BAYONNE, New Jersey — A strategy using tech in Africa to strengthen the faulty educational system and aid in the remediation of poverty is in motion. It will be hard to imagine a prosperous Africa in the future without an effective academic body that can provide today’s maturing generation with the necessary acumen to transform the continent from a basic economy toward a more economically stable ecosystem. While school building and teacher recruitments across the continent through various government initiatives have brought with it an influx of students, the factors that define a quality education fail to properly educate incoming students, rendering the physical infrastructure of many schools futile. It is with a vision for a brighter future that tech companies in Africa seek to seal the cracks in various educational structures through creativity and innovation.
Addressing the Gap in Education with Technology
A want of resources and reliable infrastructure for education robs opportunity for denizens of the motherland to lift themselves from debilitating poverty. Fortunately, companies focusing on tech in Africa realize the economic potential that lies dormant. Thus, numerous ventures are underway as companies take advantage of trends such as the increasing access to smart devices across the continent to help bridge the educational disparities and inefficiencies that stagnate economic growth within the continent’s borders.
Rural regions of Africa especially find difficulty accessing a proper education, but their urban counterparts do not fare that much better. Nevertheless, encouraging academics is a vital step toward bridging disparities in education. Huawei began challenging select educational structures by introducing innovations of tech in Africa to solve the disparities between rural and urban regions in October of 2020 with its “digital inclusion initiative Tech4All.”
Telecommunications company Huawei works in tandem with the Digital School Project to partner with operator Rain and Click Foundation, a nonprofit educational body, “to connect 100 urban and rural primary schools over the next year using 5G technology.” In this way, schools can access learning options like “digital curriculums and e-learning applications,” in addition to supplemental yet key training for both students and teachers that are made accessible through the internet. Huawei also provides through this newfound Internet access additional applications conducive to learning, available through Huawei AppGallery or Huawei Petal Search, provided by Huawei Mobile Services.
4IR technology has made its way to Africa, thanks to Software AG in concurrence with E&T Minerals, Africa Teen Geeks and UNICEF. The partnership aims to “modernize the computer lab and library facilities at Tsiki Naledi Secondary School in Hendrina,” a town in the South African province of Mpumalanga. In seeking to solve the want of tech in Africa to alleviate the issues in areas such as South Africa’s rural regions, laptops, drones, interactive digital boards and 3D printers will modernize the underprivileged facilities that hold much potential. Efforts include adopting a new appellation, the STREAM (science, tech, robotics, engineering, arts and mathematics) laboratory.
Numbers vs Quality
Breaking through academic milestones becomes increasingly difficult in Africa as students move from one level to the next, demanding more expertise and resources that governments and administrations fail to deliver. The median proportion of students who completed primary school in 1971, juxtaposed with the median proportion of students who completed secondary school, at 27% and 5% respectively, supports this claim. There have been ameliorations in the overall education system in Africa, made clear by the finding that the median proportion of students who complete primary school and secondary school as of 2015 is at 67% and 40% respectively.
This is a significant accomplishment that speaks to the success of making school more accessible to students. Taken out of context, however, these statistics can belie just how far remediation of Africa’s education structure must go, with all regions of the world surpassing Africa regarding school access, despite the advances. All countries outside the borders of Africa enjoy a 90% completion rate for primary school. As for secondary school completion, “the next lowest performing region has a completion rate of 75%,” 70% more than Africa’s numbers for 2015.
Using the increase in student enrollment in Africa across the years as a metric for a satisfactory or optimal education dynamic in Africa is a faulty approach. The inequalities and inefficiencies in the education sector, despite increases in enrollment, must be addressed to properly complement the influx of students, thus contributing to the economic improvements of the African continent.
“[The recent expansion in enrollments] masks huge disparities and system dysfunctionalities and inefficiencies,” according to the African Union. Income inequality is a foreseeable consequence of educational disparities. UNDP’s chief economist, Ayodele Odusola, attributes social mobility to quality education but notes that it may not reduce income disparities. Only the availability of meaningful educational opportunities for students in urban as well as rural areas, which usually house the most impoverished in Africa, can bridge the gap. Installing tech in Africa, with its capabilities, is a good start. Albeit a formidable endeavor, Africa’s future depends on it.
– Mohamed Makalou