Exploring the Role of Gamification in Africa’s Education Systems

Person on laptop in classroom

Many of the major problems facing educators today, in Africa and around the world, revolve around student motivation and engagement. In several African countries, this is reflected in a need to go beyond the “chalk-and-talk” style that has been in use for decades to achieve robust engagement in young minds.

One of the techniques identified is gamification, or the process of integrating gaming elements in non-game contexts to create immersive and interactive experiences. According to Study.com, “gamification endeavours to literally create a game out of learning by theming all components of your classroom in a game metaphor, making your class like one big first-person game,” usually through the use of individual or class-wide competitions that put students at the centre of the learning process.

Globally, software developers work to deliver gamification content to learners and create mechanisms that help in assessing their competency. Reflecting on its significant presence in the tech sector, the May 2024 edition of EdTech Mondays sought to explore the benefits and challenges of gamification within the specific context of the African education landscape.

Kagisho Masae, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Matric Live in South Africa, says it’s possible to leverage the time learners spend on their gadgets after school in a way that brings not just fun but deeper comprehension of subjects they may have struggled with in class during the day. Masae’s organization runs a multifunctional education app that is reinventing the way pupils learn by making learning contextual, visual, and based in real life.

“In South Africa, learners spend a lot of time on their phones after school. We want to make ourselves part of that attention by prioritizing our interface with nice pop-ups. In case a learner did not comprehend much in class, then instead of spending time on social media, that time can be used to challenge each other out of the classroom,” says Masae. “As mobile technology penetration in Africa increases, the younger generation is getting immersed in its use without the same inhibitions that held back the previous generation that mostly relied on the teacher as the only source of knowledge.”

According to Rosemary Onyancha, a science teacher at Moi Forces Academy in Kenya and the African Union Teacher of the Year 2023/2024, the current crop of learners is bold enough to experiment with gamification.

“We are dealing with 21st-century children who are critical thinkers, in contrast to the previous generation that feared to interact with learning materials. The current learners want to see the outcomes of their learning. Gamification helps them to create collaboration which is needed in the current job market,” says Onyancha.


Teachers especially need to determine the appropriate level of gamification for learners’ physical and mental capabilities while accounting for the lessons learners need. Since gamification is about teaching deeper concepts in an easy-to-understand manner, a teacher will need to develop concepts that capture everyday principles.

“A child can learn a lot just by playing a game. In addition to maths, English and science, they can learn an array of other skills such as financial literacy, digital literacy and even about becoming an entrepreneur – it is all about fun learning,” says Titilope Adewusi, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of 9ija Kids in Nigeria.

In some African countries where technology penetration is a challenge, teachers have employed such gamification concepts to teach complex subjects with ease. During the May 2024 edition of EdTech Mondays, two children below the age of 10 used the widely publicized balloon-skewer test to show how air molecules in a balloon hold up even when the balloon is poked from top to bottom where the polymers are least stretched.

The balloon-skewer principle teaches both teachers and learners that gamification can be found in everyday situations and play items and that science is not learnt through fluke but in provable experiments.

“Gamification concepts help to demystify science and can be done in any school regardless of the economic level,” says Tracey Shiundu, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at FunKE Science in Kenya.

“They help to break the notion that science is magic. In the balloon experiment, we just complemented what happens in science lessons. We need to show schools that they must not have potassium permanganate for experiments but can substitute it with baking powder and achieve similar results in class. Simplifying gamification means the learner does not feel intimidated,” adds Shiundu.

Still, both teachers and educational content creators have a role to ensure that any forms of gamification do not distract the very young, who can be easily carried away by the “fun” part of this learning technique.

At 9ija Kids, Adewusi says this works by highlighting the positive aspects of using the internet for gamification purposes “since we all delve into things that we enjoy.”

In South Africa, Masae says highlighting the practical aspects of the internet-based gamification concepts through case studies helps young people focus on learning aspects while online.

“I have a friend who got a laptop at 17 years old and soon learned how to code on YouTube and began to create games. Those in his age group came to see that using the internet for learning has positive outcomes. Teachers can also learn from this and look at technology, not as an alternative but an integral part of teaching and that they too can search the web for gamification techniques,” says Masae.

Shiundu says that in areas underserved and underserviced by technology, schools can partner with service providers (such as internet companies) to create enabling infrastructure that makes web-based gamification possible.

“Most schools in Africa are not equal in terms of class sizes and the number of teachers. We need to work with education partners, including the Mastercard Foundation, to improve learning infrastructure. Education being a social good, [we] all need to be on the same level in terms of access,” says Shiundu.

Yet, for gamification to be an integral part of the education system, it requires systems change and alignment with governmental guidelines for use in schools. This, according to the panellists, requires collaborative measures with governments that are responsible for updating study guidelines.

Once that is in place, educational content creators can develop content that aligns with such guidelines.

“We have an example where we integrated gaming in financial literacy, and it was approved by the National Department of Basic Education in South Africa. Still, this requires humility on both content creators and education officials who must get over their egos, since it is all about the learner. Again, for this collaboration to happen you need to leverage on big partnerships around you,” Masae says.

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