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Technology Training Helps a University Reduce Poverty and Increase Opportunity in Nigeria

renaldo_rheederThis blog was guest written by Renaldo Rheeder, director of professional and vocational development at the American University of Nigeria

Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school, according to A World at School. Of the 57 million youngsters worldwide who are not receiving a formal education, more than 10 million live in Nigeria. The majority of non-attendees are girls, mainly in the majority-Muslim north. Of those fortunate enough to enroll, less than two-thirds complete primary school and even fewer girls finish secondary school.

Despite these challenges, approximately 150 girls have successfully completed Cisco Networking Academy courses at the American University of Nigeria (AUN). According to their instructors, the girls’ performance in the courses was on par with the male students – ample proof supporting our already firm belief that networking is not a gender-specific field.

AUN was established in 2004 with the mission of becoming Africa’s premier development university. In teaching, research, and community service, AUN addresses our community and region’s most pressing challenges: poverty, economic barriers to growth, lack of education, gender discrimination, lack of opportunities for disabled youth, environmental degradation, violence, and problematic governance. We are an agent of peace and development through myriad programs.

Students in the Cisco CCNA Routing &  Switching course work in  the practical lab at American University of Nigeria.

Students in the Cisco CCNA Routing & Switching course work in the practical lab at American University of Nigeria (AUN). Photo courtesy AUN.

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Millions of Girls Face Barriers to Getting an Education. How Can We Help?

Right now, 66 millions of girls around the world dream of going to school.

Educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation, yet millions of girls aren’t in school. Educated girls stand up for their rights, marry and have children later, educate their own children, and their families and communities thrive.

Yet millions of girls around the world face barriers to education that boys do not. Removing barriers such as early marriage, gender-based violence, domestic slavery and sex trafficking means not only a better life for girls, but a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for all.

Lack of access to education for girls is a real issue, but I must admit I often don’t think of it. Yes, in my daily work with the Cisco Networking Academy I am constantly reminded of the lack of females studying IT, and am involved in projects to help increase these numbers worldwide. But I often forget about the issue one step back. What about the girls who don’t have the luxury of choosing what to study? Those girls who just want to go to school, but can’t?

A few months ago I was reading our Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility newsletter when I saw a post about this very issue. Cisco offices around the globe were showing a documentary called Girl Rising. I was curious and asked for a copy. A few weeks later with a group of co-workers in our Barcelona office we were moved by the story of 9 girls from around the world portrayed in the video.

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Children Learn Coding and Collaboration at Cisco

“If you want to use the music from Frozen in your game, do you know how to download a gif to match?” Not the average question I have heard in a conference room at Cisco headquarters in San Jose, California, especially when asked to 7-year-old girls! The girls were part of a group of 14 children participating in a coding camp held at Cisco and put on by Embark Labs. The goal of the event is to teach 7 to 10 year olds to have fun while learning how to program.

Teacher Brian VanDyck and Embark Labs Founder Jessie Arora watch as the students work on their coding projects

Teacher Brian VanDyck and Embark Labs Founder Jessie Arora watch as the students work on their coding projects

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Cisco Offices Worldwide Celebrate International Girls in ICT Day

Even though I grew up surrounded by engineers and technology in Silicon Valley, I didn’t decide to seriously study science until my freshman year in college, when I switched my major from economics to theoretical mathematics at the suggestion of my calculus professor. That was the first time a teacher told me I had a strong aptitude for math and encouraged me to expand my idea of what kinds of studies and careers to pursue. Mentors are widely recognized as being a key factor in helping girls decide to study science and technology. This is especially true in developing counties where there are traditionally fewer professional female role models. Cisco is a champion for educating girls and women in technology and understands the importance of mentors early in a girl’s academic career. This is why 70 Cisco offices in 52 countries are putting on events for International Girls in ICT Day, introducing students to successful professionals and encouraging them to study science and technology.

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Cisco Celebrates International Girls in ICT Day

Women earn 57% of all U.S. undergraduate degrees but only 18% of undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees, according to the National Center for Women in Technology. Yet according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates, more than 1.4 million computing-related job openings will exist by 2020, with only enough computer degree graduates to fill 30% of them.

And globally, women comprise less than a third of workers in the computer science, engineering, and physics fields in some of the world’s key emerging economies, according to a report by Women in Global Science & Technology.

Attracting more girls and women to the technology field benefits women, their families, their communities, and the businesses they work for. Women are powerful catalysts for change in any society: When women are able to earn an income, they typically reinvest 90 percent of it back into their families and communities.

To help tap this valuable talent pool and attract more women to careers in the information and communications technology (ICT) field, Cisco is participating in Girls in ICT Day – an international event organized by the by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

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