For my Master Thesis I travelled to Kitwe, a town in the Copperbelt area in Zambia to study the use of ICT’s in Zambian Secondary school education. After a horrible first week of research in which my two laptops where stolen and a really fine second week in which I retrieved my stolen items I now finally have the time and technical resources to blog my experiences so far and explain what my research will be about. In this post I will briefly introduce the current situation of ICT’s in Zambian education and I will also explain something about the ENEDCO project. A project in which Zambian teachers are encouraged to visually enhance their teaching materials and educational content by using ICT’s.
Zambia has a population of 11.5 million people and is one of the poorest countries in the world; more than three-quarters of the population live on less than USD$1 per day. HIV/AIDS is a big problem in Zambia with 16% of Zambians age 15 to 49 years being HIV positive and an estimated 1.1 million children orphaned, many themselves HIV positive. There is chronic food insecurity and weak governance with devastating social and economic consequences. The economy is vulnerable to natural disasters such as flood, drought, and animal disease which impacts food security.
In a country that has so many health insecurity and economic instability the Zambian Educational system is trying to provide it’s students with the best possible learning environments. In 2005 Zambia had 6,962 basic schools with 2.8 million learners and 463 high schools with more than 136,000 learners. The Zambian Government is putting emphasis on ensuring that all Zambian children can follow primary education. Of all these children who are enrolled in primary education less than 20% is entering secondary school and only 2% or the 20 to 24 age group enters a university or some other form of higher education.
The Zambian Government is putting more and more emphasis on using ICT’s in education. The political lobby of organisations like e-brain has been pressuring the Zambian Government in being more open towards the use of ICT in Education. So far this has resulted in the formulation of a National ICT Policy and a draft version of the ICT Implementation Framework. In Zambia, more and more schools are acknowledging computer science as a school study subject and the current policy environment is promoting access and use of ICT’s in Education management, administration, teaching and learning.
Although there are a lot of positive changes in the ICT4E sector in the recent years there are also a lot of issues that still have to be overcome. One can think of constraining features like Gender inequalities within the use of ICT’s, the lacking of fiscal resources and insufficient human resource capacity. A lot of the good IT professionals have moved away from Zambia to make more money. As one of the people from e-brain mentioned to me last week: “All of our good IT people are gone to help build the World Cup in South Africa”.
Last but not least an important constraining feature is that there is little digital educational content based on the local curriculum framework available. This last constraint is one of the things I will mainly focus on in my research. Throughout Zambia there are schools, organisations, projects and lobby groups that are busy with different kinds of programs to stimulate teachers to create content that is based on the local socio-cultural curriculum. One of these projects is the ENEDCO (enhancing the visual presentation of education content) project that is active in the Copperbelt in Northern Zambia. For my research I will stay at the Mplembe Secondary School in Kitwe, one of the 7 schools that is participating in the Enedco project and the main ‘headquarter’ from where the content will be distributed. From here I will try to analyze the content that is made and the way ICT’s are influencing education.
My research will (most likely) contain two different main layers. I want to look at the Enedco project as a case study. I will observe the workshops given to the teachers and will analyze the materials that these teachers produce after following these workshops. My focus in these observations and analyses will be on the specific Zambian Socio-cultural elements within the educational content. Throughout the first week of my research I was fortunate enough to observe workshops that where given to teachers by IICD and AtosOrigin on how to use video-editing and animation software to enrich the teachers educational materials. In the coming months I’m hoping to see how these workshops have paid off and in what way the teachers are using new visual presentations in their classes. During this fieldwork, I hope that I will be able to place my observations within the case study and the material I’m collecting from interviews with teachers into the broader perspective of ICT4E in Zambia at the moment.
This broader perspective will be the second main layer of my research. At the moment there is a lot of activity in Zambia in the field of ICT4E. Both at an NGO as well as at a cooperate and Ministerial level there are initiatives concerning the future of ICT’s in Education. I will try to map out the different stakeholders and involved party’s to get a good overview of the current situation of ICT4E in Zambia. At the moment there seem to be a lot of organisations playing the field and most of the time they seem unaware of what the other is doing. By mapping out the different ICT4E initiatives within Zambia I hope to be able to create a clear overview of the different movements within ICT4E within Zambia.
This coming week I will be joining “computers for Zambian schools” during their “beginners” workshops. In these workshops they train Zambian teachers in computer basics. I will also (hopefully) be attending to the first meeting between different stakeholders and organisations in the field and people from the Ministry of Education. Next to these workshops and meetings I will also try to make appointments with teachers from the ENEDCO schools to visit their classes.
To make a long story short: After a harsh first week in which I lost both of my laptops I was really lucky to get them back. With all the contact I’ve maid in the last week and the appointments in the coming weeks, it will be an interesting time ahead of me.