WikiChallenge African Schools is a content creation contest that is a collaboration between Wiki In Africa and the Orange Foundation across Africa. The contest is aimed at primary schools and pupils aged 9 to 11 that are part of the Orange Foundation Digital Schools network in Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, and Tunisia. 

The contest runs from the 1st October to the 30th November 2017, with the resulting articles being integrated into Vikidia over December 2017.

The writing contest is a fun way for teachers to integrate digital literacy skills and pride in, and knowledge of, their community into the school’s curriculum. WikiChallenge African Schools provides this web-based education experience by encouraging schools to write encyclopedic articles about subjects within their immediate surroundings that, once finished, will be added to Vikidia.

Vikidia is the little sister of Wikipedia. It is an encyclopedia made with a wiki, that provides key concepts to younger readers. Although the language is aimed at 8–13 year olds there is no age limit to those who wish to contribute.

The writing theme is open … but the contest strongly suggests that participating schools create articles about a subject that is close to the school and its community: its city, its village, a geographical point of interest (mountain, river, national park, etc.), a museum located nearby, or a curiosity. The pupils must use a writing style that is suitable for encyclopedic publication.

The Writing Prizes will be awarded at an international level and national level. There are three prizes that will be awarded to three winning institutions. Each prize will consists of school equipment (school bags, notebooks, dictionaries, computer etc.) to a combined total value of €4000. Prizes will be awarded to winning institutions at a ceremony in the spring of 2018. In all cases, all schools that take part will receive a diploma of participation.

At a national level, a jury and a prize-giving ceremony may be organised, subject to a sufficient number of participating institutions and the availability of local stakeholders. The selection of prizes will be decided locally. Similarly, gifts may be distributed at the end of the competition to institutions that have actively participated.

WikiChallenge is an exciting way to teach pupils with key ICT and collaborative skills, and also teaches critical thought through the project’s emphasis on referencing, citations and writing for neutrality. Additionally, the students benefit by being part of a global movement and learning that their knowledge is both valued and valuable.  In 2017, an exhaustive study showed that including Wikipedia-based assignments in a teaching programme provides students with valuable digital and information literacy knowledge, critical research, writing for a public audience, teamwork, and technology skills. The research found that students are more motivated by these assignments as they were proud of their work, spent more time, and saw the usefulness of the result beyond a learning task.

Key to the success of the contest is the offline WikiFundi platform that mimics the experience of editing Wikipedia and other Mediawiki-based platforms. WikiFundi enables teachers, pupils, wikipedian communities and NGOs to learn how to edit Wikipedia and contribute knowledge when internet access fails or is not available at all. It enables individuals, groups and communities to work on articles collaboratively. Once completed on WikiFundi and when connected to the internet, these articles can be uploaded to Wikipedia or Vikidia.

The contest is run as an exciting and educational programme that is part of the Digital Schools Network of the Orange Foundation. The Digital Schools programme provides essential digital infrastructure for the most disadvantaged children in Africa, in the form of equipment, free educational content, and Orange employees who voluntarily support the programme. The equipment includes digital tablets hosting essential educational content that are distributed to schools where 130,000 children often have no books and no internet connection. Not being connected to the Internet at all, without a programme like WikiChallenge African Schools it would be difficult for children to experience the advantages of adding content to the Internet.

WikiChallenge African Schools was conceptualised by Wiki In Africa’s Florence Devouard and Isla Haddow-Flood as an fun and exciting way for children across Africa to be introduced to how knowledge is created, by creating Vikidia articles. The project is being done in collaboration with the Orange Foundation and Wikimedia CH. WikiChallenge African Schools and the WikiFundi platform and the documentation for both projects is licenced under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

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