Solar TabletsMozambique, a country of more than 30 million people, is stepping up to conquer the digital division they face from the rest of the world through the use of solar tablets.

Mozambique, a primarily rural country, faces a vast digital divide from the rest of the world. In fact, nearly 65% of the country consists of rural communities. That is to say, within these areas, poverty rates are high and resources for education are low. However, one Mozambican man is here to bridge the digital and educational gaps with solar tablets.

Community Tablet

In response to his country’s digital deficit, Dayn Amade, a father and entrepreneur, created a solution to the problem. Thus he began Community Tablet, the first Mozambican digital school powered by solar tablets.

These solar tablets are an innovative collaboration of community awareness and emerging technology. Pulled by trucks or donkeys, the four to six solar-powered LCD screens can travel just about anywhere throughout Mozambique. Each screen is an interactive smart board connected to cameras and one larger community screen, allowing all to play and watch. The tablet connects to the internet through satellite and the Global System for Mobile Communications. Whatsmore, inside the base, a cold chain chamber provides a fridge for storing and transporting items such as vaccines. This compartment plays a vital role in Amade’s education as he can distribute medicines after educating communities about the need for them.

Amade’s inspiration came from seeing his children’s eagerness towards and success learning on their tablets. Additionally, after watching various organizations visit his community to teach, he realized they left no lasting impact. These groups often hand out educational pamphlets that many villagers can not read due to a low literacy rate. Furthermore, unrelatable images within the lessons make it much harder to connect with the locals. As Amade sees it, “Aid efforts are being hampered by a failure to educate people on the question of why prevention is needed, and by organizations’ ability to tailor messages to local communities.”

Solar Tablet Solutions

Though his solar tablets and educational courses have seen success, there have been bumps along the way. To create a tool that translates well into curated animations and instructional lessons, Amade sought partnerships with anthropologists from top universities in Mozambique. Together, they carefully customize informative lessons relatable to the local communities they visit.

As a result, they have created their programs with relevant images, local fashion and local dialect. With these lessons, students take a quiz after to help solidify their understanding of concepts.

Community Tablet Impact

As Amade provides solar solutions to off-grid communities who have never connected to the world beyond their own, the successes speak for themself.

Amade has been on the road for three years, speaking on mobile banking, HIV prevention, contraceptives, local politics and more. The results from his campaigns are growing.

So far, Community Tablet’s impact shows:

  • 31 districts visited
  • 1,900 people reached
  • 45% voter increase
  • 27% increase in family planning contraceptives
  • 68% newly opened bank accounts

Beyond these numbers, using solar tablets for e-learning breaks educational boundaries and brings hope to communities. With tablets, accessibility is no issue. Tablets are bigger and better for learning than a phone. With a tablet’s size and sturdiness, it is far easier to read, type and watch learning modules. Moreover, solar tablets are low-carbon learning tools that use lower amounts of energy and produce fewer emissions. Additionally, tablets mean less use of printers, litter and minimize costs of learning.

Lastly, incorporating tablets into education allows towns to learn together without feeling like their privacy is being invaded. The tablets are strictly for learning, meaning no one has to share their phone and no distractions. Finally, there is a way for off-grid populations to connect and learn, hone skills and build a new way of life.

As can be seen, these solar tablets and the push for digital literacy is helping these rural communities step into the 21st century.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Tablet Comunitario

effect on educationFor years, Lebanon has been a great place to go to school. In math and science education, the country of Lebanon ranks fourth in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. The explosion that occurred on August 4th, 2020, however, destroyed about 120 public and private schools in Beirut. The obstruction of schools will inevitably result in the obstruction of the Lebanese right to education and upwards movement in society. This article analyzes the blast’s effect on education, and how a lack of education resources in Beirut may lead to further concerns of poverty.

The Explosion

A lethal blast occurred at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon in early August. The explosion killed at least 200 people, according to the BBC, and injured around 5,000. It began as what seemed to be a warehouse fire, but it soon evolved into a catastrophic, supersonic blast that penetrated a large portion of the city. Before the explosion, Lebanon was already in an economic crisis. Nearly half of the population (45%) lives under the poverty line; the explosion has only worsened this number. Beirut’s governor stated that the financial damage to the city is $10-15 billion. The tragedy’s effect on education is a pervasive concern.

How Schools Are Impacted

Beirut was the education, publishing, and cultural capital of Lebanon, as asserted by Al-Fanar Media. With its well-known universities, Beirut was a place for locals and tourists alike to admire. The destruction to the city, though, is causing a major halt to the flourishing academic hub. The damages done to these universities amount to millions of dollars, according to the media advisor at the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Albert Chamoun.

