Strategies to Improve Literacy: Adult Non-Formal Education Using Mobile Phones A West African Perspective

Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Preeti Shroff-Mehta


Education across West sub-Saharan Africa is characterized by growing demand in rural locations, limited resources, and a severe shortage of teachers at all levels of the education system. UNESCO's Education Sector plan for 2005-2007 predicted that “Sub-Saharan Africa would need 4 million additional teachers by 2015, in order to meet the Universal Primary Education goal alone” (Daniel & Menon, 2005). This estimate did not include the need for literacy and health educators in non-formal systems. West Africa has the lowest literacy rates in the world (Pearce, 2009). Integrating Information Communication Technology (ICTs) in education on the African continent, which faces a chronic shortage of material and human resources, has been presented as one way to extend access to education through open and distance learning. ICTs are also being used to enrich the quality of education by providing a digital portal to materials and connecting the most rural and urban communities with each other via the world wide web. There has been significant evidence of increasingly widespread demand for and use of ICTs in education initiatives in African countries, and demonstrated interest from African policymakers in utilizing ICTs to help meet Education For All (EFA) objectives (Trucano, 2005). “The debate is no longer whether to use information and communication technologies (ICT) in education in Africa but how to do so, and how to ensure equitable access for teachers and learners, whether in urban or rural settings” (Toure, Tchombe, and Karsenti, 2009). Today, widespread mobile penetration in West sub-Saharan Africa far outstrips Internet access. As Ford and Botha (2009) point out, in 2000, South Africa accounted for over half of all Africa’s mobile subscribers, but seven years later close to 85 percent were in other countries. The African continent has the second fastest growing rate of mobile adoption in the world, surpassed only recently by India (ITU, 2009). Africans use mobile phones in their daily lives and there are an increasing number of services in almost every sector being made available through Internet and mobile technology (Donner, 2008). At the time of this writing, the World Bank had recently proposed a landscape assessment on the role of mobiles in education in developing countries (Edutech, 2009). Though there are new communities of research and practice using mobiles in education in South Africa and Kenya, very little has been published about initiatives in West Francophone Africa. ICT integration in schools has been heavily reliant on personal computers, and this reliance has been identified as a key challenge in a national report by the Education Research Network for West and Central Africa (ERNWACA) in the first phase of the PanAfrican Research Agenda on the Integration of ICTs (Diouf & Camara, 2009). There is little evidence of mobiles being used in formal education in the existing literature on the use of ICTs in education in West Africa. Mobile technology is, however, being used in early trials that use mobiles as a platform for literacy in adult non-formal education. This research provides an indepth case study of one of these pioneering projects and the process whereby the implementing organization is developing a curriculum that integrates mobiles into literacy training.


Instructional Media Design | International and Comparative Education

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