Nigerian entrepreneur, Hakeem Subair had to travel halfway around the world to find a way to help sub-Saharan Africa solve its education problem. He found his solution in Kingston.
With the help of supporters there, his One Million Teachers (1MT) social enterprise has created an innovative, grassroots program that pays impoverished teachers to improve their teaching skills.
“Kingston has adopted us,” he says, citing assistance from Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College, Kingston Economic Development Corporation and the local education community. “When it comes to making the world a better place, Kingston punches far above its weight.”
So far, 1MT has reached 17,000 African teachers since Hakeem developed the concept in 2017 at an annual city brainstorming event that works to solve global issues. Using a website and apps, 1MT now offers modest cash rewards to participating teachers as they progress through its training levels.
Education is the key to fighting high child mortality and youth unemployment in Africa, he says. “And teachers are the world’s most important resource. They make things happen.”
Convinced that government agencies take too long to formulate a response to education problems, Hakeem and his team have found ways to upgrade teaching skills by dealing with individual teachers directly. So far, they have created 415 community learning hubs in 16 countries that bring teachers, mentors and students together with or without classrooms. The countries include Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya and Ghana.
Both Queen’s and St. Lawrence College send volunteers to 1MT’s suburban headquarters to provide help on social media, marketing and programming projects. In addition, small teams of Queen’s education students earn academic credits working with the learning hubs. Experienced teachers
host online master classes and mentor 1MT participants.
A COVID-inspired shift to online teaching brought new attention to some of 1MT’s ed-tech content for the Canadian school system, adding additional revenue with the help of government relief programs.
1MT’s latest program is a 2022 four-city photography exhibition (Kingston, New York, London and Stockholm) that highlights its promotion of the United Nation’s sustainable development goal (SDG) of improved education for children. The exhibit focuses on 1MT’s education-through-art program in Nigeria.