AI key to unlocking Zimbabwe’s historical narratives for learners

Jacqueline Ntaka-Correspondent 

Government’s initiative to embed the national history and heritage into the educational fabric is a commendable step towards fostering national identity and pride.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a pivotal role in realising this vision, offering innovative solutions that can transform the educational landscape.

AI can tailor the learning experience to individual student needs, adapting to different learning styles and paces. 

Its ability to customise the learning experience to meet individual student needs is one of its most significant advantages. 

By accommodating various learning styles and speeds, AI ensures that students not only learn about Zimbabwe’s history, but also form a personal connection with it. 

This approach can lead to a deeper understanding and a more profound appreciation of the nation’s heritage.

AI can create interactive virtual tours of national shrines and heritage sites, allowing students to explore these locations in detail, regardless of geographical constraints.

These virtual explorations allow students to probe into these historically significant locations in great detail, overcoming any geographical limitations. Such immersive experiences can enrich students’ knowledge and foster a greater appreciation for their cultural legacy.

With AI’s natural language processing capabilities, educational content can be made accessible in multiple languages, catering to Zimbabwe’s linguistic diversity.

This inclusivity ensures that all students have the opportunity to engage with the national history in a language they understand. 

For instance, AI can translate textbooks, historical documents, and other educational materials into Shona, Ndebele, and other indigenous languages. 

This ensures students can learn in their native language, which can improve comprehension and retention of information.

Moreover, AI can assist in creating language models for African languages, which have traditionally been under represented in digital platforms. 

AI-driven language tools can support teachers by providing real-time translation services during lessons, making it easier to teach students who speak different languages. 

This not only aids in communication but also enriches the educational experience by allowing for a more dynamic and interactive classroom environment.

China has leveraged AI to digitally restore and preserve ancient texts and artefacts, making them accessible for educational purposes. 

AI platforms also offer interactive experiences with historical content, allowing students to explore ancient civilisations. China’s use of AI for the restoration and preservation of ancient texts and artefacts is indeed a fascinating development. 

One notable project is the EA-GAN (Example Attention Generative Adversarial Network), which focuses on restoring text in ancient Chinese books.

This network uses a two-branch structure to extract features from both damaged and example characters, allowing for accurate restoration even when the damage is extensive.

The EA-GAN has shown promising results, with significant improvements in peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR) and structural similarity (SSIM) values over current in painting networks.

Brazil has utilised AI to enhance access to cultural heritage through virtual museums and online archives. 

These platforms provide guided tours in multiple languages, making Brazil’s rich history accessible to a global audience. Brazil’s integration of AI into cultural heritage is indeed impressive. 

The country has embraced digital transformation to make its history and culture more accessible to people around the world. For instance, the São Paulo Art Gallery has implemented an AI system known as IBM Watson. 

This system allows visitors to engage in conversations with artworks, providing a unique interactive experience. 

Virtual reality (VR) is another technology being used to revolutionise museum visits in Brazil. 

With VR, users can take virtual tours of exhibition halls and view artworks without having to physically be there. 

This not only makes Brazilian culture more accessible but also offers a novel way for people to experience art. 

These AI-driven platforms are not just about viewing art; they also offer educational content in multiple languages, which is crucial for reaching a global audience. 

By providing guided tours and extensive online archives, Brazil is ensuring that its cultural treasures can be explored and appreciated by people from all corners of the world, regardless of their physical location. 

In South Africa, AI is playing a pivotal role in transforming the educational landscape by breaking down language barriers. 

The country’s diverse linguistic heritage presents unique challenges in education, with students often needing to learn in languages that are not their mother tongue.

AI-powered translation tools are being employed to make educational content more accessible and inclusive. 

For instance, AI is being used to translate textbooks and other learning materials into multiple South African languages. 

This not only helps students learn in their preferred language but also preserves and promotes linguistic diversity. 

AI-driven language models are assisting in the translation of online courses, enabling students from different linguistic backgrounds to access the same quality of education.

Moreover, AI is aiding in the development of personalised learning experiences. 

By analysing student data, AI can tailor educational content to suit individual learning styles and language preferences, making history education and other subjects more engaging and effective. 

These initiatives are part of a broader effort to use technology to create a more equitable educational system in Africa, where every student will have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their language background. 

AI’s ability to translate and customise educational content is a significant step towards achieving this goal.

While AI offers numerous benefits, it is essential to address challenges such as the digital divide, and the need for teacher training. 

Ethical considerations must guide the deployment of AI to ensure it enhances rather than replaces human educators. 

The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have easy access to the internet and technology and those who do not. AI’s potential in education could be limited if this divide is not bridged.

Efforts should be made to ensure equitable access to AI technologies and educators must advocate for AI that is designed with diverse datasets and algorithms that are free from bias.

Teachers play a crucial role in the successful integration of AI in education. 

Professional development programmes are available to help educators understand AI, its applications, and how to use it effectively in the classroom. 

These programmes aim to bridge the gap between commonly held beliefs about AI and its practical realities.

While teachers are being educated on the use of AI, ethical principles must be paramount when deploying AI in education. Issues such as fairness, transparency, privacy protection, and compliance must be considered. 

A set of ethical principles has to be set to serve as a framework to guide educational stakeholders in the deployment of ethical and trustworthy AI in education.

Jacqueline Ntaka is the CEO of Mviyo Technologies. Feedback: [email protected].

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