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Ghana Starts Africa's First High-tech Interactive Distance Learning

Ghana Starts Africa's First High-tech Interactive Distance Learning
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There are no computers, TVs or smartphones in many schools in rural Ghana.

In the classroom, teachers talk while students listen. There's very little engagement and virtually no interaction, because many teachers themselves were not formally trained.

The private, nonprofit Varkey Foundation — together with co-donor Dubai Cares and the Ghanaian Ministry of Education — wants to change that.

"What we're trying to do is leapfrog what they should have received when they first became teachers by providing the latest and most cutting-edge classroom pedagogy that is available," Varkey CEO Vikas Pota told VOA via Skype.

With the help of a $2 million grant from Dubai Cares, 40 schools have been equipped with a satellite dish, a solar-powered computer, a projector and a modern electronic blackboard — as well as a trained instructor called a facilitator.

How it works

During a two-hour interactive training session — conducted live every other week from a TV studio in Accra — two instructional leaders, together with facilitators at each site, engage head teachers and deputy head teachers in two-way training.

It is a trickle-down program in which head teachers pass the instructions to other teachers on how to teach the students.

"The teachers then come back every two weeks into our classrooms which have the satellite hubs with questions that are being raised by their teachers, and that peer-to-peer learning that happens is a fairly powerful way of improving your understanding and your skills base," Pota said.

In 17 sessions with three to five schools at a time, the instructional leaders will train approximately 5,000 teachers over a two-year period.

Classroom benefits

Educators say the students are already seeing benefits from their teachers' training.

"They have gained interest more in going to school because now teaching has become interesting,” said coordinator Angela Obeng. “It has become activity-based, unlike [at] first, when the teacher would rattle [off] and then leave."

Students agree that they are now enjoying classes.

"The teachers will give you a marker to go to the board,” said student Abidi Solomon, explaining one writing assignment. “After the writing you will see many funny things. It makes us laugh."

The Varkey Foundation says that at the end of the pilot program, an independent agency will evaluate the outcome and suggest ways to improve the process.