Over two decades ago, HIV broke out in Zimbabwe and people were dying of it in scores. In one particular construction firm of about 700 workers, funerals were held often because some of them were dying of the virus. After the funeral of one of the workers, the elders of the family walked up to the CEO of the firm and asked him, “What about the children?”
So in response to that crisis, the CEO started taking care of the children, putting them through school. It was such a fulfilling thing to do.
Fast forward to this day, over 250,000 learners have been put through school as a result of this philanthropic effort effected by a Trust that was started called the HigherLife Foundation.
An extraordinarily brilliant young man from a rural area walks into an office seeking a job. The CEO looks at the young man’s academic report and he’s got straight As throughout. The CEO leans forward with a quizzical look on his face. He asks, “Why are you not in the University?” To which the young man responds, “I don’t have money to pay the fees.”
So the CEO offers to pay the young man’s University tuition instead of giving him a job.
One day, the CEO was in his office and then he was told that some men were looking for him. He went to meet them. They were Elders from the young man’s village who came to thank him for his gesture of paying the young man’s tuition, for he was the first person from that village to have gone to the University.
After his education, the young man came back to work in the same company.
In response to the moderator’s question “Why do you have a commitment to partnership in Education?”, Mr. Strive Masiyiwa, the chairman and founder of Econet, related these two incidents as pivotal motivations at the Education and Entrepreneurship Town hall held at the Great Hall of the University of Ghana on Tuesday, 13th March, 2018.
The event brought together stakeholders in education and entrepreneurship across Africa and the United States of America. The ‘Kweséfied’ pavement welcomed attendees to the gently lit ambience of the Great Hall.
This Town Hall was on “The Power of Partnership: Strengthening Education” and had Professor Ebenezer Owusu Oduro, Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, as the Chair, as well as Peter Salovey, President of Yale University, Dr. Patrick Awuah, President of Ashesi University and Ms. Elizabeth Elango-Bintliff, CEO of Junior Achievement Africa, speaking to the theme.
The dignified speakers were heralded by a lively drum and dance ensemble.
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ebenezer Owusu Oduro noted that partnerships are relevant to enable universities reach their targets, emphasizing that “no man is an island”. He intimated that in order to build partnership, individuals and organizations must first be willing.
Peter Salovey, President of Yale University, hinted that the Yale Africa Initiative has been a success due to strategic partnership. He also disclosed that Mr. Masiyiwa has extended his support to the Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) initiative for another five years, lauding him in appreciation.
He concluded thus, “I am proud, glad and delighted to be part of the partnership.”
Miss Elango-Bintliff, CEO of Junior Achievers Africa noted that the future of Africa is its youth, describing her commitment to partnership in education as a calling.
Dr. Patrick Awuah, President of Ashesi University explained that we need a high velocity society and that is created by trust. He related that he started thinking about the future of Africa after his first son was born. Thus, he envisioned that Higher Education built upon ethics, innovation and leadership was the key to harnessing the future of Africa. That’s how Ashesi started.
Many insights were shared as some of the audience posed questions to the speakers. Some of the insight include the following:
# Do the best you can with the little you have.
# Problems can’t be solved by individuals working alone but through partnership.
# We must take entrepreneurship into the classroom in a structured way.
# Fathers must validate their daughters to bridge the gender gap.
# We need to do with education what we did with independence.
# At the undergraduate level, we are trained to think critically not to be experts.
# Curricula must bring in entrepreneurs to equip students with skills to engage the real world in their problem solving.
# The best partnerships are built on trust, mutual respect and open mindedness.
# Keep in mind the 3 Ps: Product. People. Process.
# Start the training in the household. Your children reflect who you are.
# If we want to fix and build our universities, we who went to the universities have to come back. If you want to be involved in philanthropy, go back to your old school.
Mr. Strive identified that we are moving into a totally knowledge-based global economy.
Today, there are more than 750 million phones, 300 million smartphones and this is projected to hit 500 million by 2020. Seeing this, a platform known as Ruzivo has been set up with textbooks of some subjects digitized. 1 million kids in Zimbabwe out of 3 million have been registered on the platform.
The Town Hall ended on a high note as the audience received satisfactory answers to questions on their minds.