Kinkajou Microfilm Projector and Portable Library

Via design that matters

One in five adults worldwide does not know how to read. In rural regions of West Africa, up to 75% of the population is illiterate. According to Barbara Garner of World Education, “It’s the lack of resources”—specifically access to books and lighting—rather than a lack of interest in education that contributes to illiteracy rates. Since most adults work during the day, the majority of World Education’s students in Mali take classes at night. Residents of these rural communities lack access to electricity and, therefore, electric lighting. Before the implementation of the Kinkajou, each student in a two-hour class had maybe fifteen minutes to learn—the amount of time the classroom’s single kerosene lantern was close to their desk.

….the design of a rugged, lightweight, low-power projection system, which uses a microfilm cassette to store up to 10,000 images at a fraction of the cost of paper books. The system also employs low-cost plastic optics adapted from Fisher-Price toys and state-of-the-art LED lighting to project an image large enough for the entire classroom to read. In 2004, with funding from USAID, World Education implemented Kinkajou Projectors in literacy centers in 45 Malian villages. After two years of use, over 3,000 adults have learned to read using these projectors.

The Kinkajou Microfilm Projection System is a low-cost teaching tool designed to improve and expand access to education by transforming night-time learning environments in rural, non-electrified settings. The projector represents an innovative combination of cutting-edge hardware, “abandoned” technology and the creative re-purposing of existing products.

According to literacy teacher (“karamogo”) Martine Sogoba in Digani, Mali: “It is better, because without [the Kinkajou], when the teacher is writing on the board, students wait in the dark in vain, and they do nothing. We lose much time and the quality of handwriting is not good.” The Kinkajou is also increasing interaction time between World Education instructors and their students. Karamogo Moulaye Yatara in Ngoye says, “[The Kinkajou] is wonderful. The teacher won’t spend time and energy searching images, or walking between tables to show them. We will gain a lot of time.”

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