Students in Kumasi, Ghana have started to interact with American peers to share ideas and learn about other parts of the world, thanks to a partnership between the city, the Millennium Cities Initiative, Ericsson and African operator Zain.
"The children were so amazed," says Dianna Hicks, a 5th grade teacher at Miner Elementary. "One student was almost in tears. They were connecting to a continent that they've been studying and have been told is where their ancestors came from. They need to learn the truths and untruths so they can garner their own opinions about places."
The US students all wondered how hot it was in Ghana, how the African students traveled to school and what kinds of activities they did outside of school.
"It was very entertaining and educational because I never thought I would be able to talk to kids from Africa unless I went there," said Daunya’ Tucker, a 10-year-old student at Miner Elementary School. "I had a very fun time."
The connectivity is enabled though the mobile network provided by Ericsson and Zain. In addition, Ericsson is providing the fixed wireless terminal devices for 18 participating schools in Kumasi, while Zain is providing the 3G SIM cards to the school. The schools will be fully connected in the coming months, and students will begin connecting with schools in New York City and Washington D.C. in September. Only Opoko Ware Senior High School has been connected so far.
The partnership is aiming to strengthen teachers’ and students’ skills in science, math, technology and reading.
"The experience for the students is priceless," Hicks says. "It is also priceless for the teachers. I get to collaborate with other teachers and figure out what works and what doesn't."
Eugene Asante-Bekoe, principal at Opoku Ware Junior High School, says they want to use the project to ensure cultural diversity, erase negative perceptions about Africa, and promote respect of others’ views and perceptions.
"The students are anxious to communicate and make friends from other countries," Asante-Bekoe says. "In fact, they are advocating that we further widen the scope to other countries such as Japan, Malaysia and Australia."
Asante-Bekoe says this is the first time that many students have used the internet, and it has been fun to see their eagerness to learn from their peers.
The Millennium Cities Initiative works to help selected sub-Saharan cities meet the Millennium Development Goals, providing nearby urban partners to the Millennium Villages Project, with which Ericsson is closely involved.