02.03.2018 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

Educational Technology for Early Learning in Rural Tanzania

Beneficiary children in the XPRIZE Project learning together using the tablets installed with educational software in Kovukovu Hamlet

UNESCO and WFP in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) and the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG), is currently implementing the XPRIZE Project for the Promotion of Early Learning through Innovative Technologies in Tanzania. The overall aim of this project is to improve literacy and numeracy skills for children in remote and underprivileged communities through innovative technologies.

On 27 February 2018, the National Steering Committee whose role is to provide overall guidance in the implementation of the Global Learning XPRIZE project visited the beneficiary communities of the XPRIZE Project in Muheza and Pangani Districts. In attendance were the Tanga Regional Administrative Secretary, Ms. Zena Said; the UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa, who is also the Officer in charge for the UNESCO Dar es Salaam Office, Ms. Ann Therese Ndong Jatta; WFP Representative in the United Republic of Tanzania, Mr. Michael Dunfold; the Commissioner of Education, Dr. Edicome Shirima, on behalf of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Leonard Akwilapo, who is the Chairperson of the Committee; and Ms. Elianne Philibert who represents the XPRIZE Foundation.

The field visits enabled the team to see upfront the status of project implementation, whereby visits were made to two hamlets (Vitongoji) in Muheza and Pangani Districts, namely, Kitivo, and Kovukovu. Children were able to demonstrate learning gains and improvements in reading and arithmetic. Furthermore, leadership traits were evident is some of the beneficiary children who shared the learning sessions with their peers.

The team also got an opportunity to visit the solar power charging stations for project, which are centres where the children charge their tablets twice a week. The stations are managed by Village mamas, who monitor the usage of the tablets by the children and also maintain the solar charging stations and the tablets.

The village mamas from the visited hamlets informed the team that they have observed growing interest and motivation in the parents of the beneficiary children to improve their literacy skills. It was mentioned that some parents take time to use the tablets with their children and thus learning in the process.

Furthermore, the village mamas also professed that their roles in the project have given them respect in their communities whereby they are appreciated for the support they give in supporting the children’s learning process. This observation stirred discussion on ways that the XPRIZE Project partners can develop literacy programmes for adults in the beneficiary communities whereby the village mamas would be used as pioneers and facilitators, capitalizing in their experience in the project.

Despite the generally positive observations in the field, the village mamas expressed concerns in the long distances between the children homes and the charging stations, obliging them to walk long distances. This limits their visits to follow-up on the progress of the children who sometimes miss their routing visits to the charging in the stations.

To address these issues provisions have been made to enable children to utilize charging stations in their localities despite the disparities in the type of software installed in their tablets, which otherwise limited them before. Assessments are also in progress to establish distance mapping to ascertain the magnitude of the walking distance to determine the need for extra charging stations to the most challenged children.

Following the field visits, the National Steering Committee meeting was held on 28 February 2018, whereby the progress report for the progress and way forward was discussed and endorsed.

As part of the discussions, a Task Force for the development of an Exit Strategy for the Project was approved, whose first meeting is scheduled for 13 March 2018. This team will be responsible with planning for mainstreaming the project beneficiary children into the formal schooling system after the completion of the test period in 2019. In addition, the Exit Strategy will ensure continuation of usage of tablets and solar stations after the end of field-test in Tanzania.

The envisaged high-level XPRIZE Project launch was also discussed during the National Steering Committee meeting, whereby the Guest of Honour will be the Minister of Education for Tanzania Mainland, Hon. Prof. Joyce Ndalichako. This event aims to promote awareness of the XPRIZE Project to general public, including the high level government structures in the country so as to ensure that the project objective are well understood and the project impact is appropriated by the government.

The XPRIZE Project is an initiative funded by the XPRIZE Foundation, and is implemented in partnership with UNESCO and WFP, and in close collaboration with the MoEST and PO-RALG. The children received tablets in December 2018 and will be tested in their use for 15 months for the purpose of establishing whether or not it is possible for young children to learn reading, writing and arithmetic with no or minimal access to quality basic education.

UNESCO is leading the educational aspects of the field test in collaboration with MoEST and PO-RALG. WFP is managing logistics and ICTs aspects of the field test, including installation of solar power charging stations for the tablets.

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