In rural Ethiopia, few kindergartens exist. But thanks to WEEMA, a new teacher is appearing in even the most remote villages.
The teacher is a lightweight computer tablet- but it is no digital babysitter. It’s loaded with software apps that help children teach themselves to read and foster self-discovery. “The kids are teaching themselves the ABCs!” said Elizabeth McGovern, M.D., founder and executive director of WEEMA International. “We are now adding Amharic apps and expanding this program to additional villages.”
The tablets contain apps developed by researchers from Curious Learning and local partner SelamCompany. These apps are designed to enable children to gain literacy skills on their own; part of an evidence-based approach pioneered by Curious Learning (formerly the Global Literacy Project and led by experts from MIT, Tufts and Georgia State) to ensure every child receives an education—regardless of resources or location. Curious Learning applies advances in science and technology in its quest to lift millions out of poverty and into global citizenship.
WEEMA is piloting this innovative early literacy program in our public library in Mudula Town, a rural community in Ethiopia’s Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR). The project was launched in late March of this year. 40 children ages 4 to 8 were enrolled and completed a pre-assessment that showed 0% literacy among all. By end of the first three months, 30 of 32 children assessed showed progress in literacy skills!. A second pilot, based in a farmers’ training center in Hodo, is set to begin in October 2016 with ten 6 year olds. Children graduating from the program will be well prepared when they transition to first grade.