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No Internet? Just Use Cell Phones

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Learning 203S0 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary.

In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how mobile technology is making a difference in Ugandan school systems.

Image © mejymejy

by Geoffrey Ssembajjwe, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor

Access to information can transform lives and livelihoods. This is particularly true in places where access to information is hindered by economic, geographic, or social barriers. 

Today, the rapidly growing reach of cell phones and other modern communications technologies holds tremendous potential to overcome some of these obstacles.

A school system that runs on cell phones

Creatively and innovatively including teachers, parents, pupils, local leaders and local education authorities in school governance can go a long way in creating schools where children actually learn. 

It is widely acknowledged that good quality schools can only be created through inclusion of all stakeholders in school governance. But, how you can effectively include all the stakeholders in the governance of schools without burdening the system?

An effective (and cheap) solution that allows for participatory school governance as well as improved school administrative systems and educational programming in developing nations is mobile technology.


Image © kiwanja

Showing up with SMS

One area where this could prove especially vital is in monitoring school attendance for both students and teachers.

At any given time, 27% of Ugandan youth are not in school, and a lack of follow-up on students who are missing classes by teachers and school administrators does little to encourage attendance. 

High rates of teacher absenteeisum (20-30% in some districts) costs the Ugandan government the equivalent of $30 million (USD) annually for services that are not delivered.

Attendence can be easily managed using mobile phone-based technology by all stakeholders and leads to greater accountability in the system. And that's it’s just one segment in the school administrative system which can effectively incorporate such technology.

The list of uses for mobile phone technology is practically endless and can prove important in changing school systems for the better with minimal resources, especially in areas that don’t have reliable access to phone lines and the Internet through traditional means. 

Simply creating a pathway for information between the schools system and parents will give parents and the wider community the ability to become more involved in what is happening locally in education.

Using this novel system for communication and organization can transform schools in the developing world by 2030.

Geoffrey Ssembajjwe works for Plan International in Uganda setting up school administrative systems and educational programming that use only mobile phones.