Our 2019 focus: Launching a new, massively scalable education social network

The data speaks for itself. Children in sub-Saharan Africa are not learning. But irregular attendance, repetition, and inadequate teacher training are not the real problems. Rather, they are merely symptoms of much larger systemic weaknesses. The international development community, including The World Bank and USAID, feed into the dysfunction — and are partially to blame for it — by funding and then funding again inefficient and ineffective bureaucracies and contractors.

There are a variety of solutions and based on our lessons learned in Senegal over 12 years, our 2019 focus is on launching a new, massively scalable education social network – SmartSenegal.com aimed at helping teachers directly. 

Teachers are already heavy users of Facebook and WhatsApp users and SmartSenegal.com provides them with an even better platform designed specifically with features to meet educator needs.  An easily searchable content library providing content that would otherwise be unavailable, coaching groups, and education-focused e-commerce — all to make it easier for teachers.

Our 2019 focus on social network growth is core to growing the CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform.

Why are the Walls Pink?

Even though our focus is on educational technology we  are also fortunate to have numerous opportunities to help motivate students.


We just renovated an old classroom and turned the process into an exercise of critical thinking and democratic decision-making. Typically, it’s the Ministry of Education that selects the paint color,  but this time we let the students select the color options, debate the pro’s and con’s, and vote on the final selection. Vibrant pink won! 

“I would have never thought of this color,” said their teacher, Abdoulaye Ka. He reports that the empowered students speak proudly of their new classroom and are clearly more motivated as they prepare now for the elementary school passing exam.

Dream Big and Discover the World

The gleaming new Senegal Biaise Diagne International Airport is in striking contrast to the elementary school in the rural village of Sinthiou Mbadane. Located — as is the airport — in the region of Thies, the school is off the electric grid. With minimum facilities, the teachers strive to educate and inspire this Pullar community, the most education-challenged ethnicity in this part of Africa.

Delta Airlines’ Dakar Station Manger Monique Diaw-Brown teamed up with CyberSmart Africa to provide the students and teachers with a remarkable tour of the new airport. Monique’s openness and enthusiasm totally engaged everyone, particularly when she handed them boarding passes nearly the same as actual Delta’s passengers use!

The airport visit was an amazing source of inspiration to these elementary school students, giving them a concrete example of where their education might take them. If they work hard in school, maybe one day these youth will have the opportunity to travel on a Delta airplane and discover the world. What might be considered a common school field trip in more economically developed countries is here a hugely positive force for local and global change.

 

 

Expanding Broadband Connectivity Requires Innovation

WestAfrica Com 2018. Dakar . Why Expanding Broadband Connectivity Requires Innovation

Connecting underserved regions of West Africa requires new efficiencies and innovative business models. Here are three reasons why, elaborated on by Jim Teicher, CEO of CyberSmart Africa  during his keynote panel remarks at WESTAFRICA COM, the premier telecom conference held this week week in Dakar, Senegal.

1. Government(s) are not serious enough about connecting the unconnected: Existing bureaucracies are not structured to benefit from the efficiencies of connectivity and technology. In fact, efficiencies can create unwelcome risks that threaten the socio-economic fabric of West African nations. Understanding these challenges will enable the private sector to advance faster.

2. Telecoms must work harder to leverage government finance extending connectivity to the unconnected. The current model is just the opposite, meaning that governments attempt to leverage external financing to implement a variety of connectivity and technology initiatives. Governments are not in the Telecom business and boundaries need to be better defined.

3. We should not complain that closing the digital divide is too expensive when affordable technologies and solutions  do exist. There are ways  to bring improved connectivity, information, and knowledge to everyone in West Africa — including rural villages and schools without electricity.

CyberSmart Africa has developed an innovative solution to bring advanced education technology to schools without electricity. We have proven the concept in Senegal with a model for growth that can achieve massive scale.

Jim Teicher, CEO CyberSmart Africa at WestAfrica Com2018 Dakar

4th of July at the US Embassy

The US Embassy, Dakar hosted a special July 4th US Independence Day event! What better way to strengthen connections between the US and Senegal than with a party!  CyberSmart Africa was invited to show off our work to scale educational technology, which is a critical part of connecting in today’s globalized world. Pictured below: Jim Teicher meets again with US Ambassador Tulanbo Mushingi and Emilie Ndiaye, a Senegalese educator, demonstrates the CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform

Delivering health education

It’s practical and inevitable that the CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform will one day deliver healthcare education to thousands of schools. But medical treatment will require always face-to-face visits.  Maine (USA) -based “Partners for World Health” visited our pilot Senegalese school  in May to provide on-site medical treatment to students and villagers. Jim Teicher had connected with this wonderful American healthcare group three years ago, and this is their third visit to the school! We so appreciate them!!

 

 

 

Millennium Promise Education Program Manager observes CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform

Pictured is El-Houssaine Bah, Education Program Manager for Millennium Promise leading a conversation (in May) with teachers at Ecole Sinthiou Mbadane 1, a rural Senegalese school off the electric grid. We were pleased to welcome our partner to observe an interactive classroom lesson taught using the CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform. Classroom teacher Mounirou Cisse and his students demonstrated how language learning can be made more effective and engaging in ways that would not be possible without technology.

CyberSmart makes this affordable technology possible for schools off the electric grid! We are a  long term partner with Millennium Promise and their affiliate The Earth Institute at Columbia University and we appreciate their support.

Met with the French Minister of Education – Sustainable technologies key to digital transformation

Jim Teicher, Director of CyberSmart Education, met with the French Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, in conjunction with the visit of President Emmanuel Macron to Senegal in early February 2018. They discussed the need for new, more #sustainable ways to use #educational #technologies and established a good, ongoing dialogue.

Making Teachers’ Jobs Easier

Emilee Ndiaye,  a teacher at Ecole Sinthiou Mbadane 1 in rural Senegal, uses the CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform to have students match images to sounds during an interactive French language instruction demonstration for other local teachers.  “It makes my job easier,” she says – and with 50-60 students in her class this is critically important to her.

Teachers push a single button and teach. Previously unavailable instructional materials — maps, photos, videos and up-to-date quality content—directly support classroom learning. Based on 9 years of experience at the grassroots level in Senegal, The CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform delivers up-to-date learning and teaching resources to the vast majority of schools in Sub-Saharan Africa that have no electricity.

Easy to use as a mobile phone, the CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform is the winner of the prestigious Game-Changing Innovation Award, West Africa Com 2017.

 

Affordable, scalable solar-powered digital learning

 

“Even though this is a rural school without electricity, our students can use the same multimedia resources available in developed countries. This is the way it should be for every school in Senegal.”

Mounirou Cisse teaches at Ecole Sinthiou Mbadane 1, a rural elementary school in Senegal, West Africa. The school lacks electricity and has weak physical infrastructure – like most in Sub-Saharan Africa. It seems to be the least likely to integrate highly participatory digital learning as part of regular classroom instruction; but something special is going on!

Ecole Sinthiou Mbadane 1 partners with CyberSmart Africa to pilot a highly innovative approach to affordable, scalable, solar-powered digital learning. Based on 9 years of experience at the grassroots level in Senegal, The CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform integrates unique equipment, teacher training, and learning content into an all-in-one solution that is as easy to use as a mobile phone.