A new round of grants have been awarded by African Publishing Innovation Fund (APIF), a four-year, $800,000 grant program administered by United Arab Emirates based philanthropy Dubai Cares, and the International Publishers Association (IPA). Five projects will share $170,000 in total funding; all of them are focused on distance learning solutions for African children and will impact some 11 million children across the continent.
Distance learning in Africa faces multiple challenges, including poor internet coverage in rural areas, the high cost of technology to access distance learning programs and a lack of know-how. According to UNESCO, 89% of students in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to a computer, 82% have no internet access, and around 56 million learners live outside mobile networks.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has set back the education of millions of learners around the world, but its effects are acutest where the infrastructure cannot support the connectivity required for distance learning," said Bodour Al Qasimi, president of the IPA. "Having received far more applications than we could have imagined, we are all very excited to have found five projects that we believe will deliver significant benefits for a great number of children and young people."
The projects being funded, with citations provided by APIF, are:
Ghana: As schools shifted online due to Covid-19, girls in rural communities have faced challenges in accessing online learning due to a significant urban-rural digital divide. With online learning reaching only 70% of school-age children, the Learners Girls Foundation will support 400 at-risk Ghanaian girls in Paga, a rural community of 100,000, to continue their education and access educational resources despite technology and internet connectivity challenges.
Kenya: As African publishers embrace digital content due to schools shifting online, many lack expertise in inclusive publishing practices to meet global accessibility standards. Starting in East Africa’s regional publishing hub of Kenya, with plans to scale to 12 African countries, eKitabu will work with publishers to enrich the remote learning of more than nine million students and teachers with accessible digital learning materials.
Rwanda: With the closure of schools, community libraries have taken on an even more important role in building critical literacy skills and fostering a reading culture. Save the Children Rwanda will train 270 librarians in eight community libraries on the use of technology to strengthen a culture of reading in remote and rural communities while providing digitally accessible reading materials in Kinyarwanda that will keep 1.6 million children reading while unable to attend school.
Tanzania: Competing government budget demands have led to a significant shortage of community and school libraries in the Zanzibar region of Tanzania. Book Aid International will transform three shipping containers into fully-equipped libraries in Dunga, a rural community of 76,000, where children can enjoy reading, young learners can study for exams, and adults can read and learn new skills.
Zimbabwe: With schools and rural areas poorly resourced, communities across Zimbabwe lack social infrastructure, such as libraries. Led by Chirikure Chirikure, the country’s most famous poet, this initiative will build a modern community library in Nemashakwe area, Gutu district, that will provide 800 students and youth access to books, a place to study, and programs to attain livelihood skills.