COVID19 exposed the insubstantialities of the African educational system. For students living in rural communities and low-income households, it was like the end of schooling. The pandemic has revealed that the most educationally disadvantaged are in the primary school level and they are worse off. While the pandemic has worsened Africa’s educational pains, it has made us coalesce on a single point: we need to move education into the digital age backed by the right policies.
Stakeholders like parents, teachers, education regulatory authorities are beginning to see the value of using contemporary tools to connect African students with learning opportunities. The school closings we have experienced during the lockdowns has taught us all to beat foot-dragging-and urgently apply educational technologies! This would enable us to connect millions of African students to the new world of learning tools and technologies.
That would mean taking out all the impediments involved in bringing less privileged kids to access quality education, anywhere, everywhere. This will boost economic opportunities and will help Africa to benefit from globalization and the accelerated digitalization we have witnessed recently. If we don’t take this wake up call for a new way to learn and bridge this massive digital inequality, we could be setting the stage for social unrest.
Digitalization has brought the future to the present. We can finally bring millions of African children into a new era of tech-enabled learning experiences. Technology use in education will become more widespread as a result of Covid-19, setting the stage for us to build working educational systems for thousands of communities across Africa.
Education technology (EdTech) utilizes technological capabilities to deliver new teaching experiences for an effective day-to-day management of education institutions. It involves the use of hardware and software all designed as an inseparable thread woven throughout the processes of teaching and learning. Regarding hardware such as tablets, laptops or other digital devices), and software that supports teaching, delivers specific needs, and helps the daily running of education institutions (such as management information systems, information sharing platforms and communication tools).
An edtech strategy
EdTech cannot address all our educational problems. Edtech cannot replace schools. We believe that it should complement school attendance. Africa certainly needs an edtech strategy with tech-enabled processes at its core or more so an integrated educational technology strategy that should support working processes that improve our educational outcomes.
The best outcome for the overall growth of Africa’s education will be when critical support is given to both the education sector and the EdTech industry to build on existing good practice and drive further innovation. Any countries’ strategy should be anchored on the following: power the administration processes – cutting on the burden of ‘non-teaching’ tasks; bring efficiencies and effectiveness to the assessment processes, giving fillip to our teaching practices – boosting access, inclusion, and improved educational results for all.
Then there is the need to drive continuous professional development which is by supporting teachers, lecturers and education leaders so they can develop more adaptably. With rapid disruptive technologies occurring, every edtech strategy must incorporate life-long learning, supporting decisions about work or further study and helping those who are not in the formal education system acquire new skills.
Let’s bring learning to the world of social media
Learning is happening on social media platforms. It offers us the opportunity to equip African students with emotional intelligence, critical thinking and problem solving are key skills for the future of work. Learning shouldn’t be rote based alone, we must empower African youth with entrepreneurial mindsets, leveraging engaging interactive storytelling using social media as a delivery infrastructure.
In this disruptive technology age, our learning infrastructure must be transformed to unlock new innovative solutions for Africa’s problems. African education should be driven by a student-led, evidence-based learning combined with well-beingness and lots of career development platform opportunities. In a rapidly changing world, we must arm our youths with a sense of purpose and equip them with forthcoming skills, so they can steer through this rapidly budding world with buoyancy, and drive; as a result fulfill their potential.
New tools for interesting learning
We need African innovators to develop tools for our educators and organizations so we deliver learning at scale. Learning must be personalized and enabled by artificial intelligence with micro courses that aligns with the individual’s needs to improve learning outcomes, industrial-readiness, helping us achieve the urgent need for delivering important knowledge to people in spite of their circumstances.
Because of the massive unemployment in Africa, policy makers must bring our youths into the horizon of employment by harnessing their interest into a strong desire for technical-vocational jobs. Digital platforms that deliver on this through wholesome skills acquisition, industry training programs matched with industry offtaker opportunities could transform Africa’s unemployment market. If we include life-long learning programs with lifestyle products (pension, fintech products etc) we could be on the edge of making every African youth employed or employable.
A STEM of opportunities.
STEM gives us the capacity to understand our world and innovate in ways that improve our living conditions. Africa needs quality STEM to urgently impact productivity and deliver job-led economic growth and development.
Technology is breaking boundaries and we can scale STEM learning through cloud infrastructure. Leveraging the cloud technology giants’ infrastructure could bring in a 3D virtual platform that’s in strong similarity with physical laboratory experience for African students who don’t have access to laboratories.
In conclusion, edtech offers us a big opportunity to catalyze systemic educational change. But we have to move away from technology for technology’s sake, by identifying what works, how it addresses Africa’s unique needs and challenges, adopt and customize new ways and innovations that can deliver results for students, then scale them for the benefit of Africa’s economy. Whatever edtech strategy we seek, we must ensure it addresses the following: equitable access for all African students; enable investments in African teachers’ development; tech-driven processes and equip African students with the skillset to make sense of our rapidly changing world.