Mobile app bridges gap, promotes reading culture among Namibian youths

Source:Xinhua Published: 2020/4/9 14:38:40

A kid and her mom enjoy on-screen reading. Photo: VGC

For a long time, 11-year-old Selma Shilongo from a village in the Oshana region, northern Namibia, dreamt of regularly accessing a library at her village. But neither the remote area nor the surrounding communities had one.

Luckily, a mobile reading app known as 'Namibia Reads', premiered by the Namibian Education Ministry, on March 21, is addressing this void. The app, downloadable from Google Playstore and Apple App Store provides access to more than 1,000 eBooks, activities, and quizzes in an environment free of ads. Besides, animation, videos, and games for children aged from three to 12 years old are also available.

Today, regardless of her locale, when Shilongo wants to access any children-friendly content, she reaches for her mother's mobile phone and opens the reading app.

"I love reading, and this app has many e-books and other features from which I learn, improve my vocabulary and for entertainment. Without it, I would still be let down by the lack of libraries here," said Shilongo on Thursday.

Since then, Shilongo has gained a good resource of general knowledge and enhanced her reading ability.

Absalom Absalom, public relations officer in the Education Ministry said the Namibia Reads app was created with a mission to enable children in underprivileged areas to access quality education through digital solutions.

"The app is aimed at strengthening efforts of the ministry's goals of developing a strong framework to enhance core skills of numeracy and literacy," Absalom said. 

According to Absalom, content on the app is educational, with 85 percent non-fiction that children are generally not exposed to. Some subjects covered in the app include the alphabet, ecosystems, health and well-being, lifecycle, space, and as-tronomy as well as phonics.

The app development is also in line with the goals of the country's fifth national development plan related to education and social development.

Meanwhile, the app is set to enhance the knowledge of Namibia's young populace, as well as promote social learning.

"We also gather with my friends and discuss what we have read or accessed on the app. That way we share experiences," Shilongo said.

Helen Spargo, a librarian in the Ministry, said on the app, learners can choose to either read the books themselves or go for the audiobook option, which makes this app essential for busy parents who have no time to read to their children.

"The app is also cost-effective and inclusive, comprising both narrated, illustrated, and audiobooks that cater to children with special needs, in particular, those who are autistic. It does not require the use of the internet after syncing books on devices," Spargo said.

The app was developed with a funding of 1 million Namibian dollars (58,823 US dollars) by the New York-based non-profit organization, Foundation for Accessible Children's Education.  

Newspaper headline: Library on fingertips


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