When attending conferences or reading papers on Africa, one of the key points in determining the future of the continent is education. Many organisations, charities and volunteer organisations focus on education in Africa as a way of developing the continent. Whilst there is a strong focus, there is still a lot of work to be done. Of the 59 million children that are out of school, 30 million reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Rural education and girl child education are two of the main difficulties Africa has faced in recent years, but there gains being made. A third of all adolescents not in school are in sub-Saharan Africa, more than in the year 2000.
It is not only getting kid into school that is important. The quality of teaching in some instances, simply is not good enough. I sat in many classrooms and watched as teachers taught their students bad grammar and spelling, and even incorrect facts. Students that had failed their high school exams, and were waiting to take the retakes, were taken on in private schools, which went in parts unregulated, to teach, without any training!
With gains in technology, access to quality education no longer means sitting in a school in front of a teacher. Tech is enabling more efficient learning in and out of school, helping teachers give up to date classes and enabling university students to broaden their education into different fields at a fraction of the cost of doing another degree.
In class tech is really improving the teaching quality in schools and tablets are furthering the experience for both students and teachers. One of the most clever solutions I have found is the BRCK and its Kio kit. The Kio Kit is a rugged tablet storage suitcase, which houses and charges up to 40 tablets, which can easily slot into position after class. (Saving a lot of time for the teacher) The BRCK is a “micro cloud”, which is basically an offline internet, storing all the information that will be needed by the students, without the need for expensive data plans. The kit comes with pre loaded content, including content specific to the local curriculum and games to stimulate critical thinking.(I was sometimes shocked to see that students at the highest level did not question anything their teachers of lecturers said or what they read)
Eneza Education, which I wrote about previously, offer more great opportunities for students to access education and information. They recently surpassed 1,100,000 unique devices on their platform and are aiming to quickly break the 50 million barrier, which is quite staggering. learners across the continent who are able to access courses and assessments and interact with live instructors. Eneza is enabling children from all kinds of backgrounds to access much needed education. From the cities to war zones, children are getting education that they didn’t previously have access to. They don’t even need a smart phone, as courses can be taken on ordinary mobile phones.
Another learning platform I have come across is MOOCS for Africa. MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses, aimed at higher education. MOOCS for Africa is a project by EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédéreale de Lausanne), in Switzerland. They aim to produce MOOCSsalong with their partners in order to strengthen higher education training in Africa. MOOCs make absolute sense to Africa as many are simply not able to afford university education. It enables people from all background to access information and learn news skills. Currently, I have not seen many online courses which cater to trades such as plumbing.
There is a shortage of skilled labour, and MOOCs could be the answer to training more people. MOOCs for Africa are implementing courses for nurses to increase the number that are able to graduate each year. In many areas there are limited spaces in nurses training schools and nurses are in high demand. By enabling student nurses to use a tablet to complete much of the course, it does not restrict them to the size of a classroom or lecture hall. For their nurses training pilot scheme they actually took the whole process offline, which combats the high internet tariffs and opens up the service for anyone who is interest.
Japan recently pledged $30 billion to Africa, of which a part is for education. This investment needs to be used efficiently not only to get more children access to education, but to increase the level of education they receive when they get to school. If technology can enable the teachers to learn as well as the students, then it is a massive step in the right direction.
If you have any stories of great teachers using tech to help their kids, please share it with me. Please like and comment and contact me on twitter. @inventiveafrica
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