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Is Education the Best Solution to Poverty?

For majority of African children, education represents the only solution of a life of rooted poverty. Across the continent, a large number of children currently survive on less than one dollar a day. Children who can read, write and do some arithmetic can hope to get better paid job in future. But school is much more than just job skills. It plays an increasingly important role helping children protect themselves against the diseases which can destroy poor communities. Simple information on day-to-day hygiene and prevention saves lives and keeps the families together. Finally, school builds cohesiveness, community and confidence. Educated children are less chance to become victims of violence and abuse. They are more likely to invest in improving their community when they are grown. And the follow-on effects of even basic education quickly multiply, as children who have benefited from schooling themselves strive to secure even better opportunities for their own families.

In Africa, it’s common for schools be shut down because of wars and political turmoil. Genocide in Darfur, civil war in Liberia, war in Cote d’Ivoire and economic strife in Zimbabwe have all shut down schools and disadvantaged students. Schools in many countries in Africa are plagued with corruption, cheating and violence. Schools are also short on teachers and supplies. Even though education is free, compulsory until age 15 and schools also provide a nutrition and HIV/AIDS awareness program still education is interrupted by violence in many African countries. In order to improve the education systems throughout Africa, efforts have to be made to stop the violence and wars by implementing economic sanctions and arms embargos.

The financial crisis had halted improvements in education for children in impoverished countries. If education budgets are not protected from the ravages of the financial crisis all the progress could be jeopardized and generations will be condemned to poverty.  More than $4 billion annually would be lost from education budgets in sub-Saharan Africa due to the impact of the global economic crisis which accounts to around 15% drop in resources for each primary school student.

Every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation in Africa. Usually it is a child under the age of 5. Poverty hits children the hardest. While a severe lack of goods and services hurts every human, it is most threatening to children’s rights: survival, health and nutrition, education, participation, and protection from harm and exploitation. It creates an environment that is damaging to children’s development in every way – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. More than 1 billion children are deprived of at least one of the essential goods and services they require to survive, grow and develop. They have no access to sanitation facilities and not even safe water which causes about 4000 deaths per day. Efforts should be made to provide safe water and helps displaced communities replace or find new water resources and build latrines. There should be awareness and monitoring of the issues like risk of abduction, sexual violence and exploitation of children, struggle for shelter, education etc. and tougher laws for child exploiters.

Population Explosion is another factor which compels to provide more stress on education in Africa. The underlying cause for prevailing problems such as population increase, poverty and high mortality rates is low or no education for women in Africa. There would be no development advancement unless women received education. In impoverished areas of Africa, it is still a practice to place priority on boy’s schooling, while girls are expected to help with housework or farming. Women who have no or little chance of receiving an education are usually forced to marry at a young age, which often leads to multiple childbirths in uncertain conditions and often end up with no knowledge of how to save themselves from the risk of infection or HIV. So ultimately it makes more difficult for mothers to give due consideration to the nutrition, health and hygiene of their babies. Family planning to control the population explosion and improvement in health systems facilities are needed in those impoverished areas. Educated Women are likely to marry late and have healthy babies. They would be more fruitful to family in financially and health wise.

All these challenges emphasize the need to provide quality education which will be cost effective and will encompass all masses. Use of latest technological innovations can make this possible. Use of technologies like Distance education and language translation can provide students with education in their language and at their own pace. Making use of Unified Software engine using Software Stability Model will help in designing and building systems that are stable, scalable and long lasting. Also using these technologies the requirement for large infrastructures is largely reduced thereby reducing their cost. As imparting education using advanced technologies does not require the presence of instructor on the site, students can avail seamless education at their own convenience. This will reduce their dependency on presence of a trained facilitator. Using graphical and visual tools the quality of education received by these deprived masses can be greatly enhanced. As rapid growth in technological development, more and more tools and innovations can be utilized to improve quality of education distribution.

