If, like most of us at Kisumu Children, you believe in education as the way to break the cycle of poverty for our children, the title of this post may lead you to jump up in excitement that our children suddenly have access to the massive opportunity of interactive and modern learning techniques that we enjoy here in the UK. We hope this is coming but it hasn’t happened yet so please do sit down but don’t stop reading! It will be an incredible reality when one day this much sought after teaching technique arrives en masse, and it will happen across Africa one day, but for now there is no reason why we can’t see if we can have a hand in bringing it to Tieng’re. The Kenyan government is very aware of how short of teachers the education system is, how time and labour intensive current teaching methods are giving rise to the need for even more teachers, and how the large class sizes disadvantage children and make one-to-one support virtually impossible. E-learning discussions in government keep cropping up as the solution and it is widely regarded as the vital piece in radically transforming the education system across Africa. Progress has been made over the past decade and according to a report by ‘Ambient Insight’, Africa has the highest growth rates in e-learning in the world but there is still a very long way to go. Every year a conference is held on this exact subject to support those involved in implementing e-learning in Africa. If you are interested, the 2018 conference is being held in September in Rwanda: http://www.elearning-africa.com/
3 MAIN CHALLENGES TO E-LEARNING IN AFRICA
Internet Access and Connectivity
8 of the 10 least connected countries in the world are in Africa but fortunately, Kenya is not on that list and actually currently leads in Africa with regards to internet connectivity with the highest bandwidth per person on the continent, the fastest speeds, and some of the lowest Internet costs. International companies such as Google, IBM, and Microsoft have set up offices in Kenya and made concerted investments in education in the nation as a result. In Kenya –home to IBM’s Africa Research lab and a state-of-the-art innovation centre – IBM is partnering with the Kenya Education Network (KENET) to deliver advanced hands-on certification courses to faculty and students of 50 Kenyan universities over KENET’s broadband network.
E-learning is coming and very exciting times lie ahead. However, for those struggling in poverty and living in rural and remote areas, internet access is still a challenge, very expensive and can be erratic and unreliable.
Content Development and Curriculum
Even once we have an internet connection and computers from which to access it, e-learning content is not widely available. A lot of investment is needed by African institutions in order to develop e-learning content which is in line with the national curriculum but currently many institutions are using old text books from the USA or UK which are not geared towards Africa’s unique situation of language, culture and specialised needs. Most e-learning products are in English and although Africa is very driven to use English in schools and enable students to leave school with a working level of English, it is still a big barrier for those who are not proficient in English which then excludes them from the learning.
Training and Professional Development
The style of teaching in Africa is very different to the style of teaching that we enjoy here which incorporates and is enhanced by technology and computer systems. Teachers in Africa have been brought up in education systems with very limited, if any, technology and continue to use a teacher only approach with their own students. Teachers are concerned that technology will replace them instead of realising that they are just as needed as ever but that the technology is there to enhance their effectiveness and to make their lives easier. Therefore, a huge challenge is to train the teachers and invest in their personal development so that they may in turn know how to use the technology to advance the academic outcomes of their students.
E-learning has overwhelming potential to improve education systems in African countries and if implemented well with strategies that focus on overcoming these key challenges, radical transformation of the education system is possible for the huge benefit of students across the continent. Fortunately, our children live in these times where internet connectivity is a distinct possibility for them and through it we have a very big opportunity to greatly support their education. How amazing would it be for us to be implementing e-learning systems in the Home in a few years time helping students go much further with their learning than they can ever do in a class of 100 at school!