12747 EF: Local Solutions to Complex Educational Challenges in Sub-Saharan African Schools

06/12/2015 @ 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
El Capitan A

Organizers: Sandra Sarmonpal, Hiroo Kato, Kim Welch
Presenters: Moses Okumu, Phillip Egessa, Traci Garff, Antha Holt, Janice Samuels, Eric Hamilton

Conditions of schools in Low-Income Countries (LICs) are well documented: large class sizes, poor engagement, high dropout rates, and a shortage of materials and qualified teachers compounded by the challenges of extreme poverty. Typically missing from this dialog are the voices of the people who teach and learn in these schools every day. This panel discussion gives voice to those teachers and students in Sub-Saharan schools through two types of digital media: documentary footage from three Ugandan schools, and interviews of teachers and students captured during their involvement in digital media workshops. These interviews demonstrate the potential of digital media to empower teachers and students in these communities. The specific approach this session will share involves leveraging the power of the global maker movement in the context of formal school learning, by which teachers and students collaborate to co-create media artifacts for teaching, especially short videos. This panel includes two phases. First, we provide background using documentary footage of Ugandan students and teachers describing how large class sizes (as large as 120), a lack of resources, and limited availability of quality teachers affect their daily classroom experiences; and second, we show evidence from our research that demonstrates how co-created digital media can improve these conditions and alter classroom dynamics for learning.

Background. In 1997, Uganda’s government began a universal primary education initiative which led to an increase in enrollment from 2.8 million in 1997 to 7.6 million in 2004 (Nishimura, Yamano, & Sasaoka, 2008). This impressive increase led to diminishing quality, primarily due to unmatched infrastructure that resulted in a shortage of resources and teachers. Our footage shows students and teachers describing how these conditions impact their teaching and learning, including the cyclically negative effect of poverty on educational attainment. Efforts at poverty alleviation require unsustainable levels of support, and often leave communities with less self-sufficiency and greater dependency on external agencies.

Local Solutions. However, technology provides a sustainable path forward. Teachers and students in Uganda and Kenya describe ways that locally produced digital media provides relevancy, increases engagement, promotes agency, and allows the learning environment to more efficiently cater to large class sizes. The system relies on the community to produce curricular resources, strengthening community resourcefulness and ensuring contextual relevancy. This tool empowers both students and teachers to provide solutions for their schools and their communities. Also of note are the locally conceived innovative solutions building on freely available resources. Two examples will be presented: first, an LMS system developed by a Ugandan teacher utilizing WordPress and Facebook, and second, StudyGateway, a repository and personalized learning platform developed by Ugandan social entrepreneurs.

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