Lessons via Satellite Bring New Meaning to Distance Education

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GEMS_logoA unique initiative led by the UK’s DFID, with the help of the UK private sector, has developed a unique style of distance education aimed changing the way marginalized girls access education in Ghana, West Africa. GEMS Educational Solutions, a UK consultancy funded by, is heading the project called MGCubed – Making Ghanian Girls Great. With the help of a few other UK companies, two solar-powered computers will be made available in 2 classrooms of each of the 72 schools in the Volta and Greater Accra areas. The classrooms will also be equipped with a projector that will deliver one-hour lessons in math and English, taught remotely by teachers in central Accra. The lessons are geared toward girls and boys aged 9 – 14 and will feature animated videos that will be projected onto classroom walls via satellite. A local teacher will be in the classroom who will facilitate the lesson to ensure that the class stays on track with the lesson.

2014-10-16 13.25.30The two-year pilot project aims to introduce a uniform teaching methodology and curriculum across all schools in the area with further hopes of uniformly raising levels of “educational attainment” among primary-aged children.[1] This initiative is also a response to high levels of teacher absenteeism, particularly in more rural areas, as well as low rates of retention among students. According to a recent UNHDI report, gross enrollment of primary school-aged children is listed at 110%, however a large proportion of students show low competency in core subjects like math and English.[2] While this is largely attributed to societal factors such as early pregnancies and marriages for young girls, as well as the pressure to stay home and earn extra income for the family, low levels of retaining information, learning new skills and low attendance rates can also be attributed to the rote method of learning, which dominates most schools short on interactive resources. This project responds to these issues by increasing active engagement and putting students in control of their own learning. Spiderman videos will help with math skills while singing will be employed to assist with English lessons. Students will also gain basic computer skills by interacting with the solar-powered computers.

Additionally, the project will broadcast an afterschool program for two hours each day for a selection of 50 of the most marginalized girls in the program. This program, entitled “Wonder Women,” will extend to out of school girls and will feature topics that are crucial to girls in term of success, health, and safety. Topics for education and discussion include early pregnancy, early marriage, girls’ rights and financial literacy.

Accra_GEMSIn its current form, the project will reach about 8,000 girls. Depending on its success and capacity for sustainability, there will be an opportunity for expansion. DFID’s partnership with the private sector in this initiative has not been without criticism however, according to the Guardian, DFID has structured its funding for GEMS’ activities such that GEMS will only gain a profit if all project targets are exceeded.[3] DFID has granted £3m to the MGCubed project from the Innovation bracket of its Girls Education Challenge, which seeks to reach the world’s poorest girls. UK-based Alleutia will be manufacturing the computers and GEMS Technologies and Everonn will also be involved in various capacities. The project has enlisted the help of Innovations for Poverty Action to act as an independent evaluator of the initiative.

Check out this video for a comprehensive overview of the project and snapshots of current lessons:

Making Ghanaian Girls Great! (MGCubed) from GEMS Education Solutions on Vimeo.

 

For a longer video, check out this news interview:

Making Ghanaian Girls Great! (MGCubed) featured on Arise TV News from GEMS Education Solutions on Vimeo.

 

For other innovative and alternative methods of increasing access to education for children and adults alike, click here.

To check out more of GEMS educational projects, visit their homepage.

 

Notes:

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jul/11/ghana-school-girls-hi-tech-distance-learning

[2] http://hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/GHA

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jul/11/ghana-school-girls-hi-tech-distance-learning

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Sarah Anstett

Sarah Anstett

Sarah is a writer, researcher, and development practitioner currently based in Toronto, Canada.

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