Physical books remain relevant as African children struggle with online education

Printed books remain a fundamental resource in schools who have limited to no access to digital solutions.

THE world over COVID-19 has changed education systems forever. The most significant impact of the pandemic on education has been the drive towards online learning as a solution for students to continue with their school and academic studies.

Many students have struggled to adapt to the ‘new normal’ which includes the facilitation of online learning.

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Across Africa, millions of young people have had their lives disrupted and learning put on hold for more than the past year.

Unfortunately, remote learning proved to be something of a failure as nearly 90% of students in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to household computers and 82% lack internet access (UNESCO).

According to Steve Thobela, Novus Holdings Group Executive: Africa Business Development, printed books remain a fundamental resource in schools who have limited to no access to digital solutions.

“Education is a critical element in developing Africa and a fundamental human right; however, the biggest barrier to increasing literacy is the lack of books, especially in rural areas.”

Novus Holdings is placing the spotlight on the importance of print, especially that of physical books as an instrumental learning resource for children across the African continent

Thobela adds; “Access to information, through written materials including text books, newspapers, reading books, posters, brochures and leaflets encourages literacy, and they help promote a reading culture.”

The challenge of Africa’s growing youth population

Africa’s child population will reach 1 billion by 2055, making it the largest child population among all continents. According to UNESCO, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of education exclusion globally.

Over one-fifth of children between the ages of 6 and 11 are out of school, followed by one-third of youth between the ages of 12 and 14.

In addition, nearly 60% of youth between the ages of 15 and 17 are not in school. The World Bank stated that 87% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are ‘learning poor’ and lack foundational skills they need for the 21st century and a dynamic labour market.

Difference between reading paper books and e-books

A study published by the journal, Pediatrics, suggests that toddlers who read from a screen are less likely to interact with their parents than those who sit with a traditional book.

Researchers from the University of Michigan had parents read similar stories to their two-and three-year-olds in different formats which included a traditional print book, an e-book on a tablet, and a more enhanced electronic version with animation and sound effects.

The interactions were recorded in order to determine and study the verbal and emotional interaction. It was established that the printed books generated more interaction between the parents and children and created more dialogue as the images and story were discussed.

Benefits of print in education:

  • Extremely portable – Print materials can be used in any location.
  • High comfort level – Most students are very comfortable using print materials to learn.
  • Cost-effective – Print materials can be created and duplicated with little expense.
  • Readily available – Many distance learning courses can take advantage of existing textbooks, thus saving the time and expense of creating custom materials. You also don’t need special equipment to be able to use printed material, and you can access printed material even during load shedding.
  • Shareable – Print materials can be easily shared amongst students and even across classrooms.
  • Memorable – Students are more likely to remember hardcopy material as multiple senses are being used such as the sense of touch, sight and smell.
  • Aids concentration – When reading print, you are more likely to concentrate on what you are reading, and therefore more inclined to finish what you are reading. When it comes to education, most students prefer a physical book when learning as it is easier to comprehend.

Print remains relevant

For South Africa’s leading print and packaging manufacturer, Novus Holdings seeks to unlock more value and expand its footprint in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This is planned predominately through literacy and education products, security printing (such as ballot papers and examination papers), as well as relevant retail packaging.

Specialising in printing through its Novus Print division, the Group has established itself as a comprehensive commercial printing operation in Africa. The business currently operates entirely in South Africa but services various customers across Africa.

“Given the demand for literacy, print manufacturing plays an important part in the development of Africa. We have a dedicated African team and approach business in African countries with partnerships in mind.

Together with our customers, we aim to contribute to the access of books as they provide the priceless gift of learning to children in Africa,” concludes Thobela.

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