Coordination at the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, emphasizing the collaborative and impactful nature of this educational endeavor.

In his statement, Sheikh Shakhboot expressed

“The Digital School, initiated under the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, holds a pivotal role, a testament to the UAE leadership’s commitment to advancing education. We firmly believe that investing in education is instrumental in the progress of societies, a conviction that aligns with our proven history of globally enriching educational experiences.

The UAE has consistently prioritized this crucial sector, considering it a cornerstone of our developmental efforts. In collaboration with esteemed organizations such as the World Food Programme and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), we are enthusiastic about witnessing the expansion of the Digital School’s footprint across sub-Saharan Africa and the entire continent.”

He further emphasized,
“The expansion of the Digital School signifies our united dedication to fostering the growth and development of the continent. The longstanding and profound relations between the UAE and African nations stand as a testament to our enduring partnership, a partnership that continues to illuminate our path towards a more promising future.”

Al Olama, in his remarks, stated

“The future of education hinges significantly on the effective utilization of digital solutions, which play a pivotal role in empowering students across the globe to access high-quality education. The Digital School stands as a leading instance of advancing digital education, transitioning it from concept to practical application, thereby making it accessible to students in diverse regions worldwide. This is particularly crucial for underserved communities, offering them an invaluable opportunity to engage in the learning process.”

He further added,
“The inauguration of this new partnership exemplifies the humanitarian mission of the Digital School, effectively broadening its sphere of influence to encompass a larger number of students throughout the African continent. The ultimate goal is to offer students the chance to learn and enhance their ability to contribute to the future growth of their communities. In collaboration with UAE Africa Connect, our shared aspiration is to illuminate the path towards a more promising future for students residing in remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa.”

Dr. Menghestab Haile, the Regional Director for Southern Africa at the World Food Programme, expressed

“WFP Southern Africa views this collaboration as a valuable opportunity to assist and collaborate with national governments in strengthening school food programs. By integrating digital education at the primary level in underserved African communities, we aim to ‘feed the body and the mind.’ The involvement of the private sector, governments, and SADC ensures the long-term sustainability of this program.

This MoU between WFP and The Digital School serves as a means to support member countries in enhancing both education and nutritional outcomes within vulnerable communities. It combines school meals with digital education, addressing the needs of a region characterized by high youth unemployment.”

The primary objective of this MoU is to extend educational opportunities to vulnerable students across various African nations, with a specific focus on reaching remote and underserved areas. The expansion of the Digital School’s initiatives aims to deliver high-quality digital and hybrid education, leveraging the power of digital technologies while adhering to national educational standards.

Key components of this collaboration include offering strategic guidance for the development of a national strategy for digital education, facilitating access to a global network of partners, educators, and digital experts, and actively supporting the creation of educational content. Additionally, the partnership includes the implementation of professional development programs for digital educators in partnership with Arizona State University.

To date, the Digital School has achieved remarkable milestones, having successfully trained 1,500 educators and onboarded 60,000 students across eight countries, including two within Africa. This noteworthy accomplishment underscores the UAE’s unwavering dedication to advancing education and underscores its pivotal role as a global knowledge transfer hub.

Moreover, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), in collaboration with the World Food Programme and The Digital School, has announced a significant joint effort—the convening of the SADC Digital Education High-Level Meeting scheduled from November 27 to 29, 2023, in Cape Town. The primary aim of this meeting is to collectively formulate a comprehensive digital education roadmap tailored to the specific needs of southern Africa. This strategic initiative represents a crucial step toward advancing digital education throughout the region.

Simultaneously, a series of digital education projects were unveiled, marking the beginning of an era characterized by extensive collaboration and innovation in the realm of digital education. These projects are set to expand the network of partners, including key players from the private sector and telecommunications companies. This collaborative approach heralds a new chapter defined by pioneering advancements in digital education.

As part of the Digital School’s expansion, UAE Africa Connect is now taking on the role of an endorser for the Digital School. It will extend its support to the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiative, thereby further bolstering the school’s initiatives across the African continent. These partnerships underscore the platform’s unwavering commitment to bridging educational disparities in sub-Saharan African nations, with the ultimate goal of ushering in a future where digital tools seamlessly facilitate the pursuit of knowledge and academic excellence.

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