Kenyan School Pilots Mobile Technology in the Classroom

NtugiGroup 91The newly developed Power of M-Learning Project aims to improve academic performance in Kenyan primary schools by using 3G enabled tablets to deliver the newly digitized Kenyan curriculum. The project is currently being piloted by 250 students and 35 teachers in Nairobi’s Embakasi Garrison Primary School.

The pilot program was developed collaboratively to address the specific challenges facing Kenyan schools. Students and teachers are using solar powered tablets, making the program sustainable for many schools with limited or no access to electricity. 3G wireless technology provides access to the eLimu platform, which was developed by two Kenyan women to specifically support youth in Kenya. The eLimu application contains content from all 6 Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) subject areas and uses games, songs, 3D animations, and quizzes to encourage student engagement.

The Power of M-Learning Project aims to address the challenge of teacher shortages in the area, where the teacher to student ratio has grown to 1:56. The tablets will make learning more personalized and will allow for more individual feedback for students.

Limited access to resources has traditionally made learning difficult in Kenya.  Typically, three pupils share a Kiswahili, English, and Mathematics textbook. The project aims to create a sustainable solution by using digital resources.  Attendance has also traditionally been a problem. In many districts, 4 out of 10 students miss school daily. The new  digital platform for learning is designed to increase student engagement and improve attendance rates.

The project was developed in partnership with Bboxx Kenya, eLimu, iHub Research, Safaricom, and Motorolla in collaboration with the Kenya Ministry of Education. It is expected to be replicated in other public schools to complement the controversial laptop program being instituted by the government.

Nivi Mukherjee, co-founder of eLimu, explained the rationale behind their approach. “When you’re showing children examples that they can’t easily relate to, part of their brain is distracted. So when we’re talking about fractions, we don’t use a pizza as an example, we use a chapatti. We also follow the national curriculum, so this content is specifically geared towards Kenyan youth.”

Creative Commons LoveNtugiGroup on




Bangladesh’s Political Turmoil Takes a Toll on Test Scores

 バングラデシュのダッカのスラム街“Hartals,” or strikes, have been a common feature of Bangladesh’s political scene since its birth. Hartals often involve violence in the form of damaging private property such as cars, trains, or buses, and therefore result in a virtual shutdown of transportation and commerce. Although public schools remain open during strikes, attendance is low because many students are unwilling to take the risk of travelling. Private English-medium schools shut down during strikes, taking significant time away from the school year.

Not only do strikes take away valuable school hours, the uncertainty and constant reshuffling of exam schedules negatively impacts students’ ability to prepare. A student from Monipur High School and College stated, “our syllabus could not be completed because of the hartals and blockade programmes and now the political programmes are hampering our last minute preparations.” The impact can already be seen in the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) results in 2013, which have dropped more than five percentage points. The combined pass rate also decreased 4.37 percentage points.

International exams such as the O’ and A’ Levels, which follow a global schedule, have been rescheduled or postponed at least nine times since January 2013, often at unusual hours such as midnight. In certain cases, consecutive hartals have resulted in cancelled exam dates, meaning students would have to wait at least six months before the next exam date. Parents and guardians are frustrated and worried about their childrens’ performance, and their prospects of admissions to national and international universities. A group of parents recently submitted a memorandum to the opposition party, demanding them not to call hartals on exam days.

Recent years have seen a marked increase in the number of hartals, with 173 days of shutdown in the period between 2001 and 2006. 2013 also saw a record number of strikes as it was a pre-election year. The recent election has been marred with controversy, with a boycott from the opposition party and a record low turnout. It has resulted in declarations of indefinite blockades and continued strikes, which threaten to weaken not only the economy, but the education system.

Creative Commons Love: Kimma_labo on

In Pakistan, a Hero Gives His Life for His Classmates’ Right to Education

Pakistan Disaster Relief On January 6th, a student named Aitzaz Hasan, 15, prevented a suicide bomber from attacking his school, saving the lives of nearly 2,000 of his fellow students. It is reported that the suicide bomber was aged 20 to 25, and approached the school dressed in uniform. A student spotted a detonator on him and ran, but Hasan confronted the assailant who set off the bomb, killing both of them on the spot.