To deal with the challenges faced by students in Africa we need to follow few measures to overcome them which are as follows:

1. Distance Education

Distance education is a technology that aims to deliver education to students who are physically not present at the educational site. It helps students to gain access to learning material even if the educator or learning material and the learner are separated by time or distance or both. This technology is being widely used across the world by many universities and educational institutions. It provides students the freedom to study from home and study at their own convenient time.

Studies prove that due to prevalent economic crisis in many countries in the African continent there is a substantial decrease in budget devoted to development of educational systems. These countries have to manage their scarce budgets to provide quality education to students. This emphasizes the need to develop educational systems that require less cost to develop and maintain but at the same time do not compromise on the quality of education. Use of technologies like Distance education which require less cost and still provide good quality of education are the key.

Distance education technology will help in reaching the deprived students in Africa who either cannot attend schools due to poverty or they are living very far away from school or educational center. Schools that have substantial funds can invest in providing facilities required for distance learning like computers and internet connection. Distance education makes use of material reuse and the material can be stored for long duration so distance education does not need much infrastructure to maintain and reduce the cost of the whole educational system.

Different classes of women who are otherwise deprived of any form of formal education can benefit largely from distance education facilities. Women who are housewives are required to be at home all the time can sit at home and study without causing any disturbance in their marriage and keep on taking care of their children while studying. Another group of women who are denied education because it requires face to face interaction with facilitators will greatly benefit from distance education as they can pursue education by keeping safe distance from the instructors and still access quality education. Women who are uneducated but working to provide for their family can benefit from learning at their own convenience and time. It will increase their self- esteem and also help them to enhance their career through education.

This project will provide students with a website accessing which students can register and create user accounts .They can log in to these accounts and register for courses they are interested in. They can access the material that they require online and also log in to attend online classes provided on the site. The University Of South Africa (UNISA) is one such institution that provides boost to higher education. It is one of the largest institutions in the world that boasts over 120,000 registered students studying for qualifications, through the doctoral level.

2. Language Translation

Languages play an important role in learning process. Many of the African countries that are multilingual are unable to access technology because of the language barrier. The language of propagation of technology is different from their native language. Hence they cannot use the services provided by these technologies. Language translation tools are tools that can be used to convert learning materials, documents and also web pages from English language into some other language of interest.

If the educational and other important content available on the internet is not provided in local language then it is of no use of this information. Extensive use of any particular language in importance correspondences like government notices, tenders, and official invitations can cause ignorance about their rights among people. Language here is not only a means of communication but also has social impact.

Use of language translation tools to convert learning material into native languages can remove the need for students to study a number of foreign languages. Progress of students will also be faster as the material in their native language will be easy to understand than any foreign language. Thus poor people who have very less opportunities for gaining education can make most of it. This will speed up their learning process and increase their chances of availing higher education and consequently earn better living.

Uneducated population of women is one of the causes leading to population explosion in Africa. When a woman is educated she can take care of whole family and herself. Women need to be educated about day-to-day hygiene requirements and health concerns. They should be able to understand the need for proper care of babies which will help decrease infant mortality rate. Education facilities are made available to women in their native languages through use of Language Translation tools. Learning about important issues through their own mother tongue can have lasting effect on these women even if they are not very educated.

This project will provide facility to translate available material in selected languages. Registered users can submit the document that they wish to get translated in any of the language available. They can then access the material in the language they are comfortable with. Among a number of organizations that provide language translation, ‘web-lingo’ is one such organization based in South Africa. This organization offers both technical as well as nontechnical translation solutions to web development and software companies to translate their content into and from about 85 languages. One of their projects includes a program that runs on top of standard Microsoft Office Software.

3. Seamless Education:

Seamless Education system as one that represents an integrated concept of education that stretches from early childhood through a four-year college degree .It breaks down between high school and college, academics and career/technical education and public education and the workplace. The purpose of seamless education is to prepare “capable citizens,” whether or not they attend school or college. So teachers align courses and create interdisciplinary projects. It is an effort to increase high school completion rates, test scores, school/college enrollment, job placements, economic conditions, family support.

