“Education,” Mandela once alluded, “Is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Indeed, education is a fundamental human right and is absolutely indispensable for the achievement of sustainable development. The world has recognized this and that’s why the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
As part of SDG 4, the international community has pledged to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030. The global commitment to improving education captured in SDG 4 aims to address an educational crisis, with more than 617 million children and adolescents unable to read a simple sentence or handle a basic math calculation.
37 million African children will learn so little while in school that they will not be any better off than those kids who never attend school.
In Africa, it is truly disturbing that of its nearly 128 million school-aged children, 17 million will never step foot in school. To make matters worse, another 37 million African children will learn so little while in school that they will not be any better off than those kids who never attend school. UNESCO Institute for Statistics data show that the African continent has the fastest-growing school-age population: for every 100 children of primary age and every 100 of secondary age in 2014, there will be 138 and 148 respectively in 2030. Drastic measures must be employed in the face of this rising demand for education.
While the future of every nation’s development heavily depends on the education of its citizenry, every education system is only as good as the teachers who provide the hands-on schooling (UIS Policy Brief, 2016). The critical role teachers play in improving education quality and learning outcomes has been confirmed by a series of studies. As such, it is reassuring that one of the targets of SDG 4 is to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries, small and island developing States.
The need to increase the number of qualified teachers at the primary and secondary levels couldn’t be a more urgent one. The world needs almost 69 million new teachers to reach the 2030 education goals: 24.4 million primary school teachers and 44.4 million secondary school teachers (UIS Policy Brief, 2016). Sub-Saharan African faces the greatest teacher shortages with an urgent need for 17 million teachers to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030.
70% of countries in sub-Saharan Africa face acute shortages of teachers, rising to 90% at secondary level.
UNESCO Institute for Statistics reports that the region needs 6.3 million primary teachers: 2.4 million to fill new teaching posts to accommodate all children and 3.9 million to replace those teachers expected to leave the profession. The data go on to indicate that 10.8 million teachers must be recruited at the secondary level by 2030, including 7.1 million new teaching positions and 3.7 million to replace those who have left. Without urgent and sustained action, the situation will deteriorate in the face of rising demand for education and the potential of millions of African youth will be wasted and Africa’s socio-economic progress will stagnate.
A plausible cause of action to mitigate the devastating impact of teacher shortages across Africa is to embrace peer tutoring to support peer-to-peer learning. Peer tutoring refers to an instructional method in which high-performing students offer scholarly support to the low-performing students in a class-wide setting or in a safe common venue outside of school. With teachers and students across the region severely struggling in over-crowded classrooms in schools that often lack the most basic amenities, peer tutoring presents a significant opportunity to address the continent’s most pressing education challenge; acute shortage of teachers.
At Maarifasasa, we envision an empowered continent where its people are equipped to realize their greatest potential. We believe in bringing out the best in every learner by facilitating access to life changing opportunities that empower the learner to be their best self. We are leveraging technological innovations to improve learning outcomes. As a commitment to achieve the objective of substantially increasing the number of qualified and vetted peer tutors available to support our ecosystem of diverse learners, we are approaching the final stages of the development of our tutor/teacher marketplace – TutorSasa.
TutorSasa, Uganda’s first local tutor/teacher marketplace, is a mobile and web application that gives every learner in need of help in particular subject areas access to personal tutors on demand at their convenient locations. We believe that by building an ecosystem where knowledge easily moves from a place of higher concentration to where it is most needed, we can change Africa. That’s why we’re building TutorSasa: to bring every African learner a click or screen-tap away from their favorite personal teacher.
We are committed to empowering everyone to teach someone something.
As a cutting-edge peer tutor tool, TutorSasa will not only help improve learning outcomes but also provide employment opportunity to thousands of youth who are qualified tutors on the platform. Moreover, we are curating programs to help our tutors land internships and jobs with our corporate partners by strengthening their TutorSasa profile with proven academic and interpersonal skills to add value to the 21st century marketplace.
With TutorSasa, we hope to bring the proven benefits of peer tutoring which include academic and cognitive gains and social and behavioral gains, to the masses of Uganda’s and eventually Africa’s learners. Some of these benefits include but are not limited to the following: enhancement of critical thinking skills, high active involvement of students in academic activities, improvement of classroom results, development of social support for students, creation of understanding between teachers and students, increased self-esteem and positive attitudes. Moreover, direct interaction between students promotes active learning, peer teachers reinforce their own learning by instructing others, and students feel more comfortable and open when interacting with a fellow peer. Needless to say, peer-to-peer learning is cost effective thus cheap given its numerous benefits.
To achieve Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals in this new technological era, Africa must continue to heavily invest in her human capital. Education is the best and only guaranteed investment that will yield the results we hope for to realize the Africa we want. Maarifasasa, will continue innovating for the future and boldly dreaming big without being afraid to start small where we are with what we have. Let the revolution continue!
Robert Bob OkelloMaarifasasa
Robert Bob Okello is the founder and CEO of Maarifasasa, a cutting-edge Ugandan EdTech start-up committed to leading an education revolution in Uganda and across Africa. He is an Alumna of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme committed to creating life changing opportunities to empower fellow young people across Africa with skills to cope with a fastly unfolding era of the 4th industrial revolution. He fully believes that the greatest life lived is one lived for others.