The Government High School Ibrahimzai was the only one in the Shia-dominated area. In fact, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni group, took responsibility for the attack, indicating that it was motivated by sectarian differences between the dominant Sunni sect of Islam and the minority Shia group. Suicide bombings are on the rise all over the world, and have increased from an annual average of 35 in the 1980s to an average of 98 in 2003. The frequency of these attacks have increased particularly in Pakistan due to years of violence and war in neighboring Afghanistan, which have pushed a generation of immigrants toward extremism.

Sectarian violence, extremism, and political instability create monumental challenges for children in Pakistan, and the case of Hasan and his classmates is only one example. Hasan’s bravery and his community’s recognition shows that the majority of people in Pakistan today are fighting a battle for basic rights, such as education. The principal of the school stated, “the attack targeted education and I am surprised neither the federal nor the provincial government functionary has visited the family. Their silence is condemnable.” The International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) declared a global bravery award for Hasan. It was also later reported that Hasan would be given the “Sitara-e-Shujaat,” which is Pakistan’s highest award for bravery.

Hasan is seen as a hero and martyr among his classmates and community. His grieving father stated, “My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children.”

Creative Commons Love: Shaun Metcalfe on

Dominican Republic Invests in Climate Education

Dominican Republic

Many teachers in the Dominican Republic  are taking the initiative to enroll in courses in climate change, all in an effort to educate their students. The Dominican Council on Climate Change has launched privately funded climate diploma courses that teachers and government officials can enroll in. In addition to this, they have launched another education initiative to train 200 teachers in climate change. The Dominican Republic’s Minister of Education is now considering making climate change a part of DR’s school curriculum.

The DR is a nation greatly threatened by climate change. According to a study conducted by the Dominican Institute for Integral Development (IDDI) this summer,  the Caribbean country is the seventh most vulnerable country in the world. However, most Dominicans are not aware of these dire conditions. IDDI’s Evaydée Pérez says, “One of the most acute challenges we face in our country today is the low level of knowledge about almost any kind of topic linked to climate change and its consequences.” Indhira De Jesus, from The Nature Conservatory, a sponsor of the climate education program, says, “ We have big deficits in the field of climate education. Only 5.9% of people in the region have access to reliable information on climate change and its consequences.” Moises Alvarez, the National Coordinator of UN CC:Learn, a climate education initiative sponsored by the UN, says, “In the long run, no strategy against climate change can work if the public is not sufficiently educated or informed.” Many Dominican leaders of climate change education believe that local decision-makers and government officials need to know more about climate change and its consequences in order to tackle the problems this Caribbean nation is faced with.

Many teachers have enrolled in these classes and have found them very beneficial. Yndira Rodriquez, who has spent 192 hours in the past few months—including weekends and free time—to learn about climate change, believes that her new knowledge will help her students. She says, “I’ve learned so much—everything from cartography to the various effects of climate change on our environment to pedagogical concepts on how to teach what I’ve learned here.” She continues in saying that this knowledge will help to change the future education system; she plans to set up a “green school” where children and adolescents can learn about the environment and how to protect it best. She continues, “If we start when they’re young, they can bring that message home with them and in turn educate others—and that would be a completely sustainable campaign.”

Creative Commons LoveZadi Diaz on

Can Project Phoenix Help Libya’s Children?

Child with his mother inside a bombed Misrata buildingProject Phoenix promises to develop mobile classrooms in Libya as part of an initiative to provide educational resources to children throughout the country. Launched by American IT professional Tommy Jordan and Northumbria University professor Dr. Gill Gillespie, this program seeks to have an immediate impact on Libya’s children by providing students with a place to learn and the technological resources with which to do it.

Initially, Jordan and Gillespie planned to work with the Libyan government to rebuild schools. When this plan fell through, they developed the idea of using empty shipping containers as portable schools that could hold up to 12 students. These self-powered facilities will be outfitted with desks, lighting, electricity, air conditioning, and technology in the form of tablets.

According to Dr. Gillespie “what could be a better way of getting education without having to start from the bottom and rebuilding schools which would involve going through the government and would take a long time.” Project Phoenix will be implemented within a matter of months and will seek to avoid the complexities of bureaucracy.

In February 2013, a nationwide school assessment determined that the revolution damaged approximately 40 percent of the nation’s schools. Investigators also found that many schools experience overcrowding, a lack of basic facilities (bathrooms, running water, waste disposal, etc) and inadequate teaching materials.

