Three organisations, South Africa's Education Department, Nokia, and the not-for profit Mindset Network, have launched M4Girls, an educational initiative based on Nokia 6300 mobiles aimed at raising maths standards among teenaged girl students in South Africa.
Micheline Ntiru, Head of Nokia's MENA Community Involvement Programmes, is keen to stress a logical progression: "This project demonstrates the potential of mobile phones to enable social development and improve education especially in underprivileged areas...Young people are increasingly using their phones to gain knowledge via the internet, social networking and interaction with their peers, so it makes sense to introduce learning through these devices. By combining Nokia handsets with innovative content and the enthusiasm of the teachers and pupils this scheme creates an opportunity to really help create new skills and opportunities."
The scheme will be piloted in two schools - President Mangope Technical High School and Thlabane Technical College, both in the North West Province of South Africa. Pupils using it will be able to access educational games and other content that have been specifically created to meet the needs of the national curriculum. The pilot supports the South African Department of Education's drive to improve proficiency in key subjects like maths among students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds and, in particular, girls who tend to be the worst performers in this subject. In addition to the initial pilot using mathematics, Nokia and Mindset are developing digital content in other key subjects such as English and IT. Nokia is also providing additional funding for the two pilot schools to help train teachers and school managers in the use of ICT resources, repair classrooms and provide books for their libraries. Nokia staff are volunteering to act as part-time helpers at the schools.
Vis Naidoo, CEO of Mindset Network said, "One of South Africa's most pressing challenges is the need for an improvement in maths proficiency. This pilot will help students develop in this area, which is so important for our youth if they are to integrate into the fast paced global economy." Freddie Mahape, Principal at Tlhabane Technical and Commercial High School, said: "We need to win the battle of ensuring that more and more girl learners take interest in maths and subsequently obtain good results. As such we welcome this project, as it gives us hope for a better future by improving results for our learners. We hope that in the future it will be possible to extend this programme so that many more schools and learners can benefit from it."
* Mindset Network is a South African based non-profit organisation that was founded in 2002 and is aimed at the personal, social and economic development of all people in Africa through creation, sourcing and delivery on a mass scale of quality and contextually relevant educational material through appropriate media to the schooling, health and vocational sectors. Materials are distributed through various technology platforms including broadcast and datacast. The materials are made available in video, print and in computer-based multimedia formats. Mindset Network believes it is unique in that it leverages satellite technology to distribute its materials on a mass scale to schools, clinics and other centres of learning across Southern Africa. Through external funding, Mindset provides sites with the necessary equipment to receive its materials, and trains teachers and health care workers in the use and integration of the Mindset infrastructure and materials.