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Last year was one in which we at ProFuturo were “forced to reinvent ourselves in order to reach those who are disconnected”. Instead of calling up those negative moments in our look back at the year, we wish to focus on the positive that the pandemic has taught us: the power of digital education and the effectiveness of alliances with different institutions.

Last year was a year, in which we at ProFuturo have been “forced to reinvent ourselves in order to reach those who are disconnected”. That’s how the year was defined by our managing director, Magdalena Brier, in one of the numerous virtual events we have taken part in over the last year. Instead of calling up those negative moments in our look back at the year, we wish to focus on the positive that the pandemic has taught us: the power of digital education and the effectiveness of alliances with different institutions.

Mindful as we are of the dramatic events last March when the pandemic obliged the closing of schools worldwide, we at ProFuturo decided it was the time to take action and make our educational resources available to families, students, and the education community at large. We are proud of having been able to bring our experience in digital education to bear on mitigating the situation created by COVID-19, which saw 1,200 million students without class in nearly 150 countries around the world. Accordingly, over the course of these months, we have helped to train over 500,000 teachers from 50 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. And we have done so by adapting our content to alternative forms of distribution to reach those students most in need: mobile apps such as WhatsApp, podcasts, and television and radio programs.

All of these efforts aimed to facilitate learning outside the classroom and have allowed over 5 million children around the world to complete the school year despite the pandemic.

An opportunity for a more inclusive digital education

ProFuturo has taken part in several debates organized by different international institutions on providing education and the challenges facing education during COVID-19. In the course of last year, we have put forward our vision of how the pandemic is changing education while at the same time opening a window of opportunity to rethink how we provide education. The message that can be taken from these uncertain times is that the sudden disruption of classes worldwide shows that most schools are ill-prepared to provide students with the possibility of distance learning and, moreover, that teachers have been found wanting in both the training and skills needed to provide distance learning.

Digitalising education does not merely consist of introducing technology into the classroom. What is important is to improve digital literacy to help teachers, students, and schools to develop the 21st-century skills required by the digital age in which we live. This opportunity should be made the most of to speed up this digitalization and tackle ProFuturo’s biggest goal: to narrow the global education gap by bringing quality education to the most vulnerable environments via technology and innovate teaching-learning experiences.

Improving digitalisation inevitably requires investment in education. And that is why, for us, one of the major milestones in 2020 has been the joining of forces with our partner GPE to launch its #RaiseYourHand campaign in Spain. This initiative aims to raise funds to enable 175 million children to continue learning and to ensure that another 46 million children can enroll in school and complete their quality education in the upcoming five years.

As Magdalena Brier has stated on several occasions, it is time to join forces, to work together, and to form alliances both in the public and private sectors to avoid any child being left behind education-wise during the pandemic. Because of the pandemic, we have strengthened and broadened our alliances with international institutions and have signed up to campaigns such as the aforementioned, #RaiseYourHand, the #LearningNeverStops campaign launched by UNESCO, #UniteToProtect, an international day to protect education from all types of attacks and the #SaveOurFuture campaign.

Recognitions, a stimulus for ProFuturo

Last year, we tried to adapt our work as much as possible to help millions of children, is closing with several acknowledgments that serve to spur us on and motivate us to keep our shoulders to the wheel in 2021, which promises to be as equally complex as this one. Accordingly, we are delighted to report that we have been selected as one of the 100 best educational innovations in the world by the Finnish non-governmental organization HundrED within its Global Collection.

ProFuturo was also chosen by the Expo 2020 Dubai as one of the 20 Global Best Practice Programme innovations for its “Untold stories” program. The common theme of the selected initiatives is their work on tackling some of the greatest challenges in the world today, including several that are present in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This has been a particularly intense year, one in which we have further consolidated our work in Africa where we first embarked on our activity back in 2016. In collaboration with our partner, Empieza Por Educar Foundation, we rolled out an ambitious teacher training plan in Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, which will continue to grow in 2021. On foot of our agreement, 15,000 teachers will lead the “train the trainer” training of the teaching staff at their schools, thereby ensuring a long-term impact on the lives of thousands of children through education.

A lot is still to be done in 2021, one which will also be marked by the effects the pandemic has had on our sector. We will sign off now by thanking all our personnel who are making it possible for ProFuturo to continue growing: our teachers, of whom we are proud; our tireless team in Spain and our partners on the ground, for their innovative input and for adapting themselves to the needs of the moment to forge ahead with the project and for not leaving either students or teachers behind, and of course, Telefónica Foundation and “la Caixa” Foundation, for daring to dream with us. We close this year with a message of optimism and the wish that in 2021 they will always be able to go back to school. With the efforts of all, we believe it can be done.

*Photo credit for the header image of this article goes to Diego Ibarra Sánchez