COVID-19 has accelerated education’s digital transformation, highlighting Africa’s digital divide – and exposing the vital need for all-inclusive digital literacy, say expert panelists at the inaugural session of Canon’s groundbreaking thought leadership series.
As a result of the pandemic, online learning has provided a critical lifeline to learners affected by the worldwide closure of schools.
This has, in turn, highlighted numerous social inequalities – not least the digital divide faced by the millions of students who lacked access to tools or resources and were unable to engage in remote learning.
Yet Africa can share many success stories – and offer solutions for the way forward. Africa Frontiers of innovation, the monthly interactive thought leadership series, delves into topical issues, and advances innovative strategies and solutions for a world on the road to post-pandemic recovery.
Headlined ‘Developing digital skills and literacy for students’ this first session saw moderator Victoria Rubadiri, an award-winning Kenyan journalist, posing some tough questions – pre-set, and from the audience – that delved deep into digitalization and the future of education on the continent, including proposed practical interventions and actionable insights on the way forward.
Esteemed panelists Julianna Lindsey – UNICEF representative in Rwanda – and Joseph Muteti Wambua, Joseph has an account senior Curriculum Development Officer at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, related their countries’ successes.
Detailing how both Kenya and Rwanda responded swiftly to this global emergency, using broadcasting channels to produce educational programs for learners on radio and TV, as well as placing their curriculums online to ensure continued learning.
Special needs learners were also catered to, with Braille translations distributed to blind students, and sign language interpretations included in all visual broadcasts.
“In Rwanda about 80% of children were able to access learning online,” notes Lindsey, adding that the greatest success was in enabling access to devices with the help of the Ministry of Education and community NGOs.
Reimagining Education: unlocking future potential
These interventions, however successful, also highlighted another barrier to learning, beyond a lack of access to devices – that of digital literacy.
As Lindsey points out: “We realized that, even where there are devices, not all children, parents or teachers may have full awareness of how to access a web page, for instance. So, we learnt through this that its quite important to work on that digital literacy – for parents, teachers and learners/students.”
Various organizations throughout Africa, have proactive programs in place to bridge the digital gap. In February 2020, the African Union launched a Digital Transformation Strategy, aimed at connecting the continent.
UNICEF, too, has long been working on the Reimagine Education program, which aims to connect every school in the world, ensure connectivity and engagement and provide relevant regional teaching and learning content.
Wambua, who has been developing e-learning curriculums for more than a decade, predicts that blended learning will be the way forward across the globe.
“Blending solves a lot of problems for us – it makes people aware of the benefits of technology in the learning process, and helps us develop interactive learning content that can be universally accessed by every learner, regardless of status: whether autistic, hearing or sight-impaired. Governments should procure the necessary technologies, and parents, too, should provide the tools and resources for learners.”
“The African Frontiers of Innovation seminar not only highlighted various successful interventions and strategies, it also outlined a need for all stakeholders to embrace the change that Covid-19 has ushered in its wake – and to strategize accordingly for future success.” commented Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director – Canon Middle East and Canon Central and North Africa.
Featured Image: Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director – Canon Middle East and Canon Central and North Africa
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