Text messaging increases parent, student engagement at school
Parents in Uganda are being encouraged to take a more active part in their children’s school lives – by mobile phone.
Plan Uganda and global telecoms company Nokia have teamed up to develop a simple SMS text messaging system that gives parents short, regular updates about their children’s education, teachers’ attendance records and pupil performance.
The project uses a central server that receives and sends messages with the short code 72000 on major local networks Airtel, Warid and Uganda Telecom. The organizers hope that by taking a more inclusive attitude to parents, they can further engage students, parents and communities in education and increase their participation in school governance.
The project also allows children to discuss issues affecting their learning while appealing to their avid interest in modern technology.
Mattias Bryneson, program manager for Plan International, Uganda, said: “Improving school governance with active participation of children and parents is a key challenge in Uganda, with the success in increasing access to education with Universal Primary Education. Plan is excited to work with Nokia and local communities and government to find innovative solutions to realize the right to quality education for all children in Uganda.”
“The project advocates for the fundamental right of every individual to have access to quality and affordable education, regardless of age, gender, race or geography,” said Elisabeth Tanguy, Nokia senior sustainability manager for the Africa region.
Parent Charles Kasasa added: “We men are not vigilant when it comes to attending meetings at school, or following what our sons and daughters are doing. But if we learn how to use this small platform through using our mobile phones, we can be in position to participate in these activities and make our contributions in meetings.”
The project has been piloted in Uganda’s Luweero district, 60 kilometers from Kampala. So far it has resulted in improved learners’ councils in primary schools, which deal with disciplinary and school-related issues.
Mark Misumi of Nokia East Africa said Nokia is developing mobile solutions that make a positive impact in areas like education, through collaborating with different agencies that assist with research and software development.
Mr. Misumi said: “This development is complementing existing efforts that were previously difficult to track. It’s harnessing the use of existing mobile telephone infrastructure, and I think it is affordable and user-friendly to communicators.”
Learn more about Plan's work in Uganda.