Education Community Builders

Adult education

Why online communities will support African education systems and people

Posted by Janice Scheckter on 27 April 2022, 11:25 SAST
Janice Scheckter photo

If one Googles the challenges in African education, similar themes appear including the quality of teaching and learning, the dropout rates, lack of access to technology, 21st-century learning tools, professional educator development, and lack of access to each other – to peers, among others.


Across the continent, African communities are innovating to solve their problems, often with very little resources. With limited access to physical banks, in Kenya a cellphone company started a global revolution in personal finance (and financial inclusion) in 2007 by inventing mobile money. This idea of “a bank in your pocket” accessed through personal cell phones has spread rapidly across the world. In 2021, Nollywood—Africa’s Hollywood—was the second most prolific film industry in the world. Started less than two decades ago by Kenneth Nnebue with frugal, straight to VHS films, Africa’s film industry is now giving America’s century-old film industry a run for its money. In South Africa, farmers are optimizing their agriculture practices with the help of a platform that combines satellite, drone, and artificial intelligence technology. Today’s innovators are standing on the shoulders of a long line of cutting-edge creatives as Africa’s history demonstrates.

This excerpt is from Rebecca Winthrop’s testimony before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. Her written testimony on improving access to quality public education in Africa follows.  February 8, 2022. Rebecca is the Co-director – the at and a Senior Fellow - Global Economy and Development

Rebecca Winthop talks about African communities and their innovation and ingenuity. Africa is all about community. Bearing this in mind, community must be the way to address the challenges.

Steve Jobs famously said, ‘Don’t ask customers what they want. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do’.

Customers, however, should be part of the community, and innovators should not proceed without an intimate knowledge of the problem. Enter cross-functional and intersectional communities. More simply put, the stakeholder ecosystem.

This is what we call communities. Online communities create the ideal environment for problem-solving, innovation, and for ideation.

While not every community will have the purpose of solving the biggest challenges, every community can deliver insights into aspects of the challenge.

This is exactly what we’ve discovered with a community we launched in 2021 The Complete Teacher. The community is designed for teachers across the subcontinent, initially in primary and secondary education.

Initially, we designed the community to deliver resources. Here’s what we anticipated. The most downloaded content would be lesson plans and numeracy and literacy material.  Here’s what we’ve experienced. The most downloaded documents include administrative materials like parent permission templates and classroom rosters. Most read blogs include teacher wellness information and a fair assumption can be made, that teachers are having a tough time.

Every community starts somewhere, and every community of worth is a place where insights are gathered.

Let’s embrace the innovative capacity of African communities.

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