We recently learned that the Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) cancelled Learning at Taonga Market provoking a nationwide crisis in education. Taonga will still broadcast via community radio stations, but the majority of learners, up to 60,000, are left entirely without trained teachers and regular lessons. Some community schools may even close their classrooms. And as always, the poorest and most vulnerable will be the ones hardest hit.
In response to how we could best help, Kristine Pearson, our CEO, spent two rewarding weeks in Zambia meeting with officials in the Ministry of Education’s Educational Broadcasting Services (EBS). We’ve decided to partner with EBS for a three-year research project that will analyse the impact of our Lifeplayer MP3 on Taonga Market. It’s called the LIFT project and undertaking the research will be students at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology and Society (CSTS) in collaboration with the Open University of Zambia. This will pave the way for a scale-up of Lifeplayers to support Taonga Market across Zambia.
Although the Lifeplayer is being used in a variety of education projects in Africa, we haven’t been directly involved in its monitoring and evaluation. This research will help us to not only make improvements to the device and our own training process, but also to more comprehensively understand how the classroom mentors and teachers are using it, how learners are benefitting and identify any broader impacts that it is having.
For the ministry, the Lifeplayer MP3 helps to solve the problem of access. We’re delighted to announce that the Lifeplayer has been made an official learning tool of the ministry.
While in Zambia Kristine visited schools in the Southern Province that are continuing to broadcast Taonga. One that a made a lasting impression was the Choma Community School which is about a 90 minute drive on a dirt road from the district town of Monze. The majority of the population are subsistence farmers.
Kristine was especially impressed with volunteer mentor, Mr. Maplanga, and his Grade 7 class. What made it unique is that it only had four pupils – the opposite of most rural classrooms with large class sizes. If these children were in a government school they would be in a multi-grade classroom, if at all.
Mr. Maplanga turns on Taonga every school day at noon on the radio he received from Lifeline Energy in October. Until then, they depended on the community providing batteries to power transistor radios, which made listening patchy. Without Taonga these kids would not be able to pursue their education and move on to secondary school.