It’s a hot Friday afternoon, and lunch break at the Dr. S M Broderick Municipal school is set to begin. Within seconds, after the bell tolls, the air is buzzing with throngs of excited school children rushing to annex the most coveted spots on the playground.
Children At Play During Lunch Break
Whether this excitement is in anticipation of the thrills of life at home on weekends or whether they were just happy to be out in the open enjoying their favorite pastimes is anyone’s guess.
Our team, however, comprising UNICEF and DSTI staff, had a different reason for being excited. The project to connect 11,000+ schools to the internet across Sierra Leone had begun, and here we were finding out how this intervention is amplifying EdTech and improving learning outcomes in the first three connected schools; Dr. S. M Broderick Junior Secondary School at Ferguson Street, Saint John’s Primary School at Savage Street, and Mabella Municipal Primary School at Sani Abacha Street.
Children In Class 3 At The Dr. S. M Broderick Junior Secondary School
Project Giga is a global initiative launched in 2019 by UNICEF and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to connect every school worldwide to the Internet by 2030. With 2.9 billion people still offline and 96% of these people living in developing countries, such an intervention comes as welcomed news, noting that the lack of connectivity could significantly diminish learning opportunities for children in underprivileged communities and limit the ability to fulfill their potential in the coming years.
Children In Class At The Dr. S. M Broderick Junior Secondary School
The Government of Sierra Leone, as part of its Medium Term National Development Plan (2019-2023), seeks to not only address traditional challenges in the education sector but equip young learners with the skills and tools needed to be productive in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). This objective perfectly dovetails with the larger agenda of achieving its Human Capital Development aspirations, especially in skills acquisition and enhancing the overall quality of education in the country.
Computer Lab At Saint John’s Primary School Provided By Bridge The Digital Divide Also Known As ST Foundation
“Connecting schools allows children to develop digital skills and enhance access to online learning content. In the process, schools can also become anchor points for surrounding communities: if you can connect the school, you can also connect local businesses and essential services. This creates opportunities for service providers to generate revenue from paying users, making connectivity more sustainable and enriching the local digital economy” – Norman Muhwezi, Innovation Specialist, UNICEF.
A Child In Class At Saint John’s Primary School
Speaking to the children at Saint John’s school, one recurring theme is that the internet represents more than screens and keyboards; for these children, the internet literally translates to information, choice, opportunity and most importantly hope for a brighter future. When asked what they’ll do now that they are connected to the internet, one kid excitedly exclaimed “EVERYTHING”.
Mrs. Florence Collier in charge of Class Three (3) Red at the Dr. S. M Broderick Nursery, Preparatory, and Junior Secondary School stated:
“As one of the first beneficiaries, I am deeply moved and strongly in support of this initiative to provide free internet to every school across the country. This will bridge the digital divide with access to teaching and learning materials, particularly for teachers to keep up with contemporary techniques. For instance, young children learn better in fun and exciting settings, so with the installation of this internet, I can download nursery rhymes and play them in class for the children. This initiative will spark creativity in young children for years to come”.
Mrs. Florence Collier, Class 3 teacher, S.M. Broderick
Following the successful connection of these three initial schools, Project Lead for Giga at DSTI, Hafsatu Rakie Sesay, indicated that the project’s next phase would involve connecting 39 schools, particularly in the provinces.
“DSTI prioritizes human capital development as one of the key pathways for achieving the goal of transforming Sierra Leone into an innovation and entrepreneurial hub. Our approach to digital education is based on the core principles of Universal Access, Radical Inclusion, Accelerated Service Delivery, and Quality Learning. Our entire team feels incredibly passionate about this, and there’s much enthusiasm, energy, and hard work currently being invested in making sure the project makes the desired impact”, she concluded.