In the spring of 2011, Joseph and Larry Ajuwon, Nigerians living in UK and The Netherlands, thought it was time to get involved and contribute something to the widely reported frustration and endless challenges facing young African learners – lack of current textbooks, ineffective teaching, high failure rates in exams etc. Both had started their early schooling in Nigeria, and at a time well before the Internet age.
It seemed African schools and students were not benefiting from the ever-increasing global availability of digital content and learning tools. The kind of digital content that brings good writing to life, the kind that introduces immersive, media rich learning resources to students or engages the mind and imagination of a young learner. So Joseph and Larry setup Afrelib – the African e-Library.
As Joseph said,
“Our vision is to make it as easy and fun for the child in the rural area as one in the urban setting to read fantastic stories, write intelligently, learn about their world and gain skills – regardless of circumstance and especially gender.”
In the spring of 2012, armed with a number of devices including readers, tablets, offline wikipedia and other curious gadgets, the pair headed back to West Africa to attend education conferences and publishing exhibitions. They met with and discussed at length with teachers, school administrators, parent associations, writers and students. This was a steep learning curve, one that debunked their afore-held notion that it was not impossible to ‘ship in’ devices and ‘parachute in’ ready made content and expect effective learning to take place.
Follow up trips were arranged, more discussions held with stakeholders and further challenges/opportunities explored.
The result was the creation of Afrelib’s three student focused programs (Reader, Learner and Connect) – Focus on Reading, Supported Learning and Connecting Experiences and Resources using mobile devices and the Internet. This is guided by teachers, school administrators, students, parents and publishers in collating and curating education resources that can be used at the individual and classroom level. A fourth and critical program, Learn@Work, focuses solely on teachers and prepares them for 21st century teaching and classrooms.
The principle that emerged was fairly stark, simple and straightforward – teachers remain central to all the learning taking place in and out of the classroom. And so, that is where Afrelib started.
Afrelib CIC is a UK based social enterprise, that trains teachers for 21st century teaching and classrooms and also collaborates with students, parents, educators and book publishers to collate and curate educational content for learning in order to improve reading, writing and learning outcomes.