Hello and welcome to Our Moon’s new blog page on our webiste! Here we’ll be able to share with you our vision, projects and progress, and keep you up to date with our events and fundraising campaigns. In our first post we’d like to tell you a bit about why we exist and the situation we are trying to tackle…
Our Moon is a UK based charity, set up by our CEO Helen Leale-Green (see picture above) to provide support to academically gifted, yet financially-disadvantaged African students, to enable them to access good universities and employment. Why? Because, higher education has a key role to play in eradicating poverty in Africa, but many poor students fail to obtain the university places they deserve.
This means that while, in theory, state education exists to provide equal access to education for all, in reality public education systems in Africa reinforce inequality and support social immobility – who you know is much more important than what you know, when it comes to gaining scholarships and university places.
At Our Moon we seek to change this.
We work to support bright students from poorer backgrounds to gain access to university and beyond into formal employment. Our current work is focused in Zambia, as here we have connections with young people, local teachers and NGOs.
Education in Zambia is arguably among the worst in Africa, as children from financially unstable backgrounds have endless barriers to overcome when it comes to accessing good quality education, from primary through to higher education.
In particular, some of the barriers which prevent even the most gifted students accessing university education are:
- Teachers in government schools often lack the necessary knowledge to help their students to apply for university, and some students feel their teachers lack motivation to help them apply.
- Only two government schools provide students with the facilities to study for A-Levels, which means that Zambian students only hold the equivalent of GCSEs, making it harder for them to get into international universities.
- Students who get into Zambian universities have to take the equivalent of A-Level studies in the first year of their degree, and often find it hard to keep up with privately educated students who have completed this level of study already. This leads to students being forced to drop out.
- The universities in Zambia have high fees, and often it is the wealthy students who get bursaries because of their connections.
There are scholarships for students to attend university overseas, but again, it is often difficult for poorer students to access these scholarships, due to poor internet access, lack of guidance from teachers and poor information about the examinations necessary and the process for international applications.
- Poor students’ home environments are often not conducive to studying, many have to study by candlelight. Girls, in particular, have the added pressure of having to help around the home from the early hours of the morning before attending school, to late hours in the evening after returning home.
One of the ways the most motivated and bright students can break free from the shackles of poverty is by being awarded scholarships to attend international universities. Research suggests that students who study abroad are treated with a good deal of respect in the formal job markets of their home-countries, and tend to go into higher paid employment later in life.
A university education can equip the future generation to bring their countries technologically up to date, to compete in globally competitive markets, to create new jobs and reduce unemployment, and to bring about economic growth. In addition, it provides the teachers for the next generation of academically gifted, ambitious leaders of tomorrow. However, as mentioned, there are few of the poorest Zambians who have managed to gain these scholarships to date. In fact they are among the least represented African nations in international universities.
Our Moon has started supporting Zambian students to take A levels in their country. These students have been chosen not only for their academic achievements to date, but also because they have shown a determination to want to improve the lives of their families and their country. We want to work with them to make sure they go to university and return to their countries with a plan for how they can contribute to its economic growth.
We are also working with students from Zimbabwe and Uganda to help them apply directly to universities abroad. They are in the process of making their applications now. They all have good grades, have worked exceptionally hard to get to where they are now – let’s hope they will be given the opportunity to get onto the next rung of the education ladder.
Stay tuned to find out more about the students we are helping and to hear more about the team at Our Moon!