World leaders, from Nelson Mandela to Kofi Annan, have stressed that education liberates and empowers; and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every human being has a right to a free and quality education. Education, in fact, is fundamental to the promotion of understanding between peoples and respect for one another’s freedoms. If we want to make the world a better place, education is the best investment we can make.
Making this ideal a reality is, of course, incredibly difficult. Around the world, there are millions of young people who do not have fair access to education. According to the World Economic Forum, “59 million children and 65 million adolescents are out of school” and “more than 120 million children do not complete primary education.”
Increasingly, educators, NGOs and entrepreneurs are looking to technology to address this problem. And one place where this has definitely taken off is in Africa, where mobile technology has been adopted widely – a GSMA report in 2016 concluded that over half a billion people in Africa are on a mobile network. Operators and developers see this market penetration as a gateway to providing a host of essential services, including finance, healthcare and education, to urban and rural communities.
As well as access, the benefits of utilizing mobile technology for education include flexibility and cost-effectiveness. However, many NGO workers on the ground stress the need for contextual awareness, since hardware-driven initiatives have not always proved helpful. While access to hardware is, of course, essential, it’s also important to consider the following:
- Access to electricity and other critical infrastructure
- Technology literacy of teachers, facilitators and pupils
- Ability to maintain devices as well as the financial resources to do so
- Access to hardware and software
- Security – who owns the devices, where are they stored, how children’s access to content is monitored
- The contextual relevance of materials and their compatibility with the local curriculum
This may seem daunting but in fact there are many projects springing up all over the continent that address these challenges and are paving the way for an innovative and exciting future for education in Africa. Here are some of our favourites: