African education faces an existential challenge. By 2030, 15 million teachers will be needed to address the continent’s population growth and the wave of teacher retirement.1 At the same time, student outcomes have continued to lag – 61 million learners are currently expected to reach adolescence without basic life skills; an indictment of the support teachers and school leaders are currently receiving in their profession. In fact, recent studies have pointed to two main factors in determining the academic success of school age learners – teacher and school leader effectiveness. Leadership effectiveness accounts for as much as 25% of a school’s impact on a student’s academic performance, while teacher quality accounts for up to 35%.2

The need for a focus on educator skills development has only increased due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Learning losses in Africa are particularly severe (with some students have more than 2 years of learning loss) and the pace of learning post-pandemic has not accelerated to pre-pandemic student achievement levels yet3. This means schools have not been able to adjust their teaching to address learning loss needs, and also suggest that the remote learning initiatives received during the pandemic were not effective. Studies are also showing that these learning loss effects will likely be felt for years to come and countries should be focused on teaching and curriculum changes to address this situation4. We are currently in a learning crisis, and the only way to address this learning crisis is to focus on improving teaching within our schools.

There has been a global conversation about the importance of educational technology (EdTech) in addressing teaching and learning challenges experienced as a result of the pandemic, and the conversation is just as potent across the continent. In a recent desktop search for “EdTech in Africa for teachers” I found a lot of articles about the ever-increasing market for EdTech in Africa5 and the growing players in African EdTech companies6). What became abundantly clear to  me is that the African EdTech boom, although exciting and creating room for massive innovation in teaching and learning, is dangerously short-sighted.  Above and beyond the fact that many Edtech companies are ‘more tech than ed’, which inevitably leads to a disconnect between the need and the actual solution. 

Additionally, the vast majority of the EdTech interventions in Africa are geared towards students and families, not teachers. The EdTech platforms that are designed for teachers usually have a library of lesson plans, past assessments, and other curricular resources for teachers to utilise. The intention is well and good, but if there is an obvious need for teaching abilities to improve across the continent, how beneficial can teaching resources without actual teacher skills development actually be?

With the population of the African continent expected to double by 2050, the issue of developing, and constantly improving upon a high-quality teaching force should be one of, if not the raison d’être for the growing EdTech space across the continent. 

I have been working with our academic and programmes teams to answer this call; we launched Upskill@Instill to address that need specifically. Over the last few months, the platform has grown to 45,000 users across Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, and continues to add 1,000+ users every week. The conversation with teachers across the continent has been enriching for us. We are learning about what their needs, reflections, frustrations, barriers, aspirations are, and much more. 

We are striving to put African teachers back at the center of the education conversation (and challenge) in Africa; and we hope to empower them with practical solutions to their needs. 

This blog will become a platform for us to share what they are telling us, what we are learning and how we shape our solutions in response to the feedback we are receiving. We hope you’ll join us in this conversation.  

Evan Hendon (lead author) is co-founder and Chief Programme Officer at Instill Education;  Alim Ladha (contributor) is the Founder and CEO

  1. UNESCO International Taskforce on Teacher Education 2020, Advocacy brief
  2. Day & Sammons, 2014 [Successful School Leadership]
  3. World Bank, 2022, Learning loss from Covid in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from Malawi
  4. RTI, 2021, Building back better to avert a learning catastrophe: Estimating learning loss from COVID-19 school shutdowns in Africa and facilitating short-term and long-term learning recovery
  5., 2021, Most Funded EdTech Companies in Africa
  6. HolonIQ, 2021 Africa EdTech 50

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