Technology initiatives empower marginalized communities

By Kennedy Abwao

Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire (PANA) – Ministers of education in Africa opened a debate here Wednesday on how to effectively ensure proper delivery of educational material to communities affected by conflict, including refugees, the disabled and women traders disadvantaged by the lack of basic education.

The second Ministerial Forum on Information and Communication (ICT) Integration in Education and Training in Africa, holding in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, June , opened with discussions on how to effectively secure partnerships between the private sector and government to advance digital schooling.

Ministers of education from African countries, top university professors, digital technology firms and senior government officials involved in the roll-out of digital schooling initiatives in Africa, took to the floor to discuss progress in the implementation of dynamic projects to improve digital education.

Ngosse Fall, Inspector of lower and upper secondary school in Senegal, said the government was using ICTs to implement programmes to ensure education for all, including the blind students, to achieve professional level-training.

“In Senegal, the education system is accessible to all. We want to give blind students access to ICT and help their inclusion into the technology market. This is a pilot project and we have a national steering committee to implement this project,” Fall said.

“The emphasis of ICT integration in schools is not to provide computers. The aim is to ensure children learn. They will develop competences from grade one that would make them innovators of the future,” said John Temba, Director of ICT at the Kenyan Ministry of Education.

Kenya is currently in the process of providing 1.2 million computers to pupils entering first grade in primary schools to enhance the delivery of digital education and learning.

The Kenyan plan has already seen 11,000 laptops provided to pupils in primary schools.

“We are working on the local assembly of these devices in Kenya. We have developed digital content from 2013. However, we believe that technology will not make an impact unless there is relevant educational content to drive this process,” Temba told the ministerial meeting.

Kenya has trained 62,000 teachers on the delivery of the digital schools initiative and is currently targeting 25,000 more teachers for training in the delivery of the digital education, Temba said.

The aim is to ensure that 22,000 schools are connected to electricity. However, 600 schools will access the digital school curriculum through solar powered devices, Temba said.

Discussing the challenge of providing digital education in Niger, Dr Erwan Lequentrec, from the Research and Development unit of French telecom firm, Orange Laboratory for usage economy and sociology, said pioneering digital education has faced challenges, including lack of training for teachers.

Dr Lequentrec said when introducing digital education in Niger, student enrolment initially dropped and teachers were demotivated by poor infrastructure in schools at the beginning.

However, he said the platform for growth of digital education and an ICT revolution in Africa has been established with the rapid growth of mobile cash transfer system offered by Orange Money and growing entrepreneurship within Africa.

Education ministry officials emphasized the need to proper national policies and strategies to anchor digital education, especially ensuring the mainstream government is also connected technologically.

“The process starts with a policy framework to implement the ICT in education and in government. We in Cote d’Ivoire started with a strategic plan for the ministry of education. We have integrated ICT into the education system and teaching methods,” said Aboubacar Coulibaly, the director of Technology and Information Systems at the Ivorian ministry of national education.

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