Africa’s power is found in its youth. Africa’s population is the most youthful on the planet and in the years to come, that will be the continent’s strength. Education is not only a right for the children of the world, but it is vital to Africa to drag the continent up and bolster its respect in the outside world.
Mobile and cloud technology has made major changes in the potential for delivering education to students of all ages. From tablets with pre loaded syllabi on wireless local area networks, to being able to learn how to code on mobile phones. It is even now possible to do a whole degree and hardly ever have to set foot inside a university. (Usually that is only needed when sitting exams)
As suggested in this article from Scidev.net , there are various methods to improve delivery of STEM (Science, Technology and Engineering and Mathematics) education, Which are extremely important to the development of African technology and innovation. They suggest that creating centres of excellence and improving links with tech hubs could make a big difference to STEM education. Airtel Ghana, under the guidance of CEO Lucy Quist, who is passionate about STEM education are working hard to achieve exactly this.
The article also suggests that improving digital technology is also pivotal in gaining the interest of African youth, and that is exactly what Airtel Ghana is doing. Last month they introduced the collective classroom project. In a session involving 80 students and 3 schools, connected over Skype, students were taught the basic principles behind a mobile phone call and also the basics of computer programming. That CEO Lucy Quist and Acting Directors for Networks, Thelma Quaye, were leading the session is also important. To have two very successful African women promoting technology, innovation and STEM education, should be a massive inspiration to male and female students across the continent.
One of the things that is important for students is that their parents are involved in their school life. Smart Parent does exactly this, enabling parents and teachers to monitor their children and students behaviour and results during school hours. In Rwanda, where Smart Parent was created, parents of students often only receive information about their children’s school life at the end of each semester. With this new technology, which lets teachers send a text message with relevant data about the students to their parents. That data can anything to the child’s grades, a sickness or even hygiene.
This is just another in a long line of innovations and initiatives in Rwanda to boost educational performance. They have also started the plan to equip schools with 23,000 laptops, many of which will be produced by Positivo in Rwanda, which fits into their Made In Rwanda aim! This particular innovation is actually already being used outside of Rwanda. It has been adopted in parts of Greece, and could be adopted across the continent.
In other news, it was announced this week that IBM is investing €70 million in African skills development. The investment will be invested in building digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills, in order to utilise the continents youth. A cloud based educational platform has the ambitious target of training 25 million African youth over the next 5 years, and therefore boost the technological potential of the continent.
Users of the system will be able to learn programming, cyber security, data science. It will also nurture innovation and entrepreneurship and critical thinking. This is vital. In my experience at the University of Ghana, even at the post graduate level, critical thinking was not encouraged enough. Undergraduates were taught to learn parrot style, and dared not have a different opinion to their lecturers.
By empowering the African youth with these skills it paves the way for the next generation of innovators to change Africa. It enables them to find their own solutions to their own problems, and not rely on those outside of Africa to deliver solutions in the form of aid, or digital solutions. Don’t see this injection of investment by IMB as charity of aid. It is definitely beneficial for IBM to utilise the talent of the African youth in the years to come. This investment will be of mutual benefit to Africa and IBM!