This article was originally published in Lenovo StoryHub
Children on the Edge and African Storybook are both pioneers in widening access to education. Though they have different focuses, the two companies seek to dismantle barriers to education for the most marginalized in society.
African Storybook looks at language, and specifically how a lack of exposure to the written word can impact education outcomes. Their mission is to widen access to storybooks in the many languages of Africa to enhance children’s literacy and imagination.
Meanwhile, Children on the Edge addresses the physical barriers to accessing education, working with refugee communities around the world to deliver educational tools and training to help create safe, protective environments where children can learn and thrive.
These goals of student empowerment align perfectly with Lenovo’s commitment to delivering smarter technology for all. Through education we seek to empower diverse, under-resourced communities, giving back to society in a variety of ways. So, over the past year, we worked together to transform local communities and create new opportunities.
Children on the Edge
Children on the Edge has never been one to take the easy route. Working in Uganda, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Myanmar, and India, they support the world’s most marginalized children, living in some of the toughest situations imaginable.
Part of their goal is to create conditions where every child can flourish, no matter where they live and irrespective of the obstacles they face. In refugee camps, the challenges to achieving this goal are great, with ever-evolving obstacles often making classroom building prohibitively costly as a way to reach every child.
In Uganda, the constant barriers were compounded by the COVID pandemic, with Children on the Edge needing to quickly pivot towards providing lessons outdoors in small cluster groups.
This is where Lenovo came in.
With face-to-face learning threatened by local outbreaks and lockdowns, Lenovo helped to fund the development of teacher training and donated a raft of technology to support the development of clusters, assisting teachers in planning and helping children learn.
From tablets to solar energy solutions and remote software services, Lenovo technology provided simple adaptations which thrive in larger refugee communities, enabling Children on the Edge to reach more and more of the youngest refugees living in Kyaka camp, Uganda.
The results have been astounding. In the last year, 90 refugee teachers have been recruited to teach in the small learning groups with 736 children enrolled.
African Storybook was working to unlock another major limiting factor to education across Africa: language.
The distinct lack of written learning materials tailored to a continent which houses approximately one-third of the world’s languages poses a huge challenge. While there had been previous efforts to print books in local dialects, this approach did not have the scope or scale to effectively make an impact.
Enter African Storybook, which is building an open access digital platform for picture storybooks in the languages of Africa. The interactive website and app enable users to read, create, download, translate, and adapt storybooks. The digital-led approach allows for the mass sharing of books, providing contextually appropriate picture stories for children to develop their literacy skills.
Teachers and librarians can now use the storybooks in diverse ways to accelerate children’s literacy acquisition, helping them enjoy reading and stimulating their imagination. In turn, this entrenches reading and writing with local children.
With initial success demonstrated, African Storybook then turned to how many children they could reach.
When African Storybook won a Tech for Good award, their app stood out to Lenovo as an example of how technology solutions can be creative and not just consumptive.
This was important, as Lenovo looks to support organizations providing imaginative, tech-enabled experiences that give marginalized communities tools to develop their own stories.
So Lenovo provided both financial support and technology to help African Storybook continue its growth. This was enacted primarily through funds to support 8 libraries in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi, as well as 40 tablets for African Storybook’s champions to use with children to create and publish their own storybooks.
As of September 2022, African Storybook has 3,500 unique storybooks, 6,600 translations, and 29 languages of Africa represented. With Lenovo’s support and partnership, this means that more than 8 million young people have had their education improved by African Storybook’s digital library.
One year on and Lenovo’s partnerships with Children on the Edge and African Storybook have helped support life-changing education programs across Africa. We’re even seeing cross pollination between the two organizations, with African Storybook being used by Children on the Edge in their refugee education programs.
Looking ahead, both organizations are firmly focused on the future. African Storybook is looking to develop a second initiative focused on story development in under-represented African languages and groups as well as STEM storybooks. Children on the Edge is building upon the cluster pilot in Uganda, expanding their digital learning innovations to help reach more refugee children.
But beyond the numbers lies a story with far greater impact. That story is about the role that smarter technology can play to help transform the life chances of some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
Lenovo is committed to partnering with charitable organizations, educational institutions, and civic organizations to promote education and empower people. Children on the Edge and African Storybook share this vision for a future which provides all children with an education. We will continue to use technology and global reach to help bring this goal one step closer to fruition.