So much of the rhetoric about Africa is regarding education. Education is of course the basis of society and for developing nations, human capital is incredibly important for their journey towards equality with the rest of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa has a literacy rate of just 64%. Without literacy, education can not function. A report came out last week that even the teachers lack literacy schools. It suggested that one third of South African grade 6 teachers are not able to read properly. In many cases, students who have failed to complete their SHS studies, go into teaching whilst they wait to re-take their exams, without training or proper vetting. If teachers are not literate, then how can they expect their students to be?
Literacy also requires access to books, and in many instances they are difficult to come by across Africa. Libraries in some areas are none existent, and primary and junior secondary schools are crying out for access to books. Even at university level, the libraries can badly stocked, and students find it very difficult to get their hands on research material.
One company is trying to change this ‘story’, at least for the primary and JSS students. Worldreader aims to give every child and their family access to digital books. They build digital platforms in the developing world to make sure that children and families who most need access to books get them. Using donations or by selling directly, Worldreader furnishes schools with e-readers, on which books are pre-installed and other books and packages can be downloaded on to. Before Netflix was the Netflix we know, it sent out films by DVD to people who had subscribed. People could get a selection of movies of their choice sent to them each month, to watch before sending back. This system works similarly. See below for our ideas on how this system could be used in other ways.
This is a great opportunity for children to get access to local and international content. E-readers can be updated with different content, so kids can share them around just like they would a real book, but this time, with access to hundreds of different titles. With this scheme, the teachers will also benefit. As I mentioned, many of the teachers also lack literacy skills, and e-readers could be provided to give quality material for the teachers to use, read and learn from.
This service is possible to be used on the devices people already own. Worldreader Mobile, allows people to access the digital library from any connected mobile phone or tablet. Even the smallest screens have books optimised for them. With the Solar Sisters spreading light now kids can read after the sun goes down!
Can this model be rolled out to make a difference in other lives in Africa? There are already similar schemes that are using tablets and e-readers to bring academic material to teachers and their students. Also, yesterday there was a story on the BBC about a company in South Africa that charges a subscription fee so parents and community centres who could not normally afford the high costs of toys, can essentially loan them on a monthly basis, getting different toys, including educational toys, every month. The model is the same, and I believe could also be used to help small businesses and farmers have access to machinery and information.
Do you have any other uses for this model? Or any other schemes that help literacy in African children? Let us know by commenting or tweeting us @InventiveAfrica. Please share the blog on Twitter and Facebook
Thanks to @ for the information!