This blog is part of a series showcasing the winners of the African Union ‘Innovating Education in Africa’ program.
It is no secret that early and intensive interventions for ongoing behavior and learning challenges significantly reduce symptoms. Unfortunately, many African families find it challenging to access these interventions for their children.
Current pathway for ongoing behavior challenges in Africa
Recent studies show that it takes an average of six years or more to find the proper care and support for children with ongoing behavior challenges like autism, ADHD and other learning difficulties. And in Africa, more than 85% of families earn too little to afford treatment to improve their children’s quality of life. As a result, more than 10 million African children are 10 times less likely to ever go to school and are seen as a burden rather than contributors.
After creating and running an after-school program for two years to engage learners in extracurricular activities, I found it increasingly difficult to tell parents that I could not teach their kids because of their learning difficulties. I knew that this status quo needed to change if I wanted to walk the talk of “equitable and inclusive education for all.”
Leveraging technology to make a difference
So we developed Hunu, Craft Education’s teletherapy platform that combines evidence-based behavioral therapy approaches with communication technology to tap into the potential of parents and teachers of children with ongoing behavior and learning challenges, like autism.
For as low as $16 a month, Hunu trains parents and teachers to teach and support children at home or school. Using communication technology like AI, WhatsApp and phone calls, Craft Education’s Hunu focuses on delivering simple instructional videos to demonstrate and train parents on how to use behavioral therapy to help children engage and learn.
Parents and teachers are also matched with a certified therapist or special needs coordinator who provides weekly coaching and support on how to effectively identify ongoing delays in behavior and learning in children. Teachers are also taught how to create and use individualized education plans and evidence-based classroom strategies to create inclusive learning classrooms.
Currently, Hunu is in its pilot phase and serves 231 parents and teachers in Ghana. With the support of their assigned case managers, these parents and teachers have delivered more than 100,000 minutes of therapy in the home or school.
Hunu is bringing joy back into homes and giving parents, especially mothers, the hope of dealing with the everyday pressures of a child with an ongoing behavior challenge. For example, one of our super users, a nurse, was at the point of quitting her job to stay home to take care of her son who was diagnosed with autism and was not in school. Using Hunu to focus on her son’s behavioral needs, she was able to keep working and after three months her son was able to return to school. We want to bring this impact to African homes everywhere.
Over the next 12 months, we plan to improve Hunu’s chatbot technology to enable parents and teachers to quickly complete behavior assessments and get matched with certified professionals. In addition, we want to expand access to Facebook Messenger and Telegram and launch an interactive voice response (IVR) service.