A new system for digital education in Malawi

Read how a secondary teacher developed digital resources to ensure more students have access to quality learning materials in Malawi, a crucial need during the pandemic and school closures. This is the second blog in our series showcasing the winners of the African Union ‘Innovating Education in Africa’ program.

May 04, 2021 by Pilirani Kumasewera
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4 minutes read
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Padziwe Tablet is an educational device which contains the mobile version of Padziwe Digital Library (PDL).
A sample of the Padziwe Tablet, an educational device which contains the mobile version of Padziwe Digital Library (PDL).
Credit: Padziwe.org

This is the 2nd blog in our series showcasing the winners of the African Union ‘Innovating Education in Africa’ program. As part of the GPE Financing Campaign, we hear from young people on the financing and innovations needed to keep education at the center of the COVID recovery, to get more children learning and leave no child behind.

My name is Pilirani Kumasewera, a 35-year old from Malawi. My very first job after university was teaching at a secondary school. I noticed that we did not have enough books in the library but we had some computers in the computer lab.

I thought if I, in collaboration with the teachers, created digital lessons and put them in the computers, we would significantly increase the number of learners who would be having access to quality learning resources.

Having no background in programming, I started teaching myself how to code using books and websites. A year later, the first computer software containing learning resources for secondary was released. This was the birth of Padziwe, back in 2011.

Through the years, we have conceived a number of ideas to help learners access quality learning resources. These ideas culminated into the creation of an ecosystem of digital education, with both online and offline applications for learners, teachers and schools.

A set of tools for schools, students and teachers

The Padziwe Ecosystem for Digital Education is a collection of software applications and hardware aimed at supporting learners, teachers and schools in the teaching and learning process. It contains:

  • Padziwe digital library (PDL): Desktop and mobile software with interactive learning resources for primary and secondary school. The content is enriched with visual media such as interactive animations, videos, audios, diagrams, etc. to help learners understand concepts easier.
  • Teachers desk: Online application offering continuous professional development (CPD) to teachers for free. The training content is enriched with visual and interactive media to enhance assimilation.
  • Padziwe educational hardware: Android tablets and solar-powered laptops containing the Padziwe Digital Library app.
  • School management system: An application that allows schools to manage their administrative processes, such as processing student grades, records, fees payments, and so on.
  • Exam bank: Application that allows teachers to automatically create question papers from a huge collection of pre-created questions.
Screenshot of the Padziwe Ecosystem for Digital Education's website
Screenshot of the Padziwe Ecosystem for Digital Education's website

Expanding access to quality learning

So far, over 3,200 students have used the applications successfully, and we envision our ecosystem making it possible for students to study everything in their curriculum independently, without the need to physically be in a classroom.

I am continuously inspired by success stories of students who used our software and achieved astounding results during national examinations, for example this story.

The Ministry of Education supports our innovations and has issued two letters of recommendation for Padziwe from their department of secondary education and teacher training. Additionally, the ministry evaluates our content for quality and consistency with the curriculum and provides feedback on how we can make it better.

We are currently working on an all-encompassing memorandum of understanding to have a more engaging working relationship with the ministry.

The AU Expo prize opens new doors

Winning the AU Innovation Expo prize has certainly raised our credibility in the eyes of many stakeholders working in education in Malawi. My hope for the future is to build working relationships with reputable educational institutions thanks to this important milestone.

African governments should restructure education funding to prioritize the attainment of learning outcomes by learners. A huge chunk of educational budgets is spent on administrative issues that do not necessarily contribute to actual learning by students.

The creation of top-quality content accompanied by well-planned strategies on how every learner can access this content should be prioritized, as this directly contributes to learners attaining learning outcomes, passing their exams and be ready for the next steps in their lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in the closure of schools has had a tragic consequence: a high number of girls dropped out of school due to pregnancies and early marriages.

For the next 12 months, we plan to reach out to some of these girls to give them a tablet containing our learning resources so that they can study from home and be able to sit for national examinations.

Our innovation can ensure that students keep learning. Children who dropped out of school for whatever reasons will be able to continue learning.

Read the other blogs in this series:

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Sub-Saharan Africa: Malawi

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