• Children learn to code building robots from scrap in Ghana
• e-Learning on low-cost tablets shows results in Kenya
• Solar-powered ICT hubs at South African schools
The first episode of Al Jazeera’s new six-part series, Innovate Africa, visits Ghana, Kenya and South Africa to explore how technology is transforming education across the continent.
Innovate Africa co-host Ndoni Khanyile interviews Ben ‘The Botmaster’ Nortey, a Ghanaian robot builder, entrepreneur and teacher who believes that coding is set to become one of Africa’s most important languages. Ben is the founder and CEO of the Metro Institute of Innovation and Technology, which teaches children to code using robots built from scrap from Accra’s e-waste dumps.
“We have 2500 students across the country,” says Ben. “I believe that now, in this century, every kid must code. Just as you learn basic math and algebra, you should know how to code. If people can now see a problem, ok, and then attempt to solve that problem, I think we will go a long way as a nation. It makes me think that good things are ahead, you know?”
Innovate Africa co-host Tapfuma Makina visits Nairobi to see how eLimu is using low-cost tablets to bring local content to primary schools in Kenya.
“Elimu is an integrated learning system developed specifically for Kenyan students,” says Tapfuma. “The app includes condensed content from prescribed textbooks, brought to life with the inclusion of animations, video clips, pictures and music. Part of the eLimu package are the specially-designed, low-cost and easy-to-use tablets that also offer controlled access to the internet.”
eLimu co-founder Nivi Mukherjee says, “We have done a few really interesting studies where we have shown students animations explaining a complex concept and other students have just read about it or seen pictures. Definitely, the students that have seen the animations are better able to really understand and evaluate what that subject or topic is teaching.”
Peter Lalo Outa is the headmaster at a primary school in the Kawangware district that is piloting the programme. He says, “The first subject that we saw a very big improvement was science. When we started, our main score was at 56 to 60… Today we are beyond 70. At times we reach 80. Which is very good. We are targeting 90. And this has really made the children feel like we can make it and we are going to make it.”
Tlamatlama Primary School in Tembisa, Johannesburg, is running a similar initiative: Education Delivered Intelligent (EDI), designed by AMBIT Technologies. EDI has one significant difference though: its classroom and ICT hub is situated in an entirely solar-powered container.
“This unit is not only designed to provide a learning space but also to supply power for the rest of the school,” says Ndoni. “It can be used like a generator in areas where there is little or no electricity supply.”
“Today there is a mood of optimism among Africa’s educators,” says Tapfuma. “The e-learning revolution is a reality here. The future of education is in the safe hands of tech-savvy innovators, using science and technology to craft home-grown solutions across the continent.”
Innovate Africa premieres on Al Jazeera English on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 at 22h30 GMT/23h30 CAT.
For more information, visit http://www. aljazeera.com/news/africa/ or follow #ajafrica on Twitter.