Lebanon’s only public university, Lebanese University, has seen the worst damage out of all of Beirut’s universities. Given the financial status of Lebanon before the blast, the tragedy has only worsened the state of the university. Permanent closures may cost faculty their jobs, thus threatening them with potential poverty. Moreover, Collège du Sacré Coeur-Frères, or the Sacred Hear-Brothers College, founded in 1894, is another school affected by the blast. Considering that the school had 1,300 students enrolled, the destruction of the building hinders students’ ability to go back to school anytime soon, leaving them at home. The effects on education extend to faculty, students, and students’ families.

Future Poverty

In a country already riddled with poverty, “Lack of access to education is a major predictor of passing poverty from one generation to the next”. Schools and universities, like Lebanese University, are oftentimes young people’s only hope in moving up socioeconomically. Attaining literacy and numeracy skills greatly aids a young person’s ability to get a job in the future. Coupling this with the COVID-19 pandemic, online-learning is also not accessible for all students; many depend on in-person teaching simply because they do not have access to technology nor the internet while at home. The blast only furthered this technology gap, resulting in worse poverty for those involved in the tragic event.

According to Governer Marwan Abboud, about 300,000 people are currently without a home in Beirut. Without the reconstruction of schools, Lebanese children and young people face the lifelong threat of remaining in poverty. Therefore, the blast’s lasting effect on education directly relates to its’ effect on poverty levels in Lebanon.

Taking Action

The tragedy that occurred in Beirut is one that will permeate throughout the country for years to come. The effect on education is just one consequence of the deadly blast. Luckily, there are fundraisers and other efforts in place to help those affected by the Beirut blast, many of which involve education. Linked here is a GoFundMe to raise money for computers for students at Sacred Heart-Brothers College that do not have access to technology at home. In addition, UNICEF is helping reconstruct the damaged buildings in Beirut and aid Lebanese people across the country. They have delivered close to 20 shipments of PPE, nutrition supplies, and other hygiene necessities. They have also provided psycho-social first aid to children affected, along with caregivers that offer health referrals and counseling.

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has proposed a fundraising appeal called Li Beirut, or “For Beirut.” The purpose of this fundraising is to reconstruct schools and museums that were affected by the blast. This proposal has the potential to help many children and adolescence retain their right to education and to move up in their economic class.

Anna Hoban
Photo: Pixabay

Sub-Saharan Africa and UNICEF
The Sub-Saharan Africa region includes 48 countries which together hold to close to 1 billion humans. Unfortunately, the region has problems regarding education among its citizens: it has the largest number of school-aged children who do not receive a daily education. About 33 million of the 61 million children who are out of school globally live in Sub-Saharan Africa. One organization is distributing free tablets and free online course materials to alleviate Sub-Saharan Africa’s education problems. Unicaf is an online and in-seat university that is growing in popularity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Unicaf is fighting to provide hope for a better future with education for children across the region.

How Online Learning Compares to Classroom Learning

Since many children never attend school, later in life, they may choose to take online classes to further their education as adults. Drawbacks of online education range from distractions to a lack of social interaction to less instructor feedback. Studies suggest that students who struggle with in-class learning will struggle more in the online platform.

Direct Benefits of Online Learning

While students may find curriculum challenging in an online setting, Unicaf has alleviated the burden of finding adequate technology for course requirements. Students have the luxury of free study notes provided to them all day every day on the university classroom webpage. The ability to register for a degree program is easy and student learning is affordable for learners as well.

In-Home Education Makes Life Safer

The price tag and distance of the school determines the annual out-of-school student proportions in Sub-Saharan Africa and Unicaf. Research implies that typically, more advanced education leads to increases in earnings. Online education has removed the haunting reality for many students who have conflicts outside of their homes which makes it dangerous to travel.

What Makes Online Universities Successful

Common themes such as the lack of travel time for education seem to spill over while researching the benefits of online learning for Sub-Saharan Africa and Unicaf. Websites also specify how online education allows individuals to maintain high paying careers while attempting career advancement with loftier degrees. It appears that online programs’ top sellers are courses that have a full 24 hours of sections to choose from.

Online Education Explained from a Customer Support Contractor

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Customer Support Contractor Juliette Rice confirmed that indeed, the University of Massachusetts’s Online (UMass Online) program is also widely accessible. According to Miss Rice, when students enroll in the online program for an education, they often have some life experience and they are more intentional. These intentional students can complete their chosen degree paths on their own time and they also endure less travel. Student demographics range from half of the students being first-time students (ages 18-22) to half of the students being non-traditional students (the ages are varied in the 30 and 40s).

Juliette made it clear that students enroll in courses that require involvement which varies every week. Although in most cases an online course mirrors its on-campus counterpart in terms of the subject matter covered and homework and research, studies have indicated that online students do spend more time on their coursework. This is due in part to the student’s enthusiasm for participating in class discussions. The online option of learning is very impressive for individuals who would like a higher paying job. While the diploma ensures higher wages, students do not necessarily have to complete fieldwork. Juliette said higher-tier degrees (Masters and Ph.D.s) require that an individual already have a prior degree such as a bachelor’s.

