Tag: Tigo


M-Learning in Ghana, the perfect educational solution?

Ghana is a country that does not have a coherent policy for education infrastructure. At the same time, rising rates of mobile phone use among the population make this country ripe for an m-learning revolution. School infrastructure in Ghana can be very poor, with inadequate ventilation, security features (for example, for laboratory equipment) safety for flooring and other issues. These conditions can make it especially difficult for learners with disabilities either to make it to school in the first place or to learn in comfort once they are there. M-learning is a viable nation wide solution to these defects in Ghana’s present education infrastructure. M-Learning has the potential to reach all students in the country through the simple medium of their mobile phones. As a result, it would surmount the difficulties inherent in Ghana’s less than perfect current educational infrastructure.

The power of m-learning in Ghana: the current situation

Ghana has one of the best developed mobile phone markets in all of Africa. In fact, most Ghanaians do not only own a mobile, they also prefer to use their mobile instead of using a landline. Most Ghanaians also prefer to access the internet through their mobile phones rather than via a fixed wifi or cable internet system in the home. Though 3G coverage in Ghana is relatively new, this is also growing as well, which again suggests that the future of m-learning in Ghana will be a very positive one. MTN Ghana, Vodafone, Tigo and Airtel are the four largest mobile phone providers in Ghana, with MTN Ghana being by far the biggest provider (having cornered around 50 % of the market). With both affordable pay as you go and sim packages readily available in Ghana, m-learning has the potential to reach the whole of the country’s population. Ghana is currently classed as a middle income country, which means that its citizens are usually able to afford items such as mobile phones. In addition, app literacy in Ghana is very prevalent, with exciting new apps for both learning and leisure (like Esoko and RetailTower) being developed in the country every year.

Integrating m-learning with secondary and tertiary educational institutions in Ghana

The secondary education system in Ghana is known as Senior High School, and it can often be supplemented or even (in parts) replaced by m-learning. What is particularly pertinent to know is that ICT is actually part of the ‘integrated science’ section of the SHS curriculum, which means that new generations of Ghanaians are growing up with the skills that they need to learn via the web. Though the buzz of the classroom environment can be something that benefits learners, as mentioned above, not all schools in Ghana are totally fit for purpose and thus m-learning is a viable alternative to both the SHS curriculum and to TVET (vocational training) curricula that are offered after completion of the SHS.

When it comes to tertiary education, Ghana has 49 private universities and 6 public universities. Many of these institutions are focused around a specific subject, such as Agriculture. E-learning is already well integrated into the curricula of many of Ghana’s top universities. For example, the University of Ghana has recently created the KEWL – Knowledge Environment for Web Based Learning – initiative. Many online courses are also available as part of the rise and rise of e-learning in the country. In addition, the edtech phenomenon of MOOC has really been taking off throughout Ghana and Sub-Sahara Africa. MOOC is an initiative which offers an online course to a large number of people and it is usually free of charge. This initiative is, as may be expected, particularly useful for low income or very poor communities in Sub-Sahara Africa for whom financial factors would otherwise pose a significant barrier to their ability to access education. As a result, mobile learning projects could simply adapt and build on the existing e-learning infrastructure in Ghana’s tertiary education system.

There is a rising amount of local and regional companies which provide products and materials for online courses and exam preparations, the classical fields of m-learning. This African providers guide illustrates a list of edtech startups in several countries.

Estimation of the future of the power of M-learning in Ghana

The future of the power of m-learning in Ghana looks very bright. This is due to two key factors. Firstly, the existing educational infrastructure is – particularly at the secondary level – often physically and materially inadequate for students to learn successfully. As such, there is a clear problem here that mobile learning could solve. Secondly, Ghana’s population is made up of some of Africa’s most skilled, savvy and frequent mobile phone users. The ubiquity of mobile phones means that the uptake of m-learning strategies would likely be very high. Add to this the fact that many tertiary education institutions in the country are already using e-learning platforms and other edtech to teach students remotely (for example, through online courses) and the future of m-learning across the country looks very positive indeed.

By Jens Ischebeck

Tech boon for children as Ghana puts autism on the app

Good job, high five!” enthuses Victoria Nyarko in her classroom at a community centre in the Ghanaian coastal city of Tema. It is Monday morning, and classes at HopeSetters autism centre – where shelves are filled with puzzles and learning aids, and walls covered in colourful posters and slogans – are a little different from normal.

The privately funded centre, which provides education for 18 autistic children aged between five and 15, is one of the first organisations in the country to use a locally designed autism aid app that uses audio and visual educational tools to help youngsters learn.

“Today we are doing the kitchen materials,” Nyarko says. “They like it because it kind of talks back to them … it communicates with them, and they like to touch it a lot.”

With its learning tools, SMS helpline for parents, and information centre, the app, believed to be the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, is helping to further autism education and awareness in Ghana. Its creator, Alice Amoako, says the app provides teaching material that helps teachers and parents to improve communication skills among children.

