A ground-breaking project, Bridgeit, locally known as Elimu kwa Teknolojia or Education through Technology, is now operating for nearly 80,000 pupils in 150 Tanzanian schools. The programme enables a teacher to download videos on math, science or HIV/AIDS to mobile phones which are connected to a TV set in the classroom. Students who have watched the videos achieve improved test results.
By Ludger Kasumuni (Dar es Salaam)
The Wailes Primary School, one of 150 schools helped by the Bridgeit project, lies in Temeke, just 10 kilometres south of the hot and humid heart of the city of Dar es Salaam.
Brown Kidege, aged 15, said the Tanzanian pupils and their teachers have benefited from eLearning under the Bridgeit project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID): “We have learnt mathematics, science and life skills subjects very easily through the use of computers and TV screens. It is very exciting to learn.”
Colleague Rajab Juma, 14, said: “It is very easy to understand the concepts because you see the real pictures demonstrating what happens, for example the functioning of human lungs.”
Alfredina Philemon, 15, who has passed the standard seven examinations, said many students have been able to join secondary schools after success on the eLearning project.
Parents were so keen on the project that they donated money for electricity bills.
Abdon Kidege, 59, a school committee member said each parent is expected to donate Tsh. 2,000 (around one US Dollar) a month.
The Assistant Head Teacher at Wailes Primary School, Esther Uswege, said that in 2007 they received 40 desktop computers and ten TV screens and videos to train teachers who were able to conduct eLearning sessions for more than 100 students.
She said, “Teachers have benefited from the training programme and are now well versed in the new techniques”.
She said one of the benefits under the project is easier teaching in overcrowded classrooms. In Dar es Salaam classes of 70 to 80 pupils are common, almost double the recommended class sizes.
Increasing educational quality and achievement
The chief country advisor of Bridgeit, Felix Mbogella, said that the project started in 2007 when the International Youth Foundation (IYF) was awarded a two-year cooperative agreement by USAID/Tanzania.
This followed successful initial implementation of the Bridgeit programme in the Philippines.
After a two year “pilot” programme, USAID/ Tanzania granted the project a 15-month extension to the end of December 2010.
IYF is implementing Bridgeit in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT), the Nokia Corporation, the Nokia Institute for Technology (INdT), the Pearson Foundation and Vodacom Tanzania.
“The main goal of the Bridgeit programme is to increase educational achievement among students at primary school level in mathematics, science and life skills through the innovative use of cell phones and digital technology”, he says.
He said Bridgeit is being implemented in 17 districts in a total of seven regions in Tanzania Mainland with huge potential for expansion and sustainability in Tanzania, which has over 700,000 students.
One objective is to help standard five and six students in mathematics, science and life skills using Bridgeit classrooms and giving special attention to girl students.
He said the project is helping nearly 80,000 standard five and six children in 150 schools. Three thousand trained teachers have benefitted from the project in Tanzania.
In the financial years of 2009/10 and 2010/11 the Tanzanian government allocated special funds to the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training for running Bridgeit.
Michael Maige, an Education Official from Bagamoyo District, said: “The videos support the teachers. They don’t replace them. They have encouraged students to ask questions and generated more group work. It is a more learner-centred process.”
He said the video films on human biology, geometry and HIV/Aids are written by teachers, produced by a local video production company and hosted on Vodacom’s server.
“There are 146 video clips which teachers can select and download to the Nokia N95 handset. The handset is connected to a television and the videos played back,” says Mbogella.
He adds: “We have conducted research involving schools with and without the video content, and the results are amazing. Students who watched the videos showed greater motivation and achieved better test results.
“The teachers have benefited by having extra teaching material, and the students benefit by seeing a real picture of what the teacher is talking about.
“In the past, the teacher may only have had one book to teach geometry to the whole class, but with video, everyone can see the diagrams, and this helps their understanding.”
He said Bridgeit has an important role to play in exposing students to innovative technology, while promoting collaborative and student-centered learning.
Samuel Suraphel from the International Youth Foundation (IYF) will be presenting Bridgeit: Improving the Quality of Education Through the Innovative Use of Mobile Technology as part of the session Mobile Learning Success Stories: Are They Replicable and Scalable? on Thursday, May 26, from 16:45-18:15.
Eric Gregory, Alliance Programs at Pearson Foundation, UK, will deliver a keynote speech on Bridgeit: Using Mobile Devices to Bring Rich Media Content to Underserved Classrooms in the Plenary C Session on Friday, May 27, 2011 from 8.30-10.30.
Wow! This is an innovative way of bridging the digital divide in ICT integration in the classroom! I am humbled by this effort in light of the ad hoc policy implementation in Africa! I wonder why governments ban use of mobile phones yet they hold the key to the future in many African youth! Kudos BridgeIT! M-learning has always been my interest and I intend to carryout a research in this field soon!
I commend very highly the innovation. There is no doubt that mobile learning technologies have a place in enhancing access to information and educational resources. It is however important to start examining circumstances in some countries where most pupils may not be able to afford acquiring mobile phones. In places where they could, school regulations and national policies may not even allow students to bring mobile phones to school let alone sending them to class. In such cases what are the other alternative options to bridging the gap. Let someone wearing typical African spectacles and seeing typical African circumstances shout some solutions out. We are waiting !
This is an incredible article. I am currently working at Microsoft and World Bank and we are researching a project for introducing ICT in order to improve the access to education in Africa. We are looking at a broad range of technologies, including mobile access, electronic textbooks, e-Readers, cloud computing and e-Learning.
I would be glad to establish further contact and broaden our efforts in the area.
Please feel free to reach me at my email: v-ivdimi ‘at’ microsoft ‘dot’ com
This is a really good project. I think now we can all get involved in one way or another.
How can we help in creating content? We, at Tri Labs, have started creating screencasts for Visual Basic 2010 Programming, so we can do the same if we are given some guidelines on what to generate content on.
We are willing to help.
I would be glad to talk further on the topic of creating electronic educational content and to learn about Tri Labs.
Fantastic story! Really excited to learn more about it at the conference this year.
Ludger, I am an american photojournalist living in Dar es Salaam with an interest in and already covering similar stories. Let’s get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org
We seem to share interests Jonathan! Lets get in touch.