Conference sneak preview

All fired up for the eLearning Africa Debate

The exponential increase in mobile subscriptions in Africa is increasingly influencing many spheres of society – from banking to disaster management. The impact of mobile technologies on learning, teaching and education delivery seems less influential, but it has in fact increased.  This growing influence is already having disruptive effects on our education systems. What is the nature of this disruption, and will it revolutionise education to such an extent that we may no longer need teachers and lecturers? This topic is the focus of the eLearning Africa 2012 Debate which take place both online and on stage on Friday, May 25th, 2012 at 17.45 -19.15 in Cotonou, Benin.

The motion that will be debated is: “This House believes that we have underestimated the disruption mobile technologies will cause to formal educational systems in Africa and is concerned that their increased use undermines the traditional classroom setting, making teachers redundant.”

“Technology is the only way of providing kids in Africa with up-to-date information in a way that makes them part of the global community,” says Biologist and Educator Cheryl Douglas, one of the debaters arguing for the motion. Douglas is an advocate of technology-enhanced learning. “Teachers are needed to help students sift through the information and analyse and debate it,” she says. “If teachers are unable to do this, they are already redundant.”

Wayan Vota, a senior director at the ICT4D not-for-profit Inveneo, takes a similar  stance and does not think that we should be writing teachers off so quickly. He says, “Much of Western civilisation, thought and philosophy are based on three great teachers: Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. And they did their best work with nothing but sheets. Not even the printed word! How arrogant the technologist who thinks mobile learning will eclipse the power of human interaction in education!”

Douglas and Vota will be joined on stage by Lauren Dawes of GSMA and doctoral student Carol Suzanne Otieno and who will be arguing against the motion.

Otieno says, “Mobile technology will definitely make teachers redundant. For example, consider the Graphogame technology which uses phonetics to teach pupils early reading skills in local languages. This technology is more orthographically correct compared to the teachers who have almost no knowledge on teaching reading in local languages or in the mother tongue. In addition, it will be quite costly in terms of time and money to train the teachers afresh as currently they are trained to teach early reading in English. In the case of Kenya, it seems more economical to use these phones rather than teachers to teach early reading and to then have a few teachers supervising.”

What do you think? Are you a teacher or lecturer who agrees that your job is on the line in 5 years’ time? Are you a researcher who thinks teachers will always matter and can never be redundant? Have your say in the comments section below and in our Facebook group, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @eLAConference. Voice your opinions using the hashtag #ela12debate.


  1. Kavuma John Bosco

    In this debate it is important to note two separate but integral component of teaching/facilitation; content and pedagogy ( method of delivering the content). there is no doubt ICTs brought a paradigm shift in delivery of content from ‘person- enabled’ and more technology-dependent. This however cannot and will not completely replace the role of a teacher – the teacher will for example have a role to play in development, validation and testing of relevant content, advising on appropriate design and interface of the technologies in more to make elearning more interactive. Most importantly the teacher will have a role to play in coaching learners on appropriate use of technologies for research and to detect plagiarism and adulteration of knowledge. The technology will however outdate the culture of students clamming everything that the teacher says since the teachers will play more facilitating role. Lets embrace ICTs in learning without fear or favour!!!!

    Manager Planning – National Information Technology Authority Uganda

  2. Millicent Auma Otieno

    Technology normally come with its disadvantages but the benefits are always immerse especially mobile learning for Africa hope will make learning cheaper as its affordable to almost every household

    • In most of Sub-Saharan Africa, the teachers in primary and secondary schools are under qualified. e learning is a tool to accelerate learning and is to be used to augment face-to-face experiences, to enhance the learning experience as a self-paced tool of knowledge transfer. A teacher is one person, one teacher, technology is many teachers through the use of OER wow, the sky is the limit of what our young will learn! Africa lags behind the rest of the world in literacy and numeracy why? war, poverty and disease disrupt the education system and teacher continuity in the classroom. When disruptions happen with teachers, it takes a long time to re-instate a teacher, but a shorter cycle to re-instate technology! In addition, teachers don’t get paid much, there aren’t that many people tripping over themselves to go into the teaching field anymore, we must look to technology to help us solve the problem!! Kids love computers! Let’s take advantage of it now and get Africa up-to-speed with the rest of the world on this. Pluto, Socrates played their part, we can still transfer their contribution by use of technology!!

      • Technology does not teach on its own, you need teachers as well. You need teachers who are confident with technology, they are scarce. You also need communication infrastructure, so there is a considerable investment needed upfront to make elearning work. Still some way to go.

        • Anyone who has a clue on how to use a smart phone can use technology to learn, if you rely on a teacher to teach technology you are defeating the purpose. Because of scarcity of technology teachers, that’s why we need to turn to the ICT alternative. As for the infrastructure investment, we must shift priorities, it can be done. We spend a lot of money on immediate gratification comforts, human capital investment is key, and now we must invest in tools that promote the mind.

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