The Mwandi Project is a major e-learning and community development project in rural Zambia.
Zambia, located in Central Southern Africa, remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The impressive economic growth for which the region is now known has little effect outside main urban areas, with 78% of the rural population living below the official poverty line, on under $1 a day. Life expectancy hovers at around 40 years, and there are high levels of malnutrition in rural areas, where climate can be irregular and most of the population survives by subsistence farming.
For things to change, some key structural changes are required, chief amongst which is improved access to modern education. The Mwandi Project equips six primary schools in the Mwandi area with e-learning tablets and associated equipment, including solar charging systems where necessary. The tablets contain the entire Zambian primary school curriculum, in English and 8 different Zambian languages, to create a unique blended-learning system. Lesson plans for teachers guide them towards modern interactive enquiry-based learning, and away from conventional rote methods. For students there are thousands of matching fun multi-media animated lessons.
Teacher training is provided to all the teachers in the schools. A support teacher is provided who ensures that the new style of teaching is continued in all schools; supporting all the teachers as they adopt the new methodologies.
The project locates a Service Centre near each of the five more remote schools, providing security and charging facilities for the tablets when not in use at the schools, plus internet, printing, technical support and a range of other services to help the community. This enables the rural communities to access better information and markets, thereby helping them to break out of the poverty trap.
The combination of e-learning with a Service Centre that offers essential services and internet connectivity is potentially transformational in a rural area.
Local communities around each school are able to use the tablets for adult literacy and numeracy; financial literacy; computer use, including email; access to learning about farming and the ability to begin to trade via the system; plus learning about improved health care.
The Mwandi Project began in May 2015 and has already seen success in improving student attendance and the professional development of teachers.
The project is funded by Peter Cundill Foundation and implemented in partnership with Connect Africa. Established in 2012, The Peter Cundill Foundation honours the legacy of renowned Canadian investment fund manager and philanthropist, F. Peter Cundill, FCA, CFA, 1938-2011. The Foundation has an emphasis on promoting the health, education and well-being of young people.
Mwandi Primary School is benefitting from the enthusiasm and commitment of the teachers and school management to the implementation of the program, leading the way in conducting lesson monitoring.
Lipumpu Primary School is doing well in its implementation of iSchool.
Continuous Professional Development sessions for teachers are successfully being planned and conducted.
The three teachers at Aibelilwe Community School are very keen on using iSchool. Due to the growing number of pupils as a result, the community helped make desks to accommodate the learners.
Notable at Sikuzu Community School are the efforts being made by the teachers to use all the resources available to improve the reading abilities of their learners by using the reading schemes on the iSchool tablets.
Situlu Primary School is doing extremely well with project implementation. Both teachers and learners are actively involved, and school management has taken a lead in ensuring the program runs smoothly.
Alibuzwi Community School has two community school teachers against six grades of grade 1 to grade 6. Using iSchool the teachers are now able to support two different grades under one class.
To find out more about the Mwandi Project, please visit www.mwandiproject.org.