Quality education has been known to be the foundation of development and advancement in every country. It holds especially true for many African countries. Now more than ever, acquiring education through a medium that can be easily accessed by anyone in any part of Africa is very crucial for the development of the continent.
According to a UNESCO report, one in five children (ages 6 to 17) worldwide did not participate in any form of education in 2016, of which 263 million lived in developing countries. The report further highlights that the education/literacy–related crisis could get worse as Africa’s youth population is expected to double to 830 million people by 2050, with only a few resources dedicated to educating these young people.
Due to the COVID–19 pandemic, 1.6 billion young people in 161 countries are currently out of the formal education system – that is roughly about 80% of the world’s enrolled students. This reality has significantly accelerated the need for digital dependence to deliver quality education.
To meet this need, the concept of traditional education has changed radically within the last few months. Many can now attest that being physically present in a classroom is not the only learning option anymore, as there has been an accelerated dependence on technology for literacy survival. Current trends in West-Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa illustrate that digital learning is gaining traction in these regions despite persistent technological barriers.
There are some notable examples of this trend in Africa and even Nigeria. For instance, the uLesson app offers students in Nigerian Secondary Schools a holistic digital learning experience in several relevant subjects. The Osun State government launched the Opon-Imo initiative to provide tablets that contain specially-curated educational resources for senior secondary students. Some Nigerian universities such as Babcock University are leveraging digital solutions for classroom and examination arrangements. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is leading e-learning initiatives and providing resources to many tertiary institutions in the country.
Overall, trends are pointing in the direction of a rapid acceleration of digital learning disruption. It is predicted that digital learning will grow even more significantly over the next decade. To accelerate this growth, the following solutions are proposed:
- The government and Internet providers should collaborate to subsidize Internet connectivity costs and make available fast connections that can aid the access to and consumption of learning contents digitally.
- Digital learning firms in Africa should embrace a cutting-edge mindset to utilize global developments in technology and teaching to deliver learning more efficiently and effectively in Africa.
- Encouraging partnerships between public universities and digital learning firms can help to accelerate the adoption of online education to cater for the need that currently exists for African universities (public and private) to develop online offerings.
In improving access to online education in Africa, there is a critical need to improve connectivity across the continent as most Africans use the internet on their mobile. While cost is still prohibitively high for many, internet-ready smartphones and Internet connectivity bundles are getting more affordable.
The future of learning in Africa is not bleak in as much as we leverage the availability of the internet with the use of learning technology solutions.