Namibia is slowly moving out of first gear in terms of getting more technologically advanced, and the role young people play in this transition cannot be stressed enough.
Although not as advanced as some educational applications already running on smartphones, Timoteus Nangombe’s Ubuntu Learning application serves as a crucial tool for learners without internet access in remote, rural areas and informal settlements.
It assists disadvantaged learners that cannot afford e-learning devices such as smartphones, laptop and tablets as well as internet.
Through text messages (SMSs) or USSD, Ubuntu Learning enables learners to access additional learning materials such as quizzes and short summarised notes offline.
All a learner needs is a ‘katoshe’ or ‘tamagotchi’ (non-smartphones) and a small amount of airtime.
The number to dial to access information is *142*800#.
“I know there is e-learning but the challenge with that is there is a less percentage of learners countrywide who can access that platform, especially those in rural areas. Most of these learners stay with their grandparents, and these guardians usually have katoshes or tamagotchis (non-smartphones). With Ubuntu, they will be able to borrow their parents’ devices and access their schoolwork,” Nangombe told Youth Corner.
He said short notes are sent in small chunks due to the limitation of characters when texting.
Although still in the piloting phase, he said, it is fully developed and operational, and the response thus far has been overwhelming.
“The services can be accessed from all the network providers, and we are not charging anything to learners in this testing stage,” shared Nangombe.
He noted that the application has been tested in the Oshikoto region, where 100 learners participated to validate its effectiveness, with 95% already asking when they can officially use it.
“I have also introduced it to the teachers because they are the ones who are going to upload the notes,” he highlighted, adding that teachers upload the content via the internet, but learners can access it without having to go on a search engine.
The platform aims to be inclusive and enables visually impaired learners to get audio notes.
All they have to do is dial a number that will take them to where they are expected to register their grade – and by default, content for that will come after selecting the subject needed.
Amen Combined School seventh grader Nangolo Israel said: “With Ubuntu Learning, I can use it while looking after cattle”, something Nangombe said he can relate to, as he was one of those learners.
Apart from empowering learners, the app also assists teachers to improve the performance of learners in numeracy, literacy and general knowledge in IT.
Martha Timoteus, a teacher at Amen Combined School, which is more than 10km away from the nearest tarred road, said Ubuntu Learning is a great initiative, especially for those in rural areas who cannot afford smartphones.
“These phones will act as their teacher because, at school, we are their only source of information. With the different types of applications on Ubuntu, learners will be able to hear words and know how they are pronounced, and enhance their vocabulary,” she said.
Nangombe expressed gratitude to Dundee Precious Metals for funding the pilot phase but said additional capital is needed to implement the mobile learning innovation to all regions.
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