International Studies & Programs

Youth Essay Contest: Second Place

My Envisioned Africa

Kalisa Ndamage (Age 18, South Africa)

Education in Africa, and most of the world, is grossly outdated. Still conforming to Plato’s pre common-era structure of regular curriculum absorption and regurgitation, students have been left unmotivated, uncreative, and uneducated. Exploring the current unpragmatic, Eurocentric education system—that fails to produce critical thinkers while suggesting solutions and alternative avenues to producing a knowledgeable population—is crucial.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are fields that have led societies forward, birthing new industries and bourgeoning economies. I envision an Africa that capitalises on those laudable hallmarks of STEM that are incessantly reiterated. The continent will value science education and implement the acquisition of applicable skills and tools of inquiry that the sciences foster. Students will be encouraged to embrace their creativity and market new ideas that contribute to local and international progress and development. The focus of education will shift from the testing of memory to the development of new ideas through individualistic topic exploration facilitated by novel technologies. New means of individualistic—more interactive—education include Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and online resources like Khan Academy which are becoming increasingly accessible through increasing internet access and mobile devices (which currently stand at roughly 650 million subscribers) in Africa. Above all, the African perspective must be present in our education. As a South African, I have learned extensive European history and literature that I’ve seldom related to and which has therefore led me to undermine the achievements of Africans as a whole. My vision includes a dramatic shift that doesn’t exclude European history and literature per say but includes the vast multiplicity of local perspectives that would enrich our education.

A dramatic shift in education requires a dramatic change in the facilitators. While the benefits of small classes are very well documented, we cannot immediately utilise this benefit as a teacher shortage already exists on the continent. We must work with what we have. Populous classrooms are difficult to keep engaged; in fact, all size classrooms cannot maintain student concentrations for entire lesson sessions unless new interactive methods are utilized. Active Learning assist with retention (as demonstrated by S. Freeman in 2014) and so this method must be implemented. The arduous part isn’t developing means of utilizing active learning and MOOCs but rather