In the newly published ‘The eLearning Africa Report 2013’, over 400 people using the internet for education in Africa gave their views in a survey about the place of ‘elearning’ on the continent today. Over half the respondents worked for government or government-supported organisations, including higher education establishments and schools, while nearly 20% worked for a non-governmental organisation. Respondents were spread across the continent, with the largest contingents in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. The results of the survey showed that most people use laptops and mobile phones as devices to access learning from the internet. However, over two thirds also used stand-alone PCs for every day learning and teaching.
With less than 1,000 days to go before the current Millennium Development Goals and Education For All targets expire in 2015, respondents say that access to technology will be key to education in Africa. This is particularly true in countries where schools are short of textbooks and qualified teachers, or in regions where there are not enough classrooms. Here, innovation in learning and access to the internet are seen as key to the development of young people post-2015.
In one case study in the report, the benefits of internet access for a school in Lesotho are highlighted. Mamoeketsi School, near Maseru, has many pupils from poor families and around half the students are also orphans (HIV AIDS affects a third of the population). Few of the pupils have access to technology at home or through mobile phones. However, one science and maths teacher believed it was important to give students the opportunity to use technology. The teacher, Moliehi Sekese, believes that apart from anything else, modern technology is a way to engage pupils in the learning process.
Initially, pupils were asked to send text messages through mobile phones borrowed from friends or relatives for a project about native plants and herbs. Some of the students were so excited about the work, the teacher received messages in the middle of the night. The school then implemented an affordable computer environment for the students with the help of Dell and Microsoft.
As well as providing opportunities for the children to access the internet, it has also allowed teachers to use technology in their lessons. This has reduced truancy. Interviewed for the elearning report, Moliehi Sekese explains that slower learners no longer “feel embarrassed about asking questions in class” since they can interact through the teacher’s computer station. This means fewer children stop coming to school. Pupils are also able to collaborate on projects together, as well as with students in other countries. This increases their understanding not only of their own country, but the world at large. In summarising the success of the project, Sekese says “there’s so much that the students know about now, that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to find out before – [thanks to] technology, we’re maximising their potential as human beings”.
Learn more about a project which is bringing internet access to staff, carers and children at SOS Children’s Villages.