The education sector across Sub-Saharan Africa has faced myriad challenges over the past 20 years, not least of which has been the recent disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indeed, Southern Africa has the highest level of educational exclusion globally, with an estimated 97 million children out of school. But the question remains, how can technology transform this space?
Traditionally, Africa has been an incredibly innovative continent when it comes to disseminating education materials. In the 80s and 90s, television and radio programmes were developed that assisted learners with studies in their homes. Even today, radio continues to be a prolific and primary medium on the continent, especially when it comes to educational materials.
The rise of the device
But thanks to the rise of mobile devices, this is slowly changing. Africa has more mobile devices than both Europe and the USA combined, with 700 million mobile phones across the continent. Not only is this a high penetration rate, but for both teachers and pupils, a mobile device is a familiar object with which to interact.
There are many brilliant start-ups working across Africa to disseminate educational material – including textbooks – for free to school-age children. Not only does the pervasiveness of mobile devices increase access to these materials, but it also assists in dropping the cost of delivery to end-users.
While mobile devices are ubiquitous, there still remains a great divide when it comes to internet access on the continent. But the players in EdTech cleverly sidestep this challenge using zero-rated applications, text message services and voice services to get materials where they need to go. Some of these players include the likes of Eneza Education (in Ghana and Ivory Coast), M-Shule (Kenya) and Snapplify, right here in South Africa.
Digital enrolment empowers parents
Besides such platforms, technology can also be leveraged in more traditional schooling practices and systems. For those privileged to access private education, digital enrolment is nothing new, but for the overburdened public sector, a digital enrolment system can make a massive impact in ensuring learners can access public education institutions.
At Boxfusion, we recently partnered with the Gauteng Education Department to roll out the implementation of an e-registration system for Grades 1 and Grades 8 in 2021. This ePortal, hosted on Azure, was developed and implemented in just under 8 weeks. The result being that 230 000 learners were able to register to attend school this year.
Transforming back-office functions
A third, and very critical way that technology can transform education is within the back-office processes of education departments themselves. With thousands of submissions across departments on a weekly basis, and hundreds of staff to manage, using paper-based processes only creates delays, backlogs and frustrations.
Currently, the Smartgov for Administration eLeave and eSubmission modules are being implemented across the entire education department in one of South Africa’s 9 provinces. Once this project is complete, over 60 000 staff members will be able to use it daily to execute their critical government functions. By using this technology to improve output and increase efficiency, the state of education in South Africa is improving as a whole.
At Boxfusion, as one of the public sector technology leaders in the country, we believe in the power of education. That’s why we’re constantly working on solutions like our ePortal and Smartgov for Admin modules, so that the state of education in our country can continue to improve and provide benefit for all.