Allversity: The e-Learning Program for Developing Nations
The connection between education and poverty is a well-established one: a lack of resources often leads to deprivation of proper education, and the lack of education further fuels this cycle of poverty. Education does not only form the foundation for a healthier, safer society, but also invariably stimulates the economy by providing more jobs. Education is therefore one of the most potent tools we have today to fight global poverty.
Despite the efforts by the international communities, many regions of the world continue to lag behind in the educational arena. In many developing countries, education is inaccessible to the masses; there is a gap in basic literacy due to socioeconomic or gender status. According to UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report that tracks the educational goals of the world, fifty-seven million children worldwide are not receiving an education. The report extrapolates the results to conclude that the world is still far from realizing the goal of universal primary education.
The facts and figures only serve to confirm the unfortunate state of education globally. Many startup companies in the western world have been attempting over the last decade to come up with innovative, technology-based solutions to the issue of illiteracy. In late 2013, a Berlin-based group of technology entrepreneurs introduced their efforts at a solution in the form of Allversity.
Allversity is a non-profit e-learning platform, which links students in the developing world with teachers and community learning centers. According to 2013 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) report, the world needs as many as 1.6 million additional teachers to ensure universal primary education. The lack of teachers is a major factor in the gap between global educational goals and current situation. The provision of online tutoring is a creative answer to this problem
The program offers a wide variety of subject matters, from prenatal care, to first aid and basic computer skills. The learning community also offers the education of basic entrepreneurial and technology skills. Allversity also has courses for more traditional school-taught subjects, such as math, science and history. The course list is dynamic: new courses and subjects are added as per teachers’ and students’ show of interest or requirement.
The materials of the course are in English at the moment, which makes it difficult for many to benefit from the learning interface. However, plans are already under way to offer translated materials in languages such as Swahili and Arabic to effectively reach more people.
Another problem the initiative faces is the lacking internet accessibility in many remote areas of the world. Many prospective students also might not have access to a computer or electronic device, necessary for Allversity. As internet connectivity increases worldwide, however, the program will undoubtedly become more readily usable.
Moreover, there are already efforts by the program’s developers to design smartphone applications that can be used offline once downloaded. It is estimated that around 40 per cent of the African population will own a smartphone by by 2017. The mobile version of Allversity will thereby increase the enrollment of students manifold.
The program faces a few challenges down the road regarding its objectives of global education, but this remains a laudable effort in the journey towards universal education.
– Atifah Safi
Sources: Venture Village, Allversity, UNESCO
Photo: Online Universities