MTN Foundation intros literacy app Feed the Monster

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The MTN SA Foundation has partnered with US-based non-profit organisation Curious Learning and Bellavista School, to bring child literacy app Feed the Monster to SA.

The launch of the app ties in with MTN’s ongoing commitment to help improve literacy, education and ICT skills to provide South African children with the immense opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution, notes MTN.

Originally introduced in 2016, Feed the Monster is an online game that teaches children the fundamentals of reading. It is a joint venture between global firms: Web and mobile applications development studio The App Factory, The Centre for Educational Technology, and the International Rescue Committee. It is available in 30 countries across the globe, in 45 languages.

The Android app, in pilot phase locally, is targeted at learners between the ages of six and eight. Learning is presented in an instructional and gamification format, where learners are able to access reading instructions via a specialised curriculum, which can be taught either in the classroom with the assistance of a teacher, or at home with parents.

“Urgent action is needed as a lack of access to reading material and textbooks are two of the main reasons 78% of South African children in grade three still can’t read for meaning,” says Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, GM of the MTN SA Foundation.

“This is not helped by the fact that only 29% of the poorest primary schools in the country reportedly have access to in-school libraries.”

During the game, children are required to match letters with sounds, by collecting monster eggs and feeding them alphabet letters, giving them the ability to learn that sounds combined with words make sentences that carry meaning.

In recognition of the importance of using the mother tongue to foster literacy at foundation level, MTN says it has played a key role in facilitating the localisation of the app into all 11 official South African languages.

“We are pleased to be able to bring the transformative power of technology to SA’s children. Not only does this bridge the digital divide and prepare our children for a future in the information age, but we are also providing the basic building blocks for early childhood education,” notes Mtunzi-Hairwadzi.

Curious Learning will scale the literacy impact of Feed the Monster in SA by localising and distributing two learning apps. The first focuses on fundamental reading skills; the second on providing a collection of interactive e-books that act as “training wheels” for young readers. Together, these apps will provide a springboard for many children to begin their journey of learning to read.

Alison Scott, principal of Bellavista School, says case studies and reports from other parts of the world highlight the immense strides which can be made by harnessing mobile and app-based solutions.

“In Syria, where an estimated 2.3 million children are out of school because of violent conflict, the Feed the Monster app resulted in positive learning outcomes in all age groups.

“The rate of change for younger children was an impressive 34% on the syllable sub-task, versus a 27% change rate for older children. The improvement in oral reading fluency was even more remarkable, with a 75% increase from baseline for younger children, while older children achieved an 18% increase.”

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