COVID-19 Exposes Global Literacy and Access Gaps – Cell-Ed Co-Creates Mobile Solutions

Cell-Ed ImpactED initiative

COVID-19 Exposes Global Literacy and Access Gaps – Cell-Ed Co-Creates Mobile Solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the global literacy gap, including digital and health literacy, fueled by the lack of digital access for all. While many assume internet and remote learning options are ubiquitous, COVID-19 has exposed the reality that universal access to relevant, meaningful information and knowledge is out of reach for billions of people, including 130 million girls worldwide. These girls, who are at risk or out of school, are the catalyst for the GirlsEducation Challenge (GEC). 

One GEC effort at the center of this blog – a collaboration between Impact(Ed) and Cell-Ed from 2017 to 2020 – shares the promise of co-creating a remote learning solution for students, teachers, and communities in times of crises. 

Pre-COVID Program Success

The collaboration started well before COVID-19 and focused on teacher professional development within their respective schools in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, with the goal of improving literacy, numeracy and life skills outcomes for marginalized girls.

With a multi-pronged approach, Cell-Ed transformed Impact(Ed)’s teacher training into digital, stackable micro-lessons available across any mobile phone – even feature phones without internet – to supplement in-person training. This worked to solve the ongoing challenge to reinforce and enhance professional learning goals after in-person training workshops.

“After using Cell-Ed, I can now use more ideas, methods, and techniques
of teaching and learning at different levels of my pupils.”
-LeAnn, teacher in Kano, Nigeria

Teachers utilized mobile lessons on Cell-Ed in conjunction with their in-person Impact(Ed) training materials. The project  also engaged and supported teachers through on-the-ground coaches and peer champions. This approach increased engagement rates and usage by 38%. Two-way communication via text messaging with teachers also proved an invaluable way to gather real-time feedback to inform program improvements and gather requests.

How COVID Changed The Program

Once COVID-19 shut down in-person training and schools in Spring 2020, local Impact(Ed) program coaches using Cell-Ed’s remote mobile learning platform became the cornerstone of teacher professional development efforts – and a means for providing additional support to students and families. 

“We had a teacher at a school called ICF in Wajir and another teacher at a school called Githunguri Ranching in Nairobi who were among the first teachers to finish all the units in the platform and they were able to just talk fellow teachers on their experience while doing the study in the platform and how friendly the language in the Cell-ed platform was.”

– James, Teacher Tech Assistant, Kenya

In addition to Impact(Ed)’s original teacher and student-centered programming, new content and delivery channel needs emerged. Together, the teams crafted, translated, and delivered critical text messages to tens of thousands of households and teachers. With quarantine and school closures, local program partners could also continue to send COVID-19 public health and child safety messages to parents through the flexible, adaptable Cell-Ed platform, urging them to keep their families safe. Original Cell-Ed courses –  including Skillbuilder Math and Reading – were adapted and made available to students via a new WhatsApp integration, that allows learners to take a Cell-Ed course on the WhatsApp platform. 

“Using Cell-ed has completely improved me and changed my mindset as a teacher. I have learned new techniques and strategies which now makes my work very easy and enjoyable… We will really appreciate it if new courses were introduced.”  – Abdulkadir Armayau, Dantata Memorial Primary School, Dala Local Government, Nigeria

Program Reach

In all, the Impact(Ed) and local project teams leveraged Cell-Ed’s platform to send bulk text messages in seven languages (e.g., Kiswahili, Somali, Hausa Nigeria, Hausa Ghana, Dagbani, Gonja, and English) to households in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria. This included reaching nearly 50,000 households via parent phone numbers and an additional 8,800 teachers to increase remote learning options as in-person options evaporated. The text messages promoted remote learning options including Cell-Ed Courses, public health COVID-19 information, and child safety recommendations.

Although a smartphone app-based approach is often touted in mobile distance learning efforts, access and success rates ranging from 10% to 30% for teachers in these regions speak to data access and other challenges. Cell-Ed’s cross-platform approach – including a call-in option – is capable of reaching 99% of teachers, even in remote areas. For the program, over 1.2 Million SMS messages were sent reaching 48,279 households.

Key Learnings

  • Flexibility key to meeting changing mobile training and learning needs, especially in crises
  • Scale and reach is possible – even in remote areas
  • Cell-Ed mass communication bulk messaging critical to success in sharing important COVID-19 information
  • Culturally relevant content in local languages at appropriate literacy levels is imperative to reach and impact
  • Providing teachers and students with lessons on communications platforms already adopted including WhatsApp reduced digital literacy barriers


To learn more about how a customizable, flexible mobile learning platform may enhance your program or to learn how Cell-Ed works, please reach out to set up a demo and gain access to a sample course.