Simbi: Read for Good

Refugees co-creatively read along and read aloud in their familiar accents to improve their literacy and reading fluency skills.
Primary, secondary & youth education

Simbi: Read for Good

Refugees co-creatively read along and read aloud in their familiar accents to improve their literacy and reading fluency skills.
Children listening to books on Simbi

Students in The Walking School Bus BrightBox classroom at Twajiji Primary School (Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, Uganda) reading along with Simbi.

Contact details

Submitted by: Alexander Gillis, Simbi - Jugaad Ventures Inc. 

Email: [email protected]






Introduction to the project 


  • Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, Uganda
  • Nakivale Refugee Settlement, Uganda
  • Mbale, Uganda
  • Buikwe, Uganda


2016 - Present

Simbi’s implementation has been growing across communities and receives continuous ongoing monthly check-ins and support from The Walking School Bus’s local technology coordinator staff.


Simbi is trying to provide a blueprint for global literacy within the refugee context. Simbi’s reading application empowers learners in refugee settlements to influence our unique read along approach through familiar and culturally relevant accents. Simbi motivates and supports the development of literacy and reading fluency skills. The reading application also helps to educate literate members of society about the importance of literacy and it being the best predictor of academic success. Simbi has committed more than $500,000 CAD to develop the application which works across the large majority of smartphones, tablets, and computers. Within refugee settlements, we leverage Raspberry Pi microcomputers for offline installations.

Project aims

A large percentage of academic content creation on Simbi is contributed by refugees themselves. Non-traditional actors from North America and Europe also contributed. This allows them to gain awareness of the challenges affecting individuals in refugee settlements as global citizens and motivates them to support refugee aid efforts.

Simbi does not discriminate between learners or contributors in terms of age, gender or ability. We welcome all self-identified accent types to read aloud on the reading platform. This has fostered research collaborations with top-tier universities and National Geographic while building a global user-base of readers across 37 countries and has positively impacted learners across 112 countries.

Through self-identified accent types and culturally relevant storybooks, the content on Simbi is preserving the language, curriculum and reading within the community and provides learners with a familiar accent type to read along with. This process has been proven to be the most effective way to learn how to read.

Main activities of the Good Practice

When people read aloud, the platform takes their voice and the text on the page of the book to create an interactive audiovisual storybook, allowing for learners to read while simultaneously listening to their read aloud narration. This is a co-creative process that empowers learners, through the familiar accent type, to become better readers.

Simbi promotes the concept of literacy for refugees, by refugees. Individuals from South Sudan and Uganda read aloud on Simbi, understanding that it is positively impacting their communities. Refugees often receive books in refugee settlements that are rarely culturally relevant to them. Simbi therefore mitigates concerns around neo-colonializing communities by offering relevant culturally content.

Simbi enables refugees to download content from its online global library to offline educational technology resources at partnered schools located in rural communities that do not have consistent internet access. This includes the Walking School Bus BrightBox classrooms in refugee settlements.


  • Office of the Prime Minister, Uganda
  • The Walking School Bus
  • Finn Church Aid

Challenges and how they were overcome

Initially, as an online reading application, Simbi encountered challenges surrounding network bandwidth limitations within refugee settlements. To overcome this challenge, Simbi developed an offline application that provides a freely accessible, offline, version of the technology through a unique Raspberry Pi microcomputer intranet system that may be connected to via any smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Results of the Good Practice 

  • Learners become significantly better readers. They also experience a two-fold improvement in reading fluency in as little as three months at the grade three level by reading along to culturally relevant English-language storybooks that have been narrated on the application in a local Ugandan or South Sudanese accent.
  • Teachers can better absorb the process of teaching English reading skills and are equipped to support learners on their literacy journeys.
  • Primary schools appreciate their entire student population improving their reading fluency while reading more books, more often.

Next steps 

Simbi’s efficacy has been developed in refugee settlements and communities across Uganda, as well as India, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with various stakeholders to further amplify our impact on the refugee’s literacy landscape. We are continually seeking individuals who identify with Ugandan and South Sudanese English-language accents to contribute read aloud narrations to the Simbi reading application.

Teacher selecting books on Simbi