The key to economic development is an educated workforce. If Africans have to lead a better life they must equip their children and grandchildren with the skills needed to be educated and employed. A seamless system of education will ensure that we have an educated and prepared workforce to overcome all the challenges hindering their growth and development. Education is key to all issues. If our next generation is educated they can be employed and will work at well-paid jobs. If finance is there economic conditions, health conditions, sanitation, poverty all will certainly improve.

The major challenge is to make education easily accessible to everyone in the continent. This can be very well accomplished with seamless education system. Teachers from all over world should be invited to map out which concepts should be taught and when will those be taught. The basic classes such as English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies should be must. To start with preschoolers should be encouraged. Women Education should be encouraged. Educational authorities envision a seamless education system starting with early childhood progressing through general education and training, higher and adult education.

Another issue is that a large number of students enroll in fields of commerce and health science. This creates a major imbalance between arts and humanities on one hand and technology and science on the other hand. The output of graduates in fields of science and technology should increase to balance the ratio between technical and university students. It is believed that seamless education will help in improving the balance to a significant extent.

Health Conditions can also improve by providing education in fields of medicine. Access to quality medicines are needed to improve health conditions. So access to get quality treatment should be in range of affordability, acceptability and physical availability. Proper training to workforce is needed to coordinate medicines management from doctor level to patient level. Unfortunately pharmacists and pharmacy support personnel are very few in Africa. Trainings are also provided but at insufficient scale. So the fundamental solution to scale up health conditions is to increase number of qualified pharmacists via higher education via seamless education system.

Some of the major goals of a Seamless System can be as:

  • Smoothing student transitions from one level of learning to the next.
  • Closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.
  • Balancing the ratio of technical and human science students.
  • Strengthening relationships between families and schools.
  • Creating a wider range of learning experiences and opportunities for students in the final two
  • years of high school.
  • Improving institute’s readiness and success.

4. Animations and Visualizations:

The challenge to provide education to students is how to educate them to have a solid impact in their learning. In layman terms, Animations, a type of optical illusion, are graphical displays that evolve overtime.  It could be drawing, objects, or people in various positions of additive movement. However, when played, it produces a stream of unbroken motion of images. Consisting of a series of drawings or photographs on paper, animation can be viewed with a mechanical device or flipping through hand-held sequence of images. Animations could be seen on films, video, or computers. Visualizations on other hand include static display of graphical images. Visualizations can absorb a lot of information and display in a manner so that it memorizes.  Animation has a place in learning and instructional applications .Programs that use animations or visualizations attract student interest and offer feedback that can enhance different learning styles.

Animation is a great classroom activity, allowing teachers and students to explore and develop a more creative time table in Math, Science, English and many topic areas. Being fun, creative and hands-on learning, animation encourages both teachers and students as they use simple IT practice, and is uniquely suited to all classrooms.

The online centers website will be been designed to share examples, resources, ideas and approaches to animation in education. All the animation films featured will be available to students and teachers to enhance the learning process. Animation can used to provide extra help where it is needed. Content – related graphics (both static and animation) and video can help improve student attitudes and motivation in certain subjects, mainly mathematics and science.

Technical Feasibility of the project :

All the above technologies proposed that will be used in the building of the project are available in the market.

Labor requirements for the project: The project will require Senior level management including Project manager and Professional staff including Software developers and Analysts. Office staff is required to manage the centers.

Physical location of the project: It will require a center where students can visit. The center must be located in Africa.

Technology Requirements:

Computer Hardware and Software: The project will require computer systems with latest configurations and software. A database server and networking technology to connect client and server machines is required. Also some basic systems that can be used by students to access the material and information is needed.

Internet connection: High speed internet connection is required.

Commercial feasibility:

Funds will be acquired from Education committees that work towards development of education in Africa as well as from other developed countries that allot funds in their budgets to help educational systems in Africa.

Technical Challenges:

Selecting location of the education center in Africa.

If no internet facility is available in remote areas, then towers will be needed for providing internet connection.

Commercial Potential :

The investment done in the project will help to provide quality education to students in Africa. Although there will be no tangible profit the return on our investment will be obtained by achieving development of African countries through spread of education

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