In 2009, Impact Network began building schools in rural Zambia to bring educational access to out-of-school children. By 2011, we had built 5 schools that we handed over to the local communities to operate. But after completing the construction, we realized that while the buildings were impressive, the level of education was not. Like many schools built by NGOs, we had left a structure for the community, but provided no teachers, no management structure, and essentially no tools to help provide a quality education within the school walls.

In 2011, we shifted our focus beyond the build, and created the eSchool 360 system – a holistic e-Learning solution to deliver a high-quality education, while keeping costs to a minimum. One of the core components of this system is an active curriculum, which is provided on the iSchool ZEduPad tablets that we use in our classrooms. In Zambia, where rote learning and memorization are widespread in many schools, we are excited to be part of a big shift towards active learning. iSchool’s curriculum is designed to create an activity-oriented and inquiry-based learning environment, which is engaging for both students and teachers.

We started using this curriculum in early 2011, and one of the first things we did was work with our teachers to adapt it to the rural setting of Impact Network’s schools. Often a lesson will call for certain resources that are not readily available in the village. Our staff met with teachers, and went through their lesson plans together to come up with creative alternatives using locally sourced materials. For example, when a lesson called for art supplies that would be found in a city, our teachers helped students to make collages using twigs, leaves, and small stones instead.

When you go around to our classrooms, what do you see? Visit a math class, and you’ll find students doing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division all with rocks collected from around the school. Observe a science class and you might find a group of students outside, listening to the sounds of the village and recording what they hear. Listen in on a social development class and you can catch students role-playing how to introduce themselves to adults. Watch a literacy class and you’ll see our scholars huddled with sticks, tracing letters in the ground.

It isn’t easy to run schools in rural Zambia. But when a group of dedicated individuals come together with one goal—to provide high quality education to all children—anything is possible. We use technology in our classrooms, but we also use rocks and twigs. Because the world is full of learning tools.

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Images: Impact Network