Tech

Meet the woman who is using radio for upliftment in extreme rural areas of Africa

Ahead of World Radio Day which is commemorated on the 13th of February, Chief Executive of Lifeline Energy, Kristine Pearson is making sure that children who live in rural areas in Africa are well informed through her organization.

Lifeline Energy is wind-up and solar-powered, Chinese-made radio sets which have been designed to suit the needs of users. The company has distributed more than 685 000 radios in order to bring important Covid-19 information to listeners.

While some might believe radio is on its way out as technologies such as WhatsApp become more popular, Pearson believes the medium still has its place, especially in rural Africa.

“I can’t say I always wanted to help others. However, her wanderlust was the catalyst for changing that. I was an early onset millennial. I wanted to see the world; don’t try to solve a problem you don’t understand. Live it, or work for an organisation. Be as close to it as possible, otherwise, you’ll waste money and not help,” said Pearson.

The Lifeline Energy radio has allowed “Mrs Musanda” to teach children in Zambia during the Covid-19 pandemic. These radios have also brought important information to listeners deep in rural Africa, telling the facts, how to save face, where to get help, how to get tested.

In Zambia, countless children who crowd around sets in numbers know “Mrs Musanda” as their teacher, from her lessons broadcast over the radio. “You don’t have to pay anyone (in each classroom). You don’t need a teacher, just someone who is literate to explain things like, such as what the letters look like,” added Pearson.

Lifeline Energy is providing education broadcasts in Zambia after HIV-Aids had cost many teachers their lives; life skills to child-headed households in post-genocide Rwanda; relief information in flood-flattened Mozambique and providing English lessons in Kenya.

“Aids wiped out so many teachers 20 years ago in southern Africa,” she explained. It has taken time to build up again. NGOs can be helpful with technical assistance, but they never replace the teachers,” explained Pearson.

In Rwanda, child-headed households saw the voice on the radio as something, coming from someone, they could trust. “Orphans in Rwanda didn’t trust the adults around them. Somebody next door could have been complicit in their parents’ murders. What I loved most was seeing the power of radio in a language they could understand, a voice they could trust, so that they did not have to make their decisions by guesswork,” said Pearson.

Pearson’s next plan is to put together a bank of audio material gathered from the content that has already been created, including that from Africa’s huge number of community radio stations using vernacular languages.

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