"The Weekend Read": The African e-Education Phenomenon

By: Deonta Wortham

Imagine being a child using tech instruments to assist you with your homework. Imagine being a 6th grader and using your cell phone to help with math homework.  For many of us, the idea of doing so is a memory rather than an obscure concept. It is something that is tangible, we’ve done it. We know how it feels to use a computer to assist in our learning process; we’ve done so for countless years. But children residing in developing nations, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa, the ability to access tangible forms of technology made for education purposes is a mere luxury; something that is scantly accessible.

However, an extraordinary phenomenon is taking place across the African continent. African tech startups are increasingly launching programs that aim to bring educational resources to African students outside of a classroom setting.  Most importantly they are doing so by utilizing tech instruments that are readily accessible to African students.

In Tanzania, Ubongo, a children’s program, is using “edutainment” to equip young Tanzanians with literacy and numeracy skills that are overlooked in African classroom setting. The reach of Ubongo is breathtaking. On Saturday mornings thousands of young Tanzanians gather around their family’s television sets and directly interact with characters of Ubongo by sending text messages to answer math and reading questions. Due to the immense impact that the organization has had since its launch has led Ubongo is currently in the process of expanding it broadcast across the East African region.  

Sterio.me a Nigerian tech start-up, focuses on engaging African learners outside of the classroom using a model that is similar to that of Ubongo’s. Sterio.me tasks students with the responsibility of using their mobile devices as a means of reinforcing the lessons that they learn in the classroom, on a daily basis, through the uses of skill specific quizzes that are then sent to their instructors.

Both of these enterprises are transforming the way that young Africans are learning across the continent. Innovative ideas, such as these, will play a pivotal role in transforming the African narrative. In their efforts we are able to see the possibility of developing sound methods of learning reinforcement vital to the development of the African youth population. e-Education is laying the foundation for a learned and prosperous African continent, let’s collectively work together to ensure that their work does not go unmerited. Let’s encourage the establishment of enterprises of this sort, knowing that they broaden the capacities of the African continent and its people while strengthening the African continent’s development effort.