There is a huge divide in terms of access and quality of education across Africa. Mathematics, in particular, proves problematic for students and teachers alike, falling far short of global standards. There is however no shortage of passionate, enthusiastic and talented individuals in these countries with powerful ideas to improve the current state of education.
“People in small communities in Africa who are lack of learning resources”
- Children will get left behind in the future without a strong foundation of basic education.
- A large number of women in rural areas engage in informal business activities which hardly grow beyond the level of subsistence.
- Farming is the major income resource in local communities in Africa, but access to quality information for better cultivation is severely limited for the majority.
The project aims at using technology to improve livelihoods across a community. The Digital Communities Initiative uses technology to support across diverse areas including schools, agriculture, and women in enterprise. Thus, the use of technology is to improve the livelihoods of different groups in education, agriculture, and entrepreneurship.
The project was initially started with a set of 20 android tablets that were taken out to the Kitale region of Western Kenya. We’ve been hard at work to find innovative and effective ways that the technology can be used to support people, with an initial focus on schools, agriculture, and enterprising women.
Especially for students, a wide range of off-line learning materials including educational games were suggested, as well as, tablets loaded with application proven that they are helpful for fostering literacy and numeracy. For example, Khan Academy, Blockly games, World Possible and One Billion have been used and they are not only great in term of literacy learning but also shifting rote learning to more learner-centered approaches. A similar set of interventions will be carried out in secondary schools, with a focus on raising aspirations and grades within STEM subjects. These areas have been identified as the biggest barriers to university entry and scholarships, and are vital to helping people in Africa develop the skills needed to solve complex problems facing the continent.
Also, the project deeply considered gender equality and additional emphasis on supporting girls who are often marginalized in such contexts is placed with additional events such as a girl’s coding workshop. Moreover, for the woman entrepreneurship, tablets are utilized to provide tools for financial management, planning, to and cooperation, collecting information and discussing possible solutions to improve understanding of risk. Potential gains in these endeavors can have a huge knock-on impact on families, such as providing the additional means needed to send children to school or to access better healthcare.
Lastly, agriculture plays a huge role in local communities and is usually the main source of income for families in Africa. Therefore, tablets and existing online-courses are used to provide rich information and tools aiming at farmers. Interventions will be planned and delivered to support farmers in their daily activities, such as using local climate data to make crop decisions, tools for budgeting, and access to informative videos.
Since then the project has expanded to include more than 60 devices, and we are working with organizations and institutions around the world to provide real impact, with costs involved kept to a minimum. With schools, the team has visited more than 80 times to Wekhonye primary school and secondary school. The student’s learning hours reached over 5000 hours. For woman empowerment, a number of workshops were implemented and YouTube was used as the main resource. Moreover, they planned the trip to Mombasa to learn from ‘The Basket Room’ how to launching own local business. In terms of farmers, tablets were also used for workshops and more than 12 workshops have been held under the topics of pest, diseases, soil health, and erosion which practically helpful for them.
- SAMI(Support Africa Maths Initiatives) was founded in 2013 as a means to support these local initiatives, and provide the expertise and funding necessary to implement, sustain and scale powerful ideas to improve the current state of education across Africa.
- At SAMI we’ve been working to build our thoughts on how everything we do can fit into a larger picture to create real change across Africa. We hope to use this section to communicate some of these ideas when they are slightly further developed.