Tech changing future of education in Africa
As history has it, modern education in Ethiopia was first started by Emperor Menelik II; and the first modern school was officially opened in 1913 G.C. at Menelik's Palace. This school has left its mark in Ethiopia’s journey to modern education.
Ethiopia now has more than 40,000 schools including the ones in rural area, but the quality is still questionable for most of the schools regardless of the competition with the rest of the world. Ranging from shortage of educational materials to quality teachers, most schools especially in rural areas face difficulties.
Keeping in mind that modernizing education is not only the government’s job, many private organizations and non-governmental organizations have joined the sector. Founded in 2005 in Dublin, Ireland, Camara Education is one of the organizations to join the sector.
Camara, whose mission is to use technology to improve education in low income communities, is an international not-for-profit organization. It has been installing computer labs in Africa for over 15 years, for 10,500 schools, train 55,000 teachers and enabling 3.5 million children to become digitally literate.
Apart from that, it has been providing these services in Ethiopia for the past nine years and has so far provided more than 50,000 computers throughout the country, reaching more than 2,000 schools and more than 1.2 million students.
Biniyam Yayehyirad, Country Director for Camara Education Ethiopia, told The Reporter that they take computers donated by companies and then securely erase all data on the computers and refurbish it to make it suitable for use.
According to biniyam, Camara works in partnership with the Ministry of Education, providing three services. The first is to provide desktop computers and e-learning centers for schools. This includes providing a complete unit with 20 to 25 computers.
The second is completing the content for the computers. This includes downloading books, educational videos, and educational games. Considering the lack of internet connection, the organization has also facilitated the use of these services without an internet. It also offers Wikipedia access without an Internet access.
The third is to provide training for teachers and principals. "As Camara, our philosophy is to make technology a tool for the teacher and improve the way he teaches so that he can create a better learning and teaching process for the students," said Biniyam.
Beside this works, Camara partners one of the best software company SAP, to implement a project dubbed Africa Code Week since 2015 G.C. Africa Code Week is a digital skills development initiative that has benefitted millions of young Africans so far.
From 2015-2018 millions of youth have learnt coding skills and thousands of teachers were on-board for the Africa Code Week digital learning curriculum. In 2019, 3.85 million youth engaged in the process and 39,000 teachers were mobilized.
However, in the year 2020, students could not be reached due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, a competition program has been setup for the students to work from home, based on previous trainings.
This year's African Week challenge theme is dubbed as ‘Courageous Coders’ which holds the question “How will your tech change the future of education?”
According to Biniyam, the competition is open to youth aged eight to 16, so that they can build a game which needs to be coded with any version of the Scratch software. Also, this youth will submit a 2-minute YouTube video presenting the games concept, how the game works, how it was coded and how it fits with the theme and judging criteria. There will be three Winners per country and three pan-African Winners. The deadline for submission date is September 25, 2020.
Explaining about the game, Biniyam said that it needs to be coded with any version of the Scratch software plus the game needs to fit with the ‘Courageous Coders’ theme: How will your tech change the future of education?
About judging criteria’s, Biniyam said that 50 percent of the point is covered by the question “Does the game work as intended?
Is the game easy to use? Is the game imaginative? Does the game include original and well written code?” the next 25 percent will be judged on the basis of “is the game accessible for its target audience? i.e. is it suitable for the age range you built it for? How does the game address the theme?” The last 25 percent is rated by answering “Does the game display correctly and look nice?
"Our main goal is making Ethiopia big again, so this could be the time, and have youth take one step forward. Schools can come and talk to us and we can work together," said biniyam.
Camara Education has partnered the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia since 2011. Since then, they have worked in over 1,600 schools, installing more than 37,000 computers. It is a registered charity in the US, Ireland and the UK.
It currently operates five Education Hubs in Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Lesotho and Tanzania), and one in Ireland. All Hubs operate as a social enterprise serving the local market needs through a sustainable business model.