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  • In Coast Province, Kenya, learning on digital literacy Apps like Hadithi! is helping young students to make significant gains in school.
    AKDN / Kevin Wanga
Aga Khan Foundation
Embracing ICT to promote literacy

ICT is becoming increasingly central to education policy and practice the world over and offers both opportunities and challenges; a fact fully embraced by UNICEF’s 2018 Raising Learning Outcomes report. Since 2015, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) has been working in partnership with Dubai Cares and the governments of Kenya and Uganda to navigate these challenges and realise the opportunities ICT offers to maximise the power of ICT for school management, teacher professional development, and creating impactful, inclusive teaching and learning environments to improve children’s learning.

Recognising the critical importance of foundational literacy skills to the future educational and life-long learning of all boys and girls, AKF partnered with eLimu, a Nairobi based EdTech social enterprise, to develop a digital literacy App with both mother-tongue and English children’s stories. To date, over 200 children’s stories have been co-developed, written by teachers, narrated by actors and illustrated by artists from across East Africa, and uploaded onto the newly developed App. Each story is accompanied by a set of interactive digital activities and questions, based on the “Reading to Learn” pedagogy, designed to promote literacy skills. There has been a surge in interest by other partners in eLimu’s Android App to adapt these stories in a variety of new contexts including Somalia, Uganda and South Africa.

“The stories are about their experiences.”

  • Josephine Chandiru, Mvara Junior Primary School, Uganda

While this App has enabled young learners to access user-friendly, high quality and relevant digital content, teacher capability is also a core consideration when seeking to maximise the positive impact of ICT in children’s learning. To enable teachers to use this content effectively in their classrooms, AKF designed and delivered a professional development programme that helps them develop their knowledge, skills and competencies in ICT literacy and effectively integrate digital content into their everyday teaching and learning practices. This included a set of four distance learning support videos specifically targeting the self-identified needs of teachers. Further to this, AKF co-developed with teachers an SMS “Community of Practice” platform to enable them to collaborate with, learn from and support each other with colleagues near and far. A large majority of teachers (87%) reported being very satisfied with this ability to quickly interface with colleagues and implement new ideas in their classrooms.

“The SMS platform has increased my ability to deliver the lessons more effectively. Can you imagine that I can easily get feedback for challenging teacher issues by a click on my phone?”

  • Key Resource Teacher, Koboko District, Uganda

By April 2019, AKF had worked with 2,400 teachers across 175 schools and reached over 180,000 boys and girls. An impact report demonstrated how the quality of ICT teaching practice improved significantly over the three-year period with the percentage of teachers deemed to be effectively integrating ICT in the classroom increasing from 32% in 2016 to 68% by the end of 2018. Combined with the digital literacy App and content, the number of fluent readers in Kenya rose from just 0.1% to 24% in the same period. But beyond these quantifiable gains in children’s literacy levels, children, teachers and communities alike are more energised and engaged with the advent of ICT, and while challenges will persist, the opportunities are there to be harnessed for all children, everywhere.

“Boys and girls of primary one and two are so effective in computer applications, amazingly they support upper primary students. Parents’ enthusiasm to visit the school has greatly increased and there is a significant reduction in absenteeism for both teachers and learners.”

  • Head Teacher, Arua District, Uganda