Digital tech key in unlocking youth potentials

Digital technologies and connectivity hold the key to unlocking the true potential of Africa’s young people.

“The proliferation of digital devices and mobile network expansion in sub-Saharan Africa should make digital education more readily available to teachers and students in Africa. This is especially true where data and devices are more affordable and easily accessible.”

That is one of the key points highlighted in new research by Vodacom Group, Vodafone, and Safaricom, launched in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The research paper, entitled “How digital technologies can transform education in sub-Saharan Africa” unpacks the current state of education across the continent.

It showcases how digital technologies and connectivity, combined with the necessary regulatory frameworks and support from governments as well as industry stakeholders, can be leveraged to mitigate barriers to education across the continent.

By opening up new opportunities for African youth to learn and for teachers to connect with students in the most remote and rural communities, these resources play an integral role in improving African education systems.

The research report outlines that there has been a sharp increase in access to education across Africa in the last 50 – 60 years but, unfortunately, an increase in access does not necessarily translate into a rise in the quality of education being delivered.

When coupled with affordable and reliable connectivity, digital tools and technologies offer a cost-effective and scalable solution to this problem by making it possible for young people to connect with highly skilled educators who can help them translate educational content into valuable knowledge.

“We have witnessed this first-hand via our ecosystem of education projects and initiatives, which seek to provide access to quality educational assets, support remote learning, and seek to enhance the overall educational experience for teachers and learners in some of Africa’s most under-resourced communities,” said Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group.

In Tanzania for example, Vodacom e-Fahamu programme is a prime example of this.

The e-Fahamu Programme was launched by the Vodacom Tanzania Foundation in 2017 with the aim of assisting teachers and secondary school students to access additional textbooks and study materials, educational content, as well as the approved curricula by the Tanzania Institute of Education and international studies free of charge through an online platform.

The objective of the website is to support the government’s efforts to provide free education to primary and secondary school students in the country.

The platform is available on mobile and desktop devices, free of charge, for all Vodacom customers.

This is part of a school connectivity programme in partnership with African Child Projects and the Universal Communications Service Access Fund (UCSAF), which aims to reach 300 public schools across the country in this second phase.

“Access to quality education is critical to combatting intergenerational cycles of poverty and inequality. Nelson Mandela always stressed how important education is, not only for self-actualisation and individual transformation, but also in shifting the trajectory of society towards equity, justice and a shared dignity,” said Prof Verne Harris, Acting CEO for the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

For Prof Jonathan Jansen, an internationally renowned education expert and one of the authors of the research paper said, “these stumbling blocks include everything from lack of reliable electricity, limited technical support and lacklustre Internet access to language barriers, political instability, and restrictive social norms.

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