Information and communication technology (ICT) is a formal, examinable school subject in Ghana. But many rural schools do not have computers or internet connections, and so children must learn about ICT in the abstract. As a result, exam failure rates are high. For children writing the Basic Education Certificate Exam (B.E.C.E), which determines progress to secondary school, failure can be devastating. Families who cannot afford school fees, uniforms and other costs related to a repeat year, take their children out of school. The children cannot go on to further education, narrowing their chances of employment and of breaking out of poverty.
The innovative service
Librarians at Volta Regional Library, which is one of 10 regional libraries managed by the Ghana Library Authority (GhLA), came up with an innovative idea to improve the B.E.C.E. pass rate in the municipality of Ho, where the library is based. Their idea was to equip a mobile library with low-power laptop computers, solar panels and modem internet, and to travel to under resourced junior high schools to conduct practical computer skills classes. In 2012, the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) awarded Volta Regional Library a small grant for a year-long pilot project to test their idea in five schools.
The pilot project was so successful that EIFL launched a fundraising campaign for it through GlobalGiving UK. The campaign attracted major funding from the technology company, Nokia, in 2015, enabling us to scale up the project to include mobile libraries in three more regions - Ashanti, Upper East and Western - with the potential to reach over 1,800 children in more than 20 junior high schools annually.
Each of the three new regional libraries received 15 laptop computers and solar panels to charge them; a modem for the internet; a canopy, desks and chairs for large outdoor classes; a projector and screen, and a printer to print out notes for the children to take home. The funds also covered the costs of additional computers and equipment for Volta Regional Library. Working with Accra-based social enterprise, TechAIDE, the libraries installed the equipment in the mobile libraries. TechAIDE also preloaded the laptops with content related to school subjects, like geography, mathematics, science and English; e-books to improve their literacy skills; practice exam questions, and other useful and fun learning tools.
The three libraries consulted with their regional education offices, and identified 15 under resourced schools (five in each region) that would receive classes. Librarians from the three regions visited Volta Regional Library to learn how to prepare their mobile libraries for the classes; how to use and maintain the solar panels and ICT, and to see the hands-on computer classes in action. They also attended a workshop for librarians and ICT teachers from the 15 selected schools at which librarians from Volta Region conducted training in how to manage large ICT classes using a limited number of laptops and how to use the pre-loaded educational content.
"When we can practise, the examination becomes very easy because we always remember what we practise! The library’s classes have also helped us students to do online research - and to acquire more information about what we are taught in class." - Mary, a student from Western Region.
eifl-plip project timeline
May 2012 - January 2020
Impact and achievements
- From 2015 to 2019, the project helped over 3,200 children attending poor and rural schools in four regions to pass the B.E.C.E. and progress to secondary school. Exam results improved annually throughout the life of the project as children from Grades 1 and 2 were able to build on their knowledge and practical skills year by year until they reached Grade 3 - the year they must write the B.E.C.E:
- in 2014/15, before the expanded project started, the average pass rate in the subject ICT at B.E.C.E. level in the selected schools was just 45%;
- in 2016, it increased to 65%; in 2017 it increased to 81%;
- in 2018 it increased to 85%, and
- in 2019 the average pass rate was 84%.
- The four regional libraries reached an average of 3,000 - 3,500 children in over 20 schools every year - a total of over 12,000 children over the full project period.
- The project improved ICT teaching in rural schools, building teachers’ skills and enhancing classroom practice.
- The project won the respect of parents and recognition for the libraries in their communities.
- “Every week, parents move their children from other schools which are not benefitting from the project to my school. They want their children to have this opportunity to learn about technology and pass their exams,” said Mr Francis Pepra Boansi, headmaster of Kwaaso Presbyterian Junior High School.
- Evidence of the impact of the project, collected by the four regional libraries, and advocacy by GhLA, convinced the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC), a government agency, to equip the remaining six mobile regional libraries operated by the GhLA with laptop computers. GIFEC’s support makes it possible for the GhLA to transform the project into a sustainable service that will be offered in 10 regions.
"Every week, parents move their children from other schools which are not benefitting from the project to my school. They want their children to have this opportunity to learn about technology and pass their exams." - Francis Pepra Boansi, headmaster of Kwaaso Presbyterian Junior High School.
From 2020, 10 ICT-equipped mobile libraries will go on the road to conduct hands-on computer classes in under-resourced schools in 10 regions of Ghana: the four regions that took part in the EIFL project - Ashanti, Upper East, Volta and Western - and six more, Brong-Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Northern and Upper West. The project is to be managed by GhLA.
Read Changing children's lives in Ghana, a feature article about the project published in EIFL's 2019 Annual Report.
Watch EIFL's videos about the Hands on computer classes for 1,800 Ghana children project:
More libraries supporting education
Read about more innovative public library services that contribute to education of children and adults. PLIP-EDUCATION