ICT Innovations In Education Could Level The Playing Field In Africa

We take a look at the barriers preventing the ICT-education integration in Africa as well as the initiatives being run to combat this.
Compare Guru
2016-09-27
Ask any parent of a school-age child to describe their own childhood classrooms. The answer you'll get is most likely a picture of a well-defined space with four confining walls and a chalkboard. In the 21st century, the face of education is changing. In South Africa, in particular, African public-private partnerships are integrating technology in education to enhance learning. This proves challenging, however, with electricity shortages and over-crowding, especially in rural areas. ICT in education is widely accepted as both enabling learning and preparing students for employment in a technology-rich workplace.

Barriers to Integrating ICT in Education

Broadband can be used to support tablets, laptops, and online courses to reach students with little or no access to education. It can also improve teacher training, and lower costs, according to a recent report by UNESCO. But, in sub-Saharan Africa, barriers mean that the use of ICT in education is still at an embryonic stage in most countries. These include a lack of effective policies, basic infrastructure (i.e. electricity, internet, computers and mobile devices), finance and teacher training. The biggest barrier is the lack of electricity, especially in remote, rural areas. Computers are more likely to be found in urban schools. Where access to electricity and the Internet enable computer-assisted instruction and on-line learning. In the USA, for example, teachers are using Kinect for Xbox 360 to bring life to their lesson plans. Pilot programs are underway in Los Angeles Unified School District, Chicago Public Schools, Houston Independent School District, Scottsdale Unified School District, Flagstaff Unified School District (Arizona), Fairfax County Public Schools and Loudoun County Public Schools. Teachers are adding existing Kinect games to lesson plans to better engage students. These games focus on subjects ranging from mathematics, language arts, science and social studies. And also include physical education, adaptive P.E. and special education.

Programs Assisting the ICT-Education Integration

In South Africa, such initiatives are a rarity. Programmes such as Think Ahead use iPads in education to help bring education into the 21st century. Think Ahead helps educators and schools plan and customise curriculums and learning materials and adapt them for use on iPads. iSchool Africa is a Core Group initiative which provides iPads to over 140 primary and secondary iSchoolAfrica schools in South Africa. They operate across nine provinces, including rural and township schools. These devices are stored in a mobile lab, along with a MacBook Air, and can be moved from classroom to classroom. They help digitise learning through the use of apps and mobile technology. Capitalising on the fact that Africa’s e-learning market has doubled from 2011 to 2016, is The Rumie Initiative NGO. Based in Canada, they have produced the Rumie tablet which is now in the hands of more than 3,000 children in Africa. The Rumie Initiative operates in various African countries. These include Benin, Egypt, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.
“Rumie saw an opportunity to give disadvantaged students access to the kind of free digital learning materials that had been available only to affluent schools in the past,” said Tariq Fancy, the founder and executive director of The Rumie Initiative.
Rumie sells its tablets at cost to NGOs who use them in educational programming. The tablets come preloaded with customised learning and studying tools. These meet the specific local needs of their NGO partners. These NGO partners can use the LearnCloud to browse through content recommended by other partners, choose the content they want, and also add their own. Some of the included subjects are English literacy, STEM, job training and vocational skills, financial literacy and health. South Africa is Africa's largest e-learning market. This means that the potential for companies to get involved in furthering ICT in education is massively untapped.
“Africa is one of the world’s most dynamic education markets. Public-private partnerships show best practices for using technology to reach marginalised students. They do this with technology that students use in their daily lives. Africa presents exciting business opportunities for education technology vendors and startups worldwide,” said Trixie LohMirmand, Senior Vice-President, for Exhibitions and Events Management at Dubai World Trade Centre, host of GITEX Technology Week.