EDC discusses the use of mobile technology, including cellphones and radio, to improve education in Africa. Projects in Zambia and Mali are highlighted, and staff members Rebecca Rhodes, Robert Spielvogel, and Lisa M. Easterbrooks are interviewed.
Using radio to widen the path to educational opportunity in the world’s fragile states was the subject of EDC presentations at The Ninth Working Group meeting on Education for All at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, November 12-14.
Most Somali children have known nothing but war. Said Yasin, who develops educational programs in this African nation, is continually amazed and inspired by students’ unquenchable desire to learn—even under dire circumstances. On a recent visit to the United States, Yasin reflected on the radio-based instruction program that reaches 250,000 children and more than 7,000 teachers.
EDC program staff will develop systems for teacher management and professional development as well as create a rich variety of classroom resources, including Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) programs for Malian children in all grades.
EDC has been awarded a $30 million contract by the U.S. Agency for International Development to direct a broad education reform effort in Mali, reaching 80 percent of primary schools and over 1.5 million children over the next five years.
Armed conflict in Somalia has forced people to flee their homes and has sent many into makeshift housing and camps. Using shortwave radio to reach these people, EDC produces and broadcasts instructional segments on basic reading, math, and life skills such as health and conflict prevention.
It’s not easy to be a student in Somalia, a nation wracked by persistent violence. With 60 percent of residents fleeing Mogadishu, the capital, to live in camps, EDC and local teachers are working to ensure that learning continues. One key strategy is to reach into the camps with a regular schedule of educational radio programs.
“Zanzibar is a small place, and everyone knows everyone,” reflects
EDC’s Suzanne Simard. Recently, she has been spending a lot of time on
this island, part of Tanzania and just off the east coast of Africa.
There, she has worked with the Ministry of Education to pilot models
for the development of Zanzibar’s first-ever system of public
preschools. She and her colleagues are involved in every aspect of
preschool startup—from developing curriculum to training teachers to
distributing chalk and counting cubes.
With 50 percent of students in Malawi dropping out of school
by fifth grade, the Malawian government decided to try a new
approach: it introduced an innovative national curriculum, which
today is rapidly gaining in popularity among teachers and
The director of EDC’s Sudan Radio Service, which broadcasts to that country from Nairobi, Groce had been on the scene during the election as part of a Sudanese voting observation team that included other journalists and government officials. With Sudan’s first national election scheduled for 2009, the team hoped to learn from Kenya’s experience. In February, Groce reflected on the election and its troubled aftermath.
Wisdom “Laddo” Mulefu has become something of a hero at EDC. Depending on who you talk to, he’s the boy who traveled countless miles just to find a school that would enroll him … the boy who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer … the boy whose wholesale love of education blossomed before our very eyes.
From 2001 through 2007, 25 projects and 18 pilot programs have improved education systems in 30 countries around the world. Known collectively as “dot-EDU,” this EDC-led global initiative focused on applying digital and broadcast technologies in ways that improved quality, expanded
access, and enhanced equity.
Across Madagascar, primary
school classrooms once dominated by teacher talk are now buzzing with
the sounds of children learning in groups, singing songs, asking questions, and sharing answers.
children once learned mathematics through recitation and rote
memorization, they now sit together and count with twigs or bottle
caps. French and literacy lessons are transformed as well, with
children building vocabulary skills by reciting poems and creating
their own sentences to share with classmates.
People are singing new songs in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Heard first on the radio and echoed in schoolyards, fields and markets, these songs indicate renewed hope and interest in education for a region that has been severely affected by years of war and instability.
For the third time in as many years, the Bush administration has visited an EDC program overseas. In June, during her multi-nation trip to Africa, First Lady Laura Bush visited two EDC projects, meeting with students and teachers who use EDC radio programs for basic education, life skills, HIV/AIDS prevention, and teacher training. Mrs. Bush, accompanied by her daughter, Jenna, visited schools in Zambia and Mali that use the EDC-created programs. The work is funded by USAID through President Bush’s Africa Education Initiative.