The COVID-19 pandemic has caused learning disruptions and resulted in learning loss, thereby heavily eroding the quality of education, especially in Africa. The pandemic also exacerbated issues that, traditionally, negatively impacted education in some countries. Despite the efforts of African countries to respond to school closures and ensure continued learning by quickly introducing changes in education policy and practice in response to the pandemic, such as having National Response Plans for remote education, they remain far from resiliently meeting issues of quality, continuity, inclusivity, and equity. Gaps in policy, connectivity, infrastructure, and remote learning systems, among others, have limited the opportunities for the learning environment to fully leverage the potential of digital learning technologies.
A collaborative study conducted by the African Union Commission (AUC) and OECD explored how digital transformation creates quality jobs and greater resilience of African economies to the global recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic (OECD, 2021). The study covers the eastern, central, northern, southern, and western regions of the continent, and it found that the crisis brought about by the pandemic strengthens the role of digitalization in contributing to Africa’s productive transformation and in fulfilling Agenda 2063, which encapsulates the continent’s developmental vision.
This study, commissioned by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), aims to assess the status and capacities of 34 African member countries of the IsDB and AfDB on the use of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) in education and remote learning during the crisis and the required investment in digital transformation. Anchoring the process will be the review of the state of preparation of the study countries in support of ICT use in education.
The target countries are at different levels, including political and strategic (the policy and legal environment), pedagogical (curriculum reforms, teacher training and continuing professional development), organizational (structure and governance, ICT, and digital transformation), and ICT expenditure levels. The study covers basic and secondary education, technical and vocational education, and training (TVET), and higher education, providing insights into the investments required to harness the potentials of digital technologies in enhancing learning continuity and to addressing the digital divide of the selected countries in Africa.
The findings reveal that for ICT in Education to be inclusive and accessible beyond the privileged few, there is an urgent need to address electrification and ICT infrastructure issues in countries such as South Sudan, Chad, and Niger. Apart from Tunisia and Mauritius, all other countries in the study need to pursue electrification efforts to reach the 100 per cent target. Overall, the study highlights that despite the progress made, achieving universal access to education remains a far cry due to disparities in infrastructure, access, and financial resources among countries. Consequently, some countries continue to struggle with poor infrastructure access and limited technological penetration, hindering the development of e-resources and ICT use in educational institutions. In countries where ICTs still pose significant challenges, television and radio programs can serve as effective educational alternatives to reach a larger number of children. Furthermore, the study emphasizes the longstanding vision of the study countries for ICT integration in education. However, ongoing workforce training, both during preservice and in-service, is crucial to ensure that educators acquire and maintain the ability to effectively integrate ICT into the teaching and learning process. Similarly, continuous training for learners and administrators is necessary, as ICT in education impacts the entire system.
With regard to the response to COVID-19 from an educational assessment perspective, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that governments resorted to online examinations for primary and secondary levels. The aim of most emergency remote online teaching was to ensure a continuity of the teaching and learning process, with limited attention given to assessment and examinations as a result, many students lost at least one year of studies due to the pandemic, leading to grade repetition and indicating that remote online teaching was not as effective as anticipated. However, universities adopted various approaches, including open book examinations, assignments as substitutes for examinations, and the utilization of proctored examination tools. Nonetheless, the costs associated with high-end proctoring tools and e-learning platforms pose challenges for the African Universities under study. The countries received support from various local, national, regional, and international partner agencies, as well as donor countries, for the implementation of crucial ICT infrastructure, development of the ICT in Education ecosystem (including policies, connectivity, hardware, software, learning materials, and training) and overall education policy. Additional partners intervened during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist the countries in developing emergency educational response plans.
In the post-COVID-19 era, different actors and funding agencies are stepping in to support countries in developing and enhancing the resilience of their education system by leveraging ICT.
Some key strategies for integrating ICTs in the education systems across the continent include building appropriate supporting infrastructure, prioritizing sound pedagogy and training teachers to use ICT effectively to support instruction, in addition to building the overall ICT capacity. The report identifies the following priority areas for investment : (1) electrification in the study countries, with a particular focus on rural households and schools; (2) develop comprehensive digital education strategies; (3) capacity-building of pre-service and in-service teachers in ICTs in Education, accompanied by a revision of teacher training curricula; (4) the development of mass digital literacy programmes for citizens of the countries; (5) development of internet infrastructure; (6) implementation of reliable ICT infrastructure in schools; (7) provision of devices to students for accessing digital resources; and (8) encourage digital entrepreneurship and research and development (R&D) in digital domains as catalysts for fostering innovation and efficiency.
Information and communication technologies are often seen as the panacea to society’s challenges, from poverty to education and in other areas of concern and interest. This is rightly so to a large extent. However, without a comprehensive ecosystem in place (including for instance gender inclusivity, innovative and sustainable financing models, and social justice policies), the use of ICT is likely to be ineffective and result in a waste of resources. This study reveals that the study countries, in general, have deeper concerns that need to be addressed before they can fully leverage ICT to improve educational services in an equitable manner.
This Synthesis Report provides a comprehensive overview of the utilization of ICT in education across various African nations. It diligently consolidates data and findings from individual country reports to provide a continental perspective on digital educational trends, successes, and challenges. This holistic document serves as a valuable lens through which to understand the broad landscape of ICT in education in Africa, identifying common patterns, unique approaches, and potential solutions.
However, the respective country-specific reports provide a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of each country’s specific context, challenges, and strategies. These country reports offer a detailed exploration of ICT usage in education within each individual country, providing valuable insights for policymakers, educators, and other stakeholders.