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article imageCommunities using technology to improve education in Africa

By Tim Sandle     Mar 3, 2017 in Technology
Many parts of the Africa are evolving and developing and there’s an air of optimism in many regions about the improving economic outlook. One driver for an improved economy is education, and here technology is being utilized for positive results.
With the applications of technology in Africa, designed to stimulate both education and the economy, Digital Journal has selected three interesting and innovative areas. Here individuals have come forward to help drive positive changes.
With a shortage of textbooks and sometimes long journeys to and from schools technology can be a game-changer for raising standards in schools throughout the continent. One way of improving the curriculum and giving students access to a wider range of reading materials and study aids is the use of tablets. A one-off cost for a tablet provides access to a greater range of materials than a school could ever hope to purchase if paper copies were the only option. A pioneer of digital material and e-learning is Nivi Mukherjee, who is an education technologist. Mukherjee has developed Kio Kit, which is a tablet-based learning system designed. The tablet is especially designed for use in a rural African classroom. The table is powered by BRCK, which is one of Kenya’s earliest consumer electronics companies.
A close-up of someone using a tablet
A close-up of someone using a tablet
Flickr user ebayink
Interviewed by The Guardian, Nivi Mukherjee explains the tablet idea: “that was the premise for how we started thinking through what digital access meant in schools.” Starting with the basis that Africa does not necessarily have limited access to technology, but more so that the priorities are wrong, Mukherjee noted that some 30 million children miss out on primary school education, across Africa, and the same time there is close to 75 percent mobile phone penetration. This led to her thinking that the fusing of technology with education is the right way to proceed for driving up education standards.
Testing out the tablets in Kenya, the devices are pre-loaded with a mix of the Kenyan curriculum and international content. They do not allow a network connection, which prevents children from looking at non-educational content. The tablets do, however, have the capacity to be updated with new materials when a teacher has new content to add.
Another innovator of technology within the education area, this time at the tertiary level, is Ndubuisi Ekekwe. Mr. Ekekwe is the founder of the nonprofit African Institution of Technology. The aim of the organization is to help universities across Africa to develop capabilities in emerging areas that will ultimately help the economy. This includes microelectronics, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. To do this, and to engage with students, different forms of learning are key.
Long Queues and High Voter Turnout Reported
Long Queues and High Voter Turnout Reported
Christopher Szabo
As well as technology aiding education, Ekekwe states, in a piece published in the Harvard Business Review, that “education drives technology. Any nation that cannot create new ideas, devoid of intellectual property, will never lead; today, technology is wealth.” In other words, technology needs to feature in universities, especially in relation to the emerging areas identified, so that the improved education can drive subsequent technological development.
One such institution that has embraced the need for technology focused education is The First Atlantic University. This is a new university that is set to pioneer the use of technology. This is to the degree that it’s been dubbed “Silicon Valley’s African university.”
The final area where technology has aided education is aimed at primary schools. This is where a start-up company called Yoza Cellphone Stories has begun offering downloads of stories and novels. The scheme has had a strong uptake from schools as well as among young African readers. The stories are in the form mobile novels or ‘m-novels’. The tool is also interactive in that Yoza, users not only read stories, they can also comment and vote on them. Similarly, a non-profit group called Worldreader is providing school children with access to digital books. This is through donated Kindle e-readers. The Worldreader app and its library of stories has been downloaded onto over four million handsets, with active readers in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Ghana.
These three examples show how many African countries have battled against lack of infrastructure and finance to make impressive progress in improving their education levels through technology.
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