ADEISO, GHANA – In a dimly lit classroom in Adeiso, a small village in Ghana’s Eastern Region, children wait patiently as they are introduced to their new e-readers.
“Take good care of them, they will be passed over to future students,” says Clara Miralles Codorniu, Senior Manager at Worldreader, a non-profit dedicated to improving literacy and comprehension rates in Africa.
The children remain silent, the value of the e-readers is palpable. Each one contains more than 100 stories and textbooks in Akuapem, Twi and English, enabling students to study and read at their leisure. Curriculum textbooks as well as local children’s books, like “Ananse and the King’s Drum” and “At the Cow Farm” are available as well.
“I take [the e-reader] home and read with my sister and mother” says Ntofo, 13, a Level Six student at the school.
In a school where there is but one English language textbook to share amongst 34 students, being able to take their books home presents them with an enormous advantage.
“If they want to learn more, they have the right to do so…so the children move ahead,” says Patrick Ofori Ansah, head teacher at Adeiso Presby Primary.
Worldreader is providing a service where the Ghanaian government is currently failing. Only 43 per cent of schools in the country are sufficiently provided with textbooks. Over one third of young men and over half of young women are illiterate, despite having attended school for six years. In the same category, a further 28 per cent of young men and 33 per cent of young women are semi-literate.
These are astonishing statistics. Despite dramatic improvements to primary school enrollment levels in Ghana, Ghanaian and African schools are chronically under-resourced, often lacking the textbooks needed to provide an adequate education. According to a report by UNESCO, over 200 million children in sub-Saharan Africa live in areas where delivery of printed books is non-existent or prohibitively expensive.
Studies have shown that when using Worldreader’s programs, children show significant improvement in reading and comprehension levels, with reading scores improving dramatically on marked assessments. In fact, 50 pe rcent of children exhibit improvements in foundational English reading skills after using the e-reader for six months.
Part of Wordlreader’s success owes to its distribution strategy. Using mobile networks, Worldreader makes available over 10,000 titles to download at costs as low as 50 cents, allowing children in schools without books to access important material.
The potential is enormous. The organization is piggybacking on a continent-wide mobile market of 781 million customers, a market which is expected to grow at an annual rate of 21 per cent over the next six years.
With Worldreader’s e-reader kits currently being made available to schools and organizations across Africa, it provides ample opportunity for school children to improve their reading skills.
Evans Agyira, 13, a student at Adeiso Presby, has been working with an e-reader for a few months already. Asked what he would want if he could be given anything, he says, “Knowledge.”