Digital education is a hot button topic in the United States, and last week, an international panel convened in Kigali, Rwanda, to discuss the efficacy of digitalizing African education systems. Held at the World Economic Forum on Africa, the friendly debate included education and governmental officials and digital education technology experts from around the world. Together, the panel discussed the two great hardships of African education—access to education and quality of education—in the context of a digital education revolution.
When some imagine the future of digital education, they see holograms and tablets, but the Digital Education panel put that idea to rest. “An educational overhaul isn’t feasible or realistic,” said Rapeland Rabana, founder of Rekindle Learning. “[We need to] look where we can build on what we already have,” she added.
In this way, struggling African governments will not be overwhelmed by new technological demands. Besides, according to TIME Magazine, only around 20 percent of Africans have access to the internet, and 40 percent don’t even have access to regular electricity. The argument can be seen that a hologram-touting educational reform system would do little in this environment.
One of the most important ideas discussed by the panel was that of privatized messaging platforms, like Messenger, WhatsApp or WeChat, as the digital basis for educational apps. Although attempting to privatize education could pose challenges of its own, Minister of Youth Jean Philbert Nsengimana pointed out that most African governments could not complete an educational transformation on their own. Instead, he said, “[We should] move away from the either-or debate and look at how the system can work together.”
Globally 57 million school-age children, many of whom are young girls, do not have the opportunity to attend school. Although the panel’s focus was digital education in Africa, the members did not forget that education is an issue outside of the continent.
Nsengimana brought this up and made it clear that he sees digital education as a means of inclusion for these educationless students, especially the young girls. Despite the logistical difficulties and the long implementation project, the Digital Education Panel at the World Economic Forum on Africa came to an encouragingly simple conclusion: by using the technologies that are already in place and focusing on accessibility in addition to advanced development, digital education tools will without a doubt be the future of education in Africa.
– Sage Smiley