In response to these findings, UNICEF and the Libyan government signed an agreement to work together to improve the country’s basic education system. This will involve the implementation of various policies to support the sustainable development of an effective educational system throughout Libya.

Tommy Jordan proclaims that “our plan was without politics,” but this statement raises several important questions about how best to provide developmental aid in a situation such as this. How can Project Phoenix succeed in improving basic education throughout Libya without integrating this work into other ongoing projects by collaborating with the Libyan government, local organizations and communities? Can Project Phoenix’s quick-fix approach support ongoing efforts to reform Libya’s educational system or will it hinder them? And what are the potential consequences of ignoring the realities of Libyan politics?

Creative Commons Love: Ben Sutherland on

Mexico’s Teachers Protest Education Overhaul

School Friends

Mexico’s teachers are protesting a federal proposal to overhaul Mexico’s education system. Their protests are causing chaos in Mexico City and are forcing the state and federal governments to reconsider the bill.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s decision to focus on educational reforms stems from his desire to build up the Mexican middle class. Currently, Mexico is ranked last in standardized test scores in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD. Additionally, there is extreme corruption present in the school system: teachers buy, sell, and inherit their positions; additionally, removing poorly performing teachers is very difficult, even amongst allegations of sexual and substance abuse. The union system in Mexico is very strong and also full of corruption. This year, Elba Esther Gordillo, the leader of the large National Education Worker’s Syndicate, or SNTE, was arrested and failed on embezzlement charges.

In light of these events, Nieto and the Secretary of Education have proposed a bill that requires more frequent evaluation, stricter employment practices, and better mechanisms for firing poorly performing teachers.

The teachers protesting these reforms argue that these reforms are a disguise to begin privatizing the Mexican school system. Floriberto Alejo, a 50-year-old teacher from Oaxaca state, who came to Mexico City to protest, said that this overhaul attacks a teacher’s seniority, and “this evaluation is disguise to start firing…peers.” He believes that making the evaluations–which will now take place every four years–more difficult will fire many public school teachers and force parents to move to private schools.

The protests have been led by two nationals teachers’ unions, the National Education Syndicate (SNTE) and the National Educational Workers’ Union (CNTE), and are taking place in Mexico City. Around 20,000 strikers are blocking the main roads in Mexico City, and 4,000 have blocked the main roads to the international airport. They plan to cease their march only when lawmakers agreed to sit down with union representatives to negotiate.

The protests have shut down 24,000 schools in five impoverished states across southern Mexico. School was scheduled to start the week of August 20th; however, two millions students have not returned to school because their teachers are striking.

The teachers also believe that the proposals only attack the teachers and not the real problem: the long-term inadequacy of budgets and extreme corruption in the school systems.

The President claims that the teachers are misunderstanding the proposal. He says, “The education reform will give them opportunities that they don’t have today. The reform benefits Mexico’s teachers because it is designed to give them job stability, clear rules and certainty for ascending within the national education system.”

However, there has been no direct confrontation from either the President or the Mexican Secretary of Education. Edna Jaimie, director of México Evalúa, believes that both the state and federal governments are choosing not to heighten the conflict.

Lawmakers have removed the provision that creates an evaluation requirement from the bill in response to the protests. Many believe that this will make the law ineffective and undo the progress made by the bill.

Creative Commons Love: rageforst aesthir on

Bridging the Gap Between Indigenous Education and Western Science in Bolivia

Colourful chicks

In Bolivia, a country which has one of the biggest maternal mortality rates at 190 deaths per 100,000 births, healthcare workers are making strides to bring cultural practices into the delivery room to give a more comfortable experience for expectant mothers. When hospital workers become better educated in cultural norms and practices, the MMR could lower with the possibility of giving babies a better chance at survival.

Previously, expectant mothers may have felt fearful to go to a hospital when in labor. However, with this intercultural approach of bridging Western techniques with familiar cultural practices, indigenous techniques are slowly becoming more accepted. As one hospital leader describes, “It’s a dramatic change in a country that for centuries excluded indigenous people and indigenous knowledge from ‘official’ spaces like schools and hospitals.”

These changes include giving space to cook food or prepare tea, wooden floors instead of the traditional tiles (which are often cold), and the use of traditional midwives.

