The COVID-19 pandemic has affected society on so many different levels. It has made us wary of a variety of situations that could not just negatively affect our health, but kill us and our relatives and friends. It has shut down a wide range of businesses, causing loss of income and self-esteem. It has hindered our ability to interact with each other, share ideas, start or strengthen friendships, learn from one another. It has closed schools, locking down development of skills, ability and growth as human beings.
For all of the negative consequences of the virus, there have been some opportunities created for society, and particularly certain sectors of society, to adapt. In some cases adaptation will lead to more profit. Check out the delivery sector. In others, solving the current problems will create new products and services that will prove useful in the post COVID-19 world.
Certainly, educational institutions have strong incentives to find short-term solutions. Students are losing valuable time and knowledge. Public institutions are losing the impetus to retain staff on full salaries. Private institutions are losing income, and potentially students to home schooling. Now is the time to be pro-active, by providing on-line learning opportunities.
Those on-line solutions will not only be useful in the short-term. They will provide opportunities to serve disabled children better, to help those missing time with sickness to keep pace, to enable children living overseas or in temporary quarters to stay connected to their schools/classes/classmates, to give children that are falling behind a resource to catch up, to provide opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities when transportation is a challenge. And inevitably there will be other uses for on-line learning platforms to positively impact our children and our community.
While there are quite a few on-line teaching/learning platforms, most do not connect easily and neatly to mobile phones. The number of smartphones in Africa outpace the number of laptops by at least 20 times. And many parents are using the family laptops to do their own work. Kids have phones!
The number of smartphones in Africa is expanding rapidly, as newer models become more and more affordable. Kenya is the epicenter of this smartphone explosion, with about 20 million (and counting) smartphones spread around the country. Even in challenging environments like Kibera, Mathare and Kawangware, local residents are banding together to buy wi-fi services to use their mobile devices on.
Now, there are e-learning platforms out there, many developed in the West, where culture and curriculums are often vastly different. Africa typically succeeds when mapping out its own innovations that fit into our unique circumstances, traditions, values, challenges and creativity. We should be developing our own Mobile Apps, with specific features that fit specific age groups, income levels, environments and specializations that will help our kids gain knowledge and skills that will benefit them the most after graduation.
Of course, we want to make these fun, so that children will be compelled to engage them. Make them easy to use, so that parents will join in. Have them keep track of progress, attendance, relationships, so that parents can keep an eye on who their kids are learning from, who is helping, and who is hindering their development.
But who knows best what we need? Of course, our African parents…our African educators…our success stories, who know how what they learned has led to their prosperity and achievement. Africans need to work together with tech companies and innovators to come up with the 2020 ideas that will shape our future and those of our children and grandchildren.
While we can make these Apps available for free, we can also charge subscription or tuition fees, for families to be connected to particular learning institutions. The quality of teachers, administrators, curriculums, teaching style, fellow students, these all matter and provide value to learners and their families.
Key components of the e-learning apps that are being developed now: Engagement, relate-ability, fun, examples of how knowledge is useful in the real world, extra-curricular activities in the digital space, encouraging creativity, connecting students with their friends and their role models, allowing some individual choices, offering good moral and ethical guidance, opening up the power of the digital space with all of its possibilities for career enhancement and roles.
Africa, we need to move on this now. We have free time when we are restricted from going to work, meeting with our friends, dining, drinking and dancing. Let’s look at the space our children are occupying now, and help make it more compelling, more developmental, more fun, and more enriching, so that we don’t stunt our collective growth, but create ways to unleash our children’s intellect and creativity, and help guarantee them a bright future.
Engage us and find out how we can work together to get your education solution done, COST-EFFECTIVELY, for success in the Covid-19 era!