Portrait – Mark Bennett, iSchool

Portrait – Mark Bennett, iSchool

Beneath a rusty ceiling, in a room whose light blue paint is peeling from its cracked walls, Juste chisenga hands each of his seven-year-old pupils their latest learning aid – ultra-cheap tablet computers with software in Bemba, a language spoken across north-east Zambia. Known as ZEduPads, the tablets are part of a project aimed at making computers part of the everyday schooling of all young Zambians.

Dreamed up by British-born Mark Bennett, the solar-charged computers make technology accessible to children even where electricity supplies are non-existent. Available in all eight of Zambia’s official languages and preloaded with 12,000 classes, the tablets can be used almost anywhere in the country, allowing children to keep track of their individual progress across every subject they study.

Mark arrived in Zambia in 1985 on a two-year contract to work at a computer center at the University of Zambia. He stayed for twelve years, before branching out on his own, first starting africonnect, an internet service provider he sold to Vodacom in 2005, and then launching ZEduPad. Already, 7,000 of the tablets have been distributed across Zambia. “We’ve spent around US$6 million developing the software,” says Mark. “So far, we have had 2.3 million words translated into local languages and a quarter of a million sounds.”

Photography – Jay Caboz
Location – Kasisi Mission School, Zambia (A couple of kilometers outside of Lusaka) with Mark Bennett
Publication – see the articles here Forbes Africa Magazine May Issue, The Other Hundred Winner

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Mark Bennett (left) at Kasisi Missionary School

 

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