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Microsoft pumps billions into education

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Microsoft will spend over R2.5 billion over the next five years tackling education inequalities around the globe, with millions of dollars earmarked for increasing digital access to educational materials throughout Africa.

This investment was spread across two major announcements in the past week. First, the company announced a new investment of $250 million in its flagship Partners in Learning (PiL) project, which equips teachers with the skills to integrate IT for more effective and meaningful teaching and learning.

It then pledged to spend a further US$75 million to bring digital access to youth and educators in developing nations, with the first project kicking off in Kenya in early 2013. It is aimed at helping ensure that teachers get the digital training they need and students gain critical skills vital to finding employment, starting their own businesses and contributing to their local economies.

The announcements were made at Microsoft’s global PiL forum in Prague, where four educators from South Africa and Lesotho joined 500 of their peers from around the world to discuss ways of using technology better in the classroom and share best practices.

Microsoft SA’s Mteto Nyati says the renewal of the PiL programme is a major boost for the company’s efforts in the South African education space. In the past five years, the programme has reached more than 32 000 local teachers and an estimated 4 million learners across the country.

‚”All of us can remember a great teacher who helped us get to where we are today. South Africa’s PiL Programme has reached more than 32 000 teachers and 4 million students locally, and is focused on helping South Africa’s youth overcome the opportunity divide. This injection will directly address two of the key challenges the youth faces: to give them access to technology, and to ready them for employability through education and skills training,‚” he said.

One of the key projects funded through the digital access program will be ‚”Spark a Child’s Digital Future,‚” which will begin in Kenya in early 2013 and then scale throughout sub-Saharan Africa and beyond over the next five years. The program is a collaborative effort between several organisations: Microsoft will donate software, Microsoft and Intel will offer information and communications technology training, and the British Council and World Vision will offer expertise in educational program execution, content development, measurement and evaluation.

‚”We recognize that once a child’s basic needs are met, digital skills development can be vital in securing economic growth,‚” said Rich Stearns, president of World Vision US. ‚”This program is essential in helping children in developing countries succeed in a global world.‚”

These commitments are part of Microsoft YouthSpark, a companywide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world, helping transform education and expand digital inclusion to empower youth to change their world.

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