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Experts call for greater use of technology to address education inequality across the region at Huawei Connect 2021.

2021.10.06

Education scholars, ecosystem partners, government officials and policy makers from 6 different countries representing the education sector attended the 2021 Education round table held by Huawei as part of the Huawei Connect 2021. The roundtable aimed at addressing the inequalities facing the sector and discussing technology solutions across Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. In attendance was Mr. Alfred Cheruiyot, Principal Secretary, State Department for Post Training and Skills Development among other key guests representing Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Bangladesh and China.

Technology has improved the quality of life hugely, but because it is not accessible and used by all those benefits majorly accrue to only those who can afford smart devices and internet, and thus worsened the existing inequalities across the globe. At the peak of the pandemic, for those with access to technology, they could transition to online and remote learning across the globe. Whilst this ensured that learning did not come to a halt altogether, this further contributed to aggravating inequality within the education sector. A vast majority still have no access to electricity, smartphones, computers and connectivity and therefore these factors increased the barriers to education access across various parts of the country.

Whereby private schools often provided live teaching online for their students, students in public schools could just attend recorded lessons on TV or Kenya Education Cloud at best. In reality only 1 in 5 youth accessed learning materials via mobile phones, television, and/or radio. This is according to a recent research by the Presidential Policy and Strategy Unit. The survey also found large variations in usage with 32% of adolescents in Nairobi (the largest city) using mobile phones to access online learning materials prepared by their schools, as well as generic materials provided by the Ministry of Education, but only 12% in Kilifi and 2% in Wajir. That report highlighted various promising practices, including the use of a mobile classroom to reach youth in remote areas, supported by Huawei, UNESCO and government partners

During his remarks, Principal Secretary Mr. Alfred Cheruiyot, reinforced the need to work together to mitigate most of these challenges where children will be able to learn, to achieve results and highlighted the impact of that mobile classroom:  “I want to laud the work done by Huawei, working with the Ministry of Education here in Kenya to make sure we go the way of digital education, which we believe is the way forward, and also coming up with projects such as the DigiTruck to ensure that no learner is left behind especially in the rural areas.”

The experts not only discussed access remotely during the pandemic, but also how to better use technology within schools. This requires building digital skills amongst lecturers and students, and providing the connectivity and devices necessary for institutions of learning. These can transform learning for students, but must be made available to all to reduce risks of increasing inequality.

During the roundtable, Thomas Xu, President Global sales Huawei discussed Huawei’s education solutions that enables innovative teaching methods, access to inclusive educational resources, improved research capabilities and optimized management approach to enhance learning. He highlighted how: “Digitization, automation, 5G, artificial intelligence, big data and IOT are increasingly being applied to various teaching and learning scenarios, accelerating the digital journey of education.”

Inequality in education is detrimental to society. Education is a fundamental and a universal human right and societies should make every effort to sustain it, by any means necessary. Education globally continues to explore new strategies to equip students with skills and knowledge needed to be successful innovators and creators in the 21st century. Technology has the power to transform and revolutionize industries, in this regard, it’s time for educators to adopt innovations to ensure that this generation of students is better educated in the context of this hyper-connected digital era.  It is critical that all learners, all teachers, and all institutions are equipped and able to use technology, not only those with the most resources.

This was recognized and addressed in a recent Generation Unlimited Stakeholder Forum held on September 21 that was addressed by The Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) for ICT and Broadcasting Maureen Mbaka and CAS Ministry of Education Dr. Sara Ruto. They discussed their plans to connect every single school to the internet as part of the Digital Literacy Program that has already provided 1.2 million tablets and laptops to primary schools across Kenya.