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Autism Aid founders Alice Amoako and Solomon Avemegah

A neurological disorder characterised by communication and social difficulties, autism is believed to affect one in 68 children globally. Statistics for Ghana and other African countries are lacking: one study suggests one in 87 children under the age of three in Ghana is autistic.

Children with autism face discrimination and the same prejudices as people with mental illnesses, activists say.

Amoako and other teachers are hoping to change attitudes. While studying for a degree in IT at the Ghana Technology University, Amoako founded Autism Ambassadors of Ghana (AAG).

“I [visited] an autism centre and had interactions with the caregivers and children, and I realised there was a need to help raise awareness,” says Amoako, 24. “In my final year [at university], I had to do a project to complete my studies and we developed the app.”

Amoako and co-founder Solomon Avemegah developed the app last year, after winning a competition, the digital changemakers award, run by the mobile company Tigo. Backed by Reach for Change International, Tigo’s non-profit partner, the prize is designed to support social entrepreneurs in Ghana.

The app utilises the picture exchange communication system (Pecs (pdf)), using visuals to instigate communication in children. The program comes with image sections, sign language tools for those unable to communicate verbally, and even a list of local foods and transport.

“They can learn all kinds of things,” Amoako says. “We were able to modify it in such a way that it even has the list of Ghanaian foods. If a child wants to eat banku[fermented corn and cassava], for example, they can just click on the picture. We have the Ghanaian transport system with taxis and tro-tros [public minibuses], and we hope to include local languages on the platform in the future too.”

The app, which is free to download, lists autism centres and facilities in Ghana, and has a detailed autism awareness section. Raising awareness is critical in a country, and region, where people with any kind of disability can be banished from society and sent to “prayer camps” to be “healed”.

Marilyn Marbell-Wilson, a developmental paediatrician, believes the technology could improve children’s communication skills. “Children with autism can definitely do better with modes of communication other than talking,” she says.

“It makes it a more familiar tool because most of them love the phones and gadgets, so they wouldn’t look in a book or the normal Pecs cards … it can improve the neural circuits of communication and so definitely it makes a better tool for communication instead of just looking at the pictures.”

One of only three autism specialists in Ghana, as well as a member of the app’s helpline team, Marbell-Wilson says the program could help change attitudes and bring more autism cases to light.

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Children and staff at the Autism Awareness Care and Training centre in the Ghanaian capital Accra

“If a child is not developing typically, some parents or relatives will say, ‘Oh, this is spiritual, this is not medical’, so they will either hide the child or do something untoward to the child,” she adds.

“If the child is sick, having a tantrum or [doing] something peculiar [and] the parent doesn’t know exactly what to do, we are able to answer and give some help … I think that will be great for parents.”

Kwaku Offei Addo, whose four-year-old son, Joel, has autism, says: “He likes to use the phone a lot and it will be helpful catching up with words and identifying objects.”

Offei Addo meets other fathers of autistic children to discuss their experiences. He says it can be particularly difficult for Ghanaian men to deal with having an autistic child.

“[People think] it demeans your status as a man,” he says. “It was really difficult for me to accept [but] over time, with the effort, it has built me up to a level … I think of the positive things and it motivates me.”

To mark world autism awareness day on 2 April, AAG organised a march of more than 400 people through Accra’s streets. The Autism Society of West Africa recently held a three-day conference in Accra bringing together advocates from Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.

“I think it is empowering people to take the information they know here out to their families, neighbourhoods and communities, and to start talking more about what they saw here,” said the society’s founder, Casey McFeeley. “It opens up the idea that it is OK.”

Article via The Guardian

Change in GH – Telecommunications

The rise of Mobile Telecommunication

 

One of the most visible changes in Ghana over the last five years has been the growth of the mobile phone industry. If the truth be told mobile communication has grown massively all over Africa with companies wanting a piece of this newest lucrative marker.

In Ghana nowadays everybody and their grand mama (my grandma literally owns one!) now has a cell phone. Sim cards cost a mere cedi. There are currently 5 cell phone networks, with MTN being the biggest, followed by Vodafone, Tigo, Airtel and Zain.

A lot of younger Ghanaians and businessmen/women have two or three handsets and news spreads fast. But the biggest effect can be seen on the streets, that is the number of young Ghanaians, men and women who make their living by selling phone credits (Street vendors). Entertainment events/shows and TV programmes are also often sponsored by the mobile phone companies.

Mobile phone access in Ghana is quickly outpacing that of landline phones and changing the nature of communication.  According to social surveys it is estimated that three quarters of the population have used or owned a mobile phone for some purpose in within the last year.

The development of the telecommunication industry in the country is one typical area among others that has flourished because of a stable working environment in Ghana. These telecommunication industries have employed the majority of youth in the country, thereby bringing job opportunities to many young people

Mobile phone usage in Ghana is likely to change rapidly over the next several years as new applications and phone models become available.

What do you think of the growth of Mobile telecommunication in Ghana? Is it good for society?

Ben Jk Anim-Antwi (Kwesi)