ICT in education in sub-Saharan Africa: A comparative analysis of basic e-readiness in schools
A new report from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) has found that, despite the development of Information and communications technology (ICT) in education policies, the integration of technology in classrooms across sub-Saharan Africa remains insufficient to meet the needs of the 21st century labour market.
ICT in education is widely accepted as both enabling learning and preparing students for employment in a technology-rich workplace. But in sub-Saharan Africa, barriers – including a lack of effective policies, basic infrastructure (i.e. electricity, Internet, computers and mobile devices), financing and teacher training – mean that the use of ICT in education is still at an embryonic stage in most countries.
The most pervasive barrier is the lack of electricity, especially in remote, rural areas. Computers are more likely to be found in urban schools, where access to electricity and the Internet enable computer-assisted instruction and on-line learning.
Electricity in public educational institutions, in primary and secondary schools, 2013
Click to enlarge the chart
Challenges, however, go beyond the lack of electricity. In several countries very few schools have computers or an Internet connection. For example, in Guinea and Madagascar more than 500 pupils or more on average share a single computer. In other words, time on task using technology is negligible for most children.
Rwanda appears to be a notable exception in the region. Data show the learner-to-computer ratio (LCR) is relatively low at 40:1 in the primary and secondary levels, but access to the Internet remains a significant challenge. Fewer than 6% of primary schools and 18% of secondary schools are connected.
Where the infrastructure exists, secondary schools are more likely to be equipped than primary schools. This is understandable given that in many countries, policies to support ICT integration favour investment in higher levels of education.
In the absence of widespread access to the Internet or a reliable source of electricity, some countries are finding innovative ways to use low-cost community radio combined with mobile telephone text messaging to promote participatory learning. In Liberia, during the Ebola crisis, radio reached children who were unable to attend school in infected areas.
As the report notes, data on ICT in education in the region are sparse. Collecting more and better quality statistics will be a priority in the post-2015 development agenda given the growing role of ICT in education.
In response, the UIS is working with countries to establish appropriate mechanisms to process and report data, and to better measure the impact of technology on the quality of education.