This blog is part of a series showcasing the winners of the African Union ‘Innovating Education in Africa’ program.
Almost 100 million children in Africa are not in school. In Uganda 46% of children aged 6-12 years old have never set foot in a classroom due to factors such as physical distance to a brick-and-mortar school, the steep costs of attending school, and the dependence on children in subsistence farming.
Teaching learners to use knowledge and skills to create solutions to local challenges
Yiya AirScience was created to remove the barriers to education that so many young people face and make quality education accessible to all. It is a first-of-its-kind virtual classroom, which can be accessed in the most remote, rural and underserved communities across Africa.
Yiya AirScience is an interactive learning program designed to mimic the structure of massive open online courses (such as Coursera), but with the major adaptation that our learners do not need the internet or a smart device. Learners interact remotely with live lessons being broadcast over the radio via our proprietary offline learning app that runs on basic keypad phones.
Yiya AirScience teachers employ hands-on, relevant, and experiential education. The interactive STEM content is aligned with the national curriculum and teaches learners how to use classroom knowledge and skills to create solutions to local challenges.
Leveraging USSD Technology to re-design remote learning
Our offline learning app uses existing technology that is widespread across Africa: USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data). USSD is a form of real-time SMS that allows users to respond to questions and polls using the regular phone network. The user does not need to have internet access.
USSD has been used for over a decade to facilitate informal mobile banking and health. What makes Yiya AirScience so revolutionary is that we are leveraging the ubiquity of USSD technology for interactive remote education!
In the past year, 53,000 learners accessed the Yiya AirScience platform more than 1.25 million times. Preliminary findings from an external evaluation being conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in the US show that youth who participate in our program demonstrate increased interest in STEM and in pursuing a STEM career. They also demonstrate improvement in their resilience when problem solving.