The journey to equitable and inclusive education in Africa has seen tremendous growth. In the past, access to education was grossly limited due to barriers including distance, cost, inadequate resources, policies and in many cases, gender.
For instance, in 1995, over 46 million children were not enrolled in school. However, as many African governments committed to achieving universal primary education in line with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, by 2005, the number had drastically reduced to less than 35 million.
Newer policies were developed and one element that was key to the transformation was the introduction of technology. Backtracking, the first indications of African countries combining education and technology came in 1960 — using radio and TV sets for lessons. This had much success in countries like South Sudan between 1975 and 2000, where the Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) initiative by USAID improved student learning by 20%. UNESCO’s Programme for Education by Television (PETV) in Cote D’Ivoire in the1970s resulted in an increase in the rate of school enrolment from 20% to over 60%.
Simultaneously, the 1990s and 2000s presented a new era of computer hardware, tailored to secondary and post-secondary settings. Numerous initiatives like the American One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, impacted over 2 million pupils and teachers, giving them access to a variety of learning content.
Two decades later, there has been an explosion in the use of modernized devices and portable tools to supplement the use of books. In countries like Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Nigeria, mobile learning (m-learning) is meeting the rising demand in education — through exciting initiatives where students receive content from their teachers, practice language and math skills with peers, among many other learning activities.
Again, students now network internationally and enjoy the privilege of Open Educational Resources via high quality massive open online courses (MOOCs) and virtual classrooms, thanks to its rapidly growing connectivity rate. With all this advancement and a global rise in Edtech investments, Africa is on the right path to improving its tertiary enrolment rates from the current 8% to over 50% at the end of 2030.