Learning online is opening doors in Africa

2014-01-22 00:00

AS technology evolves, it continues to enrich lives all over the world. This is especially true in Africa, which has risen to the top of the online e-learning adopters. The growth rate of e-learning for the continent is 15,2%, with Senegal the highest at 30,4%.

This rapid adoption of hi-tech educational options is affecting the future outlook of the continent positively. Improvements are being seen across major fronts, including poverty reduction, women’s equality and health.

• Reducing poverty

With the installation of fibre-optic cable in many African nations, the ability of the population to access education online has opened doors that did not exist previously. Where people used to be limited by their remote locations and financial strain, a whole new world is now at their fingertips. A study by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) showed that if all pupils in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, the world poverty level could be reduced by 12%. By going beyond that and opening up higher education to more and more students in Africa, not just to have basic skills but a degree, the poverty level in those countries could be reduced dramatically.

• Women’s rights

The same Unesco study found that out of the 792 million illiterate adults in the world, close to two-thirds are women. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the more educated women are, the more likely that they will be politically active and knowledgeable about their legal rights and how to exercise them. Not only does this knowledge have power, but it cycles through generations. Daughters of mothers who are educated are more likely to become educated themselves.

Now that higher education is just a click away, the cycle will expedite and increase the outcry for the adoption of women’s rights in African countries where they do not exist at the moment. Another benefit of women’s education is that they will have the ability to earn more in the labour force. Employees with a higher degree on average earn more than those without. And in a world that has been dominated by men for decades, access to education can level the playing field.

• Better health through knowledge

Higher-educated individuals are more likely to lead healthier lifestyles. They have learnt the perils of smoking and obesity. In fact, the difference between people who smoke with a matric and those with a higher-education degree has gone from two percent in 1962 to 17% in 2012. The adoption of healthier lifestyles has other benefits as well. One is a lower mortality rate among those who are educated. As online education centres grow, it can be assumed that the mortality rate will shrink, providing a larger educated work force. More people able to work at a higher level for a longer time will lead to a stronger economy and will continue to push this cycle of growth.

Another benefit is mental health. Those with a higher-education degree spend more time with their children, creating a bond that cannot be replaced in life. They also enjoy their jobs more. The statistics speak for themselves, with 56% of employees with higher education reportedly enjoying their jobs more because they say their jobs keep them learning, as compared to only 30% with a matric.

The Internet has created a plethora of new options for Africans that did not exist even just a few years ago.

With just a little research on some of the more comprehensive websites, education online can provide an excellent opportunity to improve one’s self, as well as the country and the world.

— Memeburn.

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