Since signing a Memorandum Of Understanding with NGO En Classe in 2014, we have been excited to partner with this small but effective community organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although we hadn’t originally planned to expand to the DRC as a priority, when we met with En Classe Founder Sylvia van den Brink in November 2013, we knew she would be an excellent partner.
En Classe is committed to bringing the Library For All program to schools across the DRC – starting with 10 schools that they have been working with in the Kinshasa area for the last 10 years. As part of the MOU, they committed to a proof of concept pilot at one school. They fundraised to purchase 30 tablets from a local Samsung supplier, sourced Congolese content for us to add to the library and established relationships with local telecommunications companies. In November 2014, they began teacher training with 11 teachers at their pilot school. Library For All provided support in sourcing content, localizing the app and bug fixes, and sharing lessons to inform the DRC rollout.
On the 25th of March, En Classe publically launched the pilot of the Library For All program in one of their schools. The event was attended by key officials and press, including the Minister of Education of Kinshasa. In the months leading up, En Classe organized six teacher training sessions for teachers to familiarize themselves with technology and the use of books as pedagogic resources. Sylvia and her team also worked with a local theater group to put on a play, using the tablets and the library, for the students, parents, and some government officials. She is dedicated to spreading the word about reading and improving literacy rates for the area.
In addition, En Classe worked with World Vision to conduct a baseline literacy test at 10 schools – five where they are planning to use the library this year and five that won’t yet see the library until 2016 (and will act as control schools). These tests will give us valuable data that we hope will illustrate the connection between using the Library For All app and an increase in literacy rates. En Classe plans to take the results to the World Bank and the Congolese Ministry of Education at the end of the year, to push for expansion into more schools in 2016.
All in all, we are thrilled with the progression of this pilot in the DRC. We found a great partner in Sylvia and the En Classe team, and look forward to the continued journey with them. This partnership has also laid the foundation for a “blueprint” model of implementation that we plan to replicate with local NGOs around the world.