Spotlight 2020 UNESCO ICT in Education Prize finalist: eShuri from Rwanda

eShuri, an open-source application developed by Data Systems LTD, a Rwanda-based company, is one of the two finalists of the 2020 UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the Use of ICT in Education. eShuri connects learners and teachers, hosts a knowledge repository with a wide range of digital learning materials, and provides insights to teachers on students’ performance. In this article, Ms Nadia Uwamahoro, CEO of Data Systems LTD, tells us more about eShuri and how it responds to the education challenges in Africa.

Response to education challenges in Rwanda and across Africa

In Rwanda and many African countries, teachers’ support for students is insufficient, mentors’ and parents’ engagement in education is low, and opportunities for blended learning are limited. For example, in Kenya, an average classroom in a public school has 38 pupils (data in 2016) and students get as little as 5.5 hours of actual instructional time per day (data in 2017). eShuri thus aims to improve learning experiences through new technologies and alleviate certain structural problems such as under-resourcing and lack of interactive models of teaching to meet learners’ needs.  

AI-powered platform designed for learners and mentors

eShuri provides an AI-powered virtual assistant chatbot “Ask A Question”, through which learners can type or ask simple questions. The system will then search in the knowledge repository and present relevant results to the students. This feature helps learners to find answers in a fast and convenient manner. The platform also provides other tools, such as a virtual lab, video moderation, voice and facial recognition, and a video conference and eLearning via its website and mobile application.

With data obtained from students’ learning journey in the system, eShuri uses machine learning techniques to provide insights on students’ performance with a view to designing customized learning. AI-powered natural language processing and deep learning algorithms also allow for the analysis of video or image content uploaded on the platform.

Impact during COVID-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 learning crisis, eShuri provided access to interactive digital learning materials and contributed to the continuity of learning and teaching during the pandemic. In collaboration with educators, eShuri offers an alternative online school, aiming to make learning accessible for everyone, in particular, the underserved students and at a minimum or zero cost.

Looking into the future

eShuri seeks to provide 24-hour tutoring services, which will connect more teachers with learners and make learning affordable for all. This is particularly pertinent in Africa – a continent with an ever-growing youth population that requires necessary skills and knowledge in light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There thus remains a huge potential for education innovation in Africa, so that African learners will benefit from new products to meet their evolving needs, especially when 250 million African students have had their education disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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