“We have spent only four months at school and within that time, all the things we would have spent a year studying, we have been able to cover in those four months. This has made me question the idea of spending a year in each class” These are the sentiments of a form 4, student who recently returned to school after an 8month shut down of schools in Uganda intended to flatten the COVID Curve.
If there is anything that the pandemic has done, it has been to illuminate certain processes of life that we were yet to realize are obsolete. One such example is the need and frequency for physical contact in order to do transactions among many other things. We have also learned how vital technological/digital innovations are in solving our day today problems.
In Uganda, the lockdown that lasted three months was lifted in phases, with businesses like the transport, construction, food sectors, health and the beneficiaries of those services sighing with relief as life returned to normal. Despite the fact that the education sector is a vital aspect of life, it’s been a year since schools were closed. The Ministry of Education communicated that schools would be opened after clear guidelines for education and solutions towards learning while flattening the curve. The period of deliberation at the Ministry of Education produced solutions like the use of mass media as a form of communicating lessons to students and online learning. However, the solutions haven’t had much traction due to challenges such as affordability, internet access and a lack of inclusivity especially for the rural community. At the moment, only candidate classes are in operation with other classes yet to resume, awaiting direction from the ministry of education.
So far uncertainty hangs in the air about the future of education in Uganda. It’s clear that the move towards online classes for instance will widen the inequality in education owing to issues of internet access. Furthermore there is concern about the quality of education and the ability for students to grasp their lessons without personal contact with the teacher. After interviewing a couple of students who have experienced online learning they have all echoed the difficulty that is in concentrating in a zoom class or even being able to participate. Other students are concerned about the cost of internet.
Student concerns aside, many teachers and people that survive on the school ecosystem are currently out of work and therefore struggling to make ends meet with no source of income.
These concerns exist but we believe that they are not without solutions. We decided to take these problems to our community of brilliant innovators to find out whether they can help. In October 2020, Future Lab, a solution oriented laboratory under The Innovation Village with the support of The Mastercard Foundation, put out a call for solutions towards education.
The call attracted 87 applications that were narrowed down to 10 startups that entered an accelerator program.
Here are some of the 10 solutions that will be pitched at an online Demo Day on the 19th of February 2021.
African School of Innovations Science and Technology
The e2 Young Engineers Programme is an International Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) Company engaged in the provision of educational enrichment STEM programs to children aged between 4 and 15 operating in schools and early childhood education centers across over 52 countries in the world, including Uganda.
Bist101 is a mobile application and website that fosters peer-to-peer learning by offering Career guidance, Notes, and learning videos.
BrainShare is an e-learning and skills development platform that connects learners to quality learning resources like notes, past papers, eBooks as well as remote access to teachers. BrainShare seeks to solve the challenge of limited access to learning resources by students especially during these trying times of COVID-19 which have led to the closure of some schools.
I-labs develops science kits that make learning fun and engaging. Our kits are aimed at teaching children8-15 yrs electronics (hardware building) and coding (software building). Our kits are organized into 3 sections; learn a skill, develop a project, and finally do a creative exercise.
KAINO is an easy-to-use tool that offers premium STEM blended curriculum-aligned early childhood education content to parents for homeschooling their children and teachers in ECD centers in form of lesson guides, which they can use to deliver daily curriculum-aligned lessons to their children using our web and mobile apps.
Node Media Systems
School Desk is an intuitive and interactive e-learning platform that supports learners through digital learning objects, test, grading, and analytics
ThinkPlay is making board games-for-rent to help children learn math and science through play with peers and family. The board games are used as a cost-effective instructional material integrated into a set of game-based learning strategies to offer a conducive, safe, and fun learning environment that increases motivation and interest for learning.
Content creators and distributors of virtual reality kits and accessories. They offer VR facilitated training and consultancy.
Shulesasa is a learning platform designed with a straightforward, team-based approach. Never over-built or one-size-fits-all, Shulesasa delivers the learning experiences communities of learners and teams need to reskill, upskill, learn, and deliver consistent outcomes. Shulesasa has curated courses for teachers to retool to teach online and for anyone to learn skills for the jobs of the future.
NIMARUNGI is solving the problem of education inequality caused by a lack of data leading to uninformed decisions and policies affecting the marginalized youths and children. This is solved through collecting data with the use of Open Data Kit (ODK) which is a free open source, accurate, quick, offline, and at scale data collection tool. More still we use paper surveys in case of phone blackouts, peer, interviews, and other sources to collect data. This data is analyzed and expressed as a response to stakeholders. Nimarungi advises stakeholders on the areas that need more focus, then it proposes for the redirection of funds to the right people which in the end influences informed decision making and policies. Nimarungi goes ahead to make a follow up on the impact caused by the research made, response, and feedback given.
Some of these startups are already doing this work in the community albeit meeting so many challenges, others are struggling to get their curriculums approved amongst other problems surrounding starting an innovation. These startups failing to be supported means inviting the whole iceberg of problems in our education system, whose tip we have glimpsed at in the past year. The failure to support homegrown practical solutions towards education means, inequality in literacy levels that we have worked so hard to raise, it means impoverishing teachers and businesses in the academic sector and ultimately an impoverished new generation that will have been denied access to education due to the problems arising from this pandemic.
We are committed to see that these solutions that could save the future of education are not strangled in the complex web of problems that is why we have brought together the key ecosystem players that are necessary for the survival of these solutions. A panel of judges consisting of key stakeholders in the eco-system will be present at the demo day. The panel will have representatives from the Ministry of Education in Uganda, Arizona State University, Clarke University.
We believe that the future of education will be saved by home grown solutions and so we invite you to the online Demo Day on the 19th of Feb 2021 to listen and perhaps see how to contribute to this future that we need for education.
On the 19th of Feb 2021, The Future Lab together with The Mastercard Foundation, Arizona State University, Clarke University and Delegates from The Ministry of Education will join us as we seek solutions on the Future of Education.
Sign up on this link to attend; http://bit.ly/FoE-Demoday