Unicaf Staff Desires Graduates Who Will Engage Communities

While designating students as graduates, Unicaf staff expects and hopes to achieve a position of dominance in Sub-Saharan Africa. Unicaf staff would like to think of the students it prepares as being hard-working and involved in their perspective fields of study. The university’s staff would also like to produce a learning spirit in its students that causes them to contribute to public knowledge in Sub-Saharan Africa and Unicaf.

Unicaf staff not only hold high expectations for their students but it also sets high expectations for the organization’s conduct and global impact. Additionally, it aims to produce new and applicable scientific knowledge through engaged doctors. The staff also wants to place the materials the university uses back into production through recycling. Last but not least, it hopes to make high-school graduates computer literate in order to better prepare graduates for the workforce.

The Unicaf University Conglomerate

Accreditation is a big deal throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and Unicaf has multiple accreditations for the degrees it offers. Unicaf has boasted that it has granted scholarships to need-based applicants totaling in the range of $100 million. While Unicaf looks to become the most dominant tertiary institute in Sub-Saharan Africa, the university is a part of a conglomerate of 156 different countries with a large number of students, some of who are able to come full circle and teach at the university level themselves.

Technology That Powers Online Education

While some students come full circle and become teachers at the university level, the reality is that this may not have been possible for them without the ability to learn on a virtual platform. The ability for students to learn anytime or in any place allows them to forget about the wars breaking out around them and focus on becoming the solution to the problems they see. Students can trust that their courses have the most up-to-date technology with features such as video and the ability to have conference calls. Students at Unicaf are always one click away from a better tomorrow.

– DeAndre’ Robinson
Photo: Flickr

eLearning Can Help Developing Countries
Education is a human right and a basic need that children and adults alike do not always receive in developing countries. In 1820, only 12 percent of the people in the world could read. By 2016, the percentages reversed and only 14 percent of the world population was illiterate. However, in countries like Niger, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the rate of literacy is below 30 percent. With eLearning or electronic learning, these countries might be able to hope for a better future and potentially change their country’s path into a better economy and education system. Here is some information about how eLearning can help developing countries.

eLearning and its Benefits

eLearning is a form of learning through electronic devices like computers, tablets or any other electronic device that one can connect to the internet. Essentially, it is education online. 

eLearning can help developing countries because it is not only incredibly adaptable but also cost-effective as it removes the need for buying printed course materials. It also helps improve performance and productivity as it gives the user flexibility to learn at their own pace as they can repeat lectures as many times as they desire. It also facilitates students by cutting the transport factor when countries struggle with public transport and other logistics.

The Department of Higher Education and Training in South Africa said that it has committed itself to “an expansion of online resources” for more colleges and universities to adapt to and reach rural communities so students study and learn at a time and place convenient for them. There are 14.8 million people without access to transport in rural areas.

eLearning is also environmentally friendly. In fact, it consumes 90 percent less power and has generated 85 percent less CO2 emissions compared to onsite education.

Costs of eLearning

However, while eLearning has many benefits for developing countries, it also comes at a cost. The biggest setback is that some developing countries cannot adapt to eLearning due to the lack of access to high-speed internet, trained IT personnel or access to electrical power.

Another setback is that governments need to approve and adapt their education system to deploy eLearning, which relies heavily on investing. According to Market Research, some states in Africa have been investing heavily in eLearning, growing at a rate of 15 percent per year.

South Africa has the largest open distance eLearning institution, The University of South Africa, with a student headcount of over 300,000. In 2011, 91 percent of its students were from South Africa.

UNESCO and other GNO’s initiatives have been aiding countries to obtain access to the internet to be able to utilize eLearning. Senegal and Zambia should grow up to 30 percent in the developing and deployment of eLearning. 

India and Latin America are Catching Up

With a population of over 1.2 billion in India, the customer size should grow from 370 million to 500 in 2020.  Another factor of this growth is that eLearning has also reached rural areas, promoting India’s economical and educational growth, booming the market.

One can greatly attribute much of this to India’s government work on promoting online sources and eLearning. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said that eLearning is one of the “key tools for imparting education.”

According to Business Wire, Latin America is expecting to create revenues of $3 billion by 2023, a growth of more than 4 percent in the use of eLearning.

Countries like Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Argentina have adopted eLearning and overall, revenues should reach $2.2 billion and are growing at an annual rate of 14.6 percent. The increase in these percentages of eLearning use has also been possible with the help of the increasing rise in the use of smartphones and the exchange of audio and text-based applications.

From this revenue, Brazil has been investing in eLearning to adapt it into the educational curriculum, and now 51 percent of institutions utilize eLearning. Overall, technology and innovation are at the forefront of investments in Brazilian schools.

 With the help of governments and NGOs, eLearning can help developing countries by helping education reach children and adults alike. Subsequently, this could aid the growth of country’s economies and education systems with eLearning as a key tool as more and more countries adapt to online resources, adding themselves to the eLearning market.

– Merlina San Nicolás Leyva
Photo: Flickr