The Vodafone Foundation and Vodafone have announced the launch of the "Instant Schools for Africa" initiative later this year in an effort to bring tablets and 3G connectivity to mobile networks to schools across the continent to improve access to online learning.
The initiative is one of the largest philanthropic programs in the history of Vodafone, which stretches back 25 years. Millions of young people in areas including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania are set to benefit through free access to online learning materials.
Many schools in Africa find it too expensive to make conventional classroom learning purchases such as textbooks, reference books, past examination papers, assessment worksheets, and classroom aids. However, digital learning materials that can be accessed through mobile networks, tablets for students, and a laptop or projector for teachers can become a cost-effective alternative that offers instant updates to keep students up to date with the information both in the classroom and at home, writes Margaret Njugunah for Capital Business.
Schools will be given the Vodafone Foundation's Instant Classroom "digital school in a box." Included in the package will be 25 tablets, a 3G modem and laptop, projector and speakers, 8+ hours of battery life and education content for ages 7 to 20. The equipment will all allow for tablet-based teaching to occur in schools that may have unreliable electricity and internet connectivity.
No mobile data charges will be made to students, educators, or families who may already be a customer with Vodafone or its African subsidiaries while they are accessing the Instant Schools for Africa educational resources.
All learning materials were created in partnership with Learning Equality, a not-for-profit provider of open-source educational technological solutions. Extra help was received from educational partners, ministries of education, and local education experts from each country.
Subjects included in the initiative will be math and science, among other things. Millions of children in seven countries between primary school and advanced high school age are expected to benefit from the program through access to educational materials that are considered to be comparable in quality, range, and depth to those available in the developed world.
Materials will also be made available for students who do not participate in traditional schooling. Research from UNESCO uncovered 59 million children between the ages of six and eleven who did not attend school in 2013. In all, 30 million of those children resided in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Vodafone Foundation director Andrew Dunnett, said: "Education is a powerful antidote to poverty. Children and young people in some of the poorest countries on earth are desperate to learn but parents, teachers and other educators often lack both means and materials to teach them.
"Mobile and digital changes everything. Our Instant Schools For Africa programme will put a wide range of advanced learning materials – tailored for each local language and culture – into classrooms everywhere, from city slums to remote villages. We believe Instant Schools For Africa could transform the life chances for very large numbers of young people."