Part of the Kukua team is packing for Gambia, a small country in West Africa. Steve and I will be spending time in a farming village called Mbollet-ba, typical of one section of our target market: rural subsistence village, low connectivity, solar power, low incomes, low educational attainment. There is no easily accessible urban centre but a small market town is within reach (10km) when needed. The village primary school has 400 children, ⅔ in school ⅓ out of school. Children in school follow a standardized english language primary curriculum but literacy levels are low. Fortunately, some teachers have communicative english skills so it is possible to interact with them and the children.

Steve has been involved with Mbollet-ba through a school partnership. He is well connected to the community, on good terms with village elders and families, and has previously done research there for education, health and development projects.

We have three key objectives for this trip:

  1. Uncovering passion points: As we work towards our goal to create relevant educational content, we’re keen to discover our users’ interests and passions. What do these kids like? What do they think about all day? Football? Music? Agriculture? Soap operas? I’m excited to spend some personal time with the children to dive into who they are and have what I hope will be open conversations about their interests and aspirations.
  2. Involving mothers: Given that we’re building mobile-based educational software, we’re conscious parents and particularly mothers will play a big role in not only giving their children access to technology (i.e. their phones) but also in supporting their educational efforts. I will also be spending time with mothers and grandmothers to understand how we can include them in their children’s (specifically daughters’) learning journey.
  3. Testing four leading literacy software programs: Graphogame, Monsterphonics, Edoki and Phonibethave been successful in the developed world and we are keen to see how transferrable their pedagogy, methodology and experience is to a low-income Sub-Saharan African user. We’ll work with various groups of boys and girls, giving them iPads loaded with the apps to use for a set amount of time each day. I think our observations on the ground will yield great insights into what designs and pedagogies resonate with rural low-income populations, and what we might be able to adapt.

We’ll also be living with families – a great chance to dwell into the socio-psychological aspects of what happens behind the community and school walls. After a couple of months of research, I’m excited to finally be on the ground to test our assumptions. I’ll be reporting our insights from the trip on the blog. See you in a week’s time!