In time statistics will show the accurate outcome of this innovative approach to hospital care. It is, however, long overdue, and may help young mothers feel more at ease in the future.

Creative Commons Love: James Peacock on

Floods Shut Down Schools Across Kenya

Rain riverSchools in several regions across Kenya have been closed due to heavy rains and flooding. Many schools are inaccessible, owing to washed out roads, and others have been completely destroyed.

Seasonal heavy rains beginning in April have caused widespread flash floods and mudslides. Several rivers have burst their banks. An estimated 90 people have been killed, and 100,000 have been displaced and are in need of shelter, food, and medical supplies. In response, the Kenyan Red Cross and Plan International have donated humanitarian aid and set up displaced persons’ camps.

A few schools have reopened despite continued rains, but in many regions the situation is too unstable, infrastructure is damaged, and pupils have been evacuated. Schools that remain standing have become temporary shelters for displaced families.

For many Kenyan students this comes as yet another disruption to the school year. Dozens of schools in Baringo were shut down several months ago due to regional raids by bandits. Similar attacks closed schools in Bungoma and Busia counties. In the Tana River region violent community clashes closed several schools for the entire year.

Mahdi Mohamed, speaking as the Kenya Red Cross head of disaster operations, said that the school closures would “contribute to the high illiteracy levels already existing” in affected regions. Because heavy rains and flooding occur yearly, Plan International is partnering with the Kenyan government to work towards a permanent solution for families in these areas.

Heavy rains are expected to continue across the country through June.

Creative Commons Love: Grenouille O_O on

North Korean Schools Exempt from Japan’s Tuition-Free Program

The Japanese ministry will revise an ordinance to exclude North Korean schools from a tuition-free program. As a result, the 10 schools that applied for the program will lose their eligibility.

Rural North KoreaAccording to Education Minister Shimomura Hakuban, the North Korean schools are in conflict with the Fundamental Law of Education, which states that educational programs must be free of political influence.

The decision was made in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear test which threatened the United States. The action seemed to demonstrate that the country’s issues will not be resolved anytime soon. Kanagawa Governor Kuroiwa Yuji stated, “The action is also a challenge to the Japan-U.S. security structure. This cannot be overlooked.”

Before the government’s decision, the ministry appealed to the public as to whether or not the ordinance should be revised. Out of the 30,510 public comments collected, 52% supported the revision while 46% opposed it.

Those that opposed the ordinance revision have been passionate about voicing their opinions. This past January, Aichi prefectures filed a lawsuit demanding tuition-free Korean schools.  The following month, Korean school students organized a rally in Osaka.

At the rally, one mother of a Korean high school student said, “To sincerely address this issue is my responsibility as a mother.”

Kato Makoto, a government liaison in education,  noted “North Korea’s actions should not be condoned, but sanctions against the country and support to ensure children’s right to learning should be separated. It is truly irrelevant for the prefecture to impose sanctions against children.”

Creative Commons Love: Joseph Ferris III on

Pakistan: Headteacher Killed Following the Murder of Shahnaz Nazli

Pakistan_1998_001_WFP-Susan_Manuel Following the shooting of Shahnaz Nazli, a 41 year old female school teacher from Pakistan, the international back-lash of condemnation and support seems only to have triggered more attacks. Miss Nazli was murdered as she made her way to school last week, and lost her life only 200 meters from her classroom. Several of her students had the misfortune to witness this attack, and were left with irrevocable psychological trauma as a result.

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education,  spoke out publicly against these attacks, which were stimulated by a deeply entrenched social stigma surrounding the education of girls.

Yet the attacks did not end with the death of Shaznaz Nazli. On the morning of the March 30th, as pupils gathered early on Saturday to receive exam results, grenades were hurled into the Baldia Town school causing carnage. The Principal, Abdur Rasheed, died on the spot. The perpetrators are thought to be from TPP, a Taliban terrorist sect, as their campaign of violence against girls’ education moves from the tribal areas into one of the country’s largest cities, Karachi.

The global response to these attacks has been swift and strict. Earlier this week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has spoken out against the shooting of Shahnaz Nazli and has given his personal support to teachers persecuted for their advocacy of girls’ education.

Authorities in Pakistan have now been placed under severe pressure to safeguard their educators, students and the general public against this violence.

Creative Commons Love: Peter Casier on