Unlocking Talent Through Technology

Finalist category: Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award


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Tech4Good for Africa Award, Winner, 2018

Improving literacy and numeracy of primary school children in Malawi.


In Malawi, crowded, poorly equipped classrooms and a desperate shortage of teachers mean that even the best educators struggle to deliver engaging lessons. Only 35% of children complete primary school.

The Unlocking Talent project provides schools in Malawi with solar-powered tablets and specially-designed numeracy and literacy apps. It’s been so successful, the Malawian Government is now making it part of its education policy. 90,000 children from 110 primary schools have benefited already.

Teacher Grace Chigwechokha in a Mathematics lesson at Chiuzimbi Primary School in Lilongwe City’s Area 25, Malawi, September 21, 2017. Copyright: VSO /Amos Gumulira
Teacher Grace Chigwechokha supervises a learner Francis Nkhoma, during lessons in the Unlocking Talent Learning Centre at Chiuzimbi Primary School in Lilongwe City’s Area 25, Malawi, September 21, 2017. Copyright: VSO /AMOS GUMULIRA

In the app, a virtual teacher guides the child at every stage, providing clear explanations, practice and encouragement. All content is in the local language and follows the Malawian curriculum. Children work through the app at their own pace and get instant feedback. The teacher has a dedicated tablet to see every learner’s progress and give praise when a child completes a step.

“I can see my learners are able to read and write, and the absenteeism has also been reduced – they don’t want to miss the classes. Even those with troublesome behaviour have changed.” Grace Chigwechokha

The tablets are also used out of school time with young people who aren’t in education, which has increased re-enrolment in school substantially. But the possibilities aren’t confined to the classroom. This could work in communities without schools, and with hard-to-reach groups such as children with disabilities, and out-of-school teenage mothers.

The Unlocking Talent project is led by international development organisation VSO, in partnership with onebillion.org and Malawi’s Ministry of Education.

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