Cost Effective Ways to Digitize Accessibility of Quality Education To Children in Rural Communities

Published Mar 9, 2018
Image Credit: Makamba Online

In today’s fast paced world, Technology is King. No matter how much we try preserve traditional practices, the digital world is constantly evolving. In that evolution, the way in which we learn is being changed. Numerical and literacy skills are a key necessity and a basic right that all children should have access to. When specifically looking at Nigeria, it is one of the 12 African countries in which 30% and above of the children do not meet the minimum standard of learning and finish primary school without the fundamental skills of numeracy and literacy. The lack of quality infrastructure, teaching capabilities and financial support are a few of the determining factors that minimize the access to quality education in rural communities.

In an article covering the TED Global 2017 summit, the curator, Emeka Okafor said that, The education systems in Africa have largely failed. The problem is the type of education itself because you have people who go through these systems and come out and don’t have the types of problem solving abilities that they should have,” he explains. “In other words, we have an education system that isn't doing the job of an education system.”

So how then do we begin breaking down this wall of exclusion and stagnant progress? Digitizing education is one of the most cost effective ways to tackle the limitations to education among rural communities.

Shifting to complete digital learning is definitely a cost conscious decision. However bodies like the federal ministry of education & think tanks can advocate on behalf of rural schools through means of crowd funding. Websites such as DonorsChoose.org specifically target educators who are looking for donations. The iTakeActions also has a feature whereby citizens can co-fund an education project for communities.

Facilitating consistent accessibility of digital education is the most crucial aspect.  There needs to be adequate infrastructure and easy to use access to educational content.  This is where eLearning is most useful. The use of YouTube channels showcased via projectors is a means of introducing blended learning until adequate infrastructure and funding are sourced. How then can the internet be made more accessible to facilitate eLearning?

Due to the general location of rural communities, implementing Wi-Fi connections and internet can be a challenge and of course costly. Costs can be reduced by providing each grade with a laptop that has a portable Wi-Fi USB/ dongle or data dongle, which then enables teachers to access the internet and online learning content.

Through digitising education, and the use of computer operated systems, teachers can also benefit as they can be trained online and also be better equipped to teach the children.

Another means of affordably granting accessibility to digitised learning is to get donations in the form of desktop computers. The use of functioning computer labs in urban areas can be made accessible to rural children & teachers where they are trained to be computer literate. Training can be undertaken by volunteers (e.g. professors, university students, & individuals with computer based knowledge) who can also go into rural communities with laptops and teach the children in small groups at a time.

The issue with mobilizing funds for rural communities within Nigeria is that the national budget only allocates a small percentage of the 26% the United Nations requires them to. In 2017, 7.4% of the national budget was allocated to education, and in 2018 that dropped to 7.04%.  In Sub Saharan Africa countries spend 18% of their total budget compared to the 15% worldwide.

We cannot advocate for advancement of quality education within rural communities when government does not prioritise sufficient investments to facilitate sustainable educational growth.

While looking to implement digitized education, the quality of life and overall environment within rural communities needs to be addressed. Because functioning facilities and basic necessities such as clean drinking water, sufficient supply of food, decent health care and overall standard of living are neglected and under provided, it is difficult for children within rural communities to attend school. The decision of which child to send to school due to lack of funds. Basic amenities are unavailable due to where rural communities are situated geographically. The structural violence and deprivation of rural communities goes far beyond just education. It is a struggle for everyday life necessities and access to the tools they need to survive.

Digital education can be made accessible in rural communities, it just takes a collective effort to achieve. Let access to quality education; traditional and digital be a starting point in which the doors and hallways of opportunity are accessible to all in order to allow for the betterment of all communities and not just urbanized areas.

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Tamara Chizema

Pending advocate of change.

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