As South Africa bids goodbye to Youth Month, it’s a good time to evaluate how the country, and Africa as a whole, is faring when it comes to educating its young people.
Considering that, according to the Business of Education in Africa report, there are still around 30 million children in sub-Saharan Africa that do not even have access to education, it’s safe to say we have a long way to go.
As a global community we should be aiming for the same standard of education globally.
The question is – how do we deliver on this expectation?
I firmly believe that teachers will prove to be the true heroes of our story. It’s true that technology has a critical role to play in helping us to build teaching capacity, but it is by no means the golden ticket to success, it will simply be the mechanism for driving it.
Tech is not the answer – it’s the enabler
While there are those who believe that technology will replace teachers over time, I would have to disagree for the simple reason that people learn from other people – not robots.
Teaching demands a great deal more than simply standing in front of a group of children and speaking at them for five hours a day. It involves understanding the individual needs of those children so that they can develop into better learners. It also requires a complex understanding of the emotional state of the children in the classroom. These are aspects of learning which technology simply can’t deliver.
While teachers play a critical role in the success of our classrooms, they are in many ways still learners themselves. With this in mind, Mwabu believes it’s important to create a safe space in which teachers have access to helpful resources and feel comfortable asking questions.
The Department of Education recently admitted that 5 139 teachers in South Africa are either underqualified or not qualified at all, making it evident that we need to provide teachers with as much support as possible throughout their learning process. More specifically, we need to work closely with each individual teacher to help them understand what success looks like.
For this reason Mwabu introduces its products into schools alongside The Mwabu Academy, which serves as a centre for excellence when it comes to developing and supporting teachers. Through the Academy, teachers are involved in continuous learning to help them make the most of Mwabu’s products.
The Mwabu Academy is also in the process of developing an interconnected network of teachers, learners and parents who offer long-term support to one another through the sharing of best practice.
We want to on-board as many people in the world of education as possible – not just teachers involved in Mwabu schools. It’s a concept which not only significantly benefits teachers but parents as well.
While teachers are a pivotal cog in the education wheel, they aren’t the only one and naturally, we can’t ignore the need for great learning resources and infrastructure.
But we do need to make sure that we aren’t so focused on buying shiny new equipment that we force teachers to make use of that technology simply because it forms part of a greater agenda.
Instead, we need to ask what that technology is actually being used for and how it is helping us achieve our learning objectives.
We also need to ask why, instead of working towards a scenario in which children are able to bring their own devices to school, we are incurring additional costs by investing in new technology.
The emphasis should rather be on investing in really rich content to be used on those devices. When it comes to Mwabu, the focus has always been on developing tailored content of exceptional quality rather than the platform on which that content is delivered. Our enriched learning material covers a full range of learning objectives. Each section is comprehensive, providing example after example in order to truly guide learners. Ultimately, the key will be to find a balance between the education environment that is overly saturated with technology and the one that avoids technology altogether. Very often education swings between these points – we need to find an effective equilibrium between the two.
It’s critical that we get this right. There are very few industries that will play a part in shaping Africa’s future, but education is one of them.
Justin Reilly is the CEO of ground-breaking EdTech company, Mwabu. He will be sharing his thoughts on best practice in education at EduWeek, which will be held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg between July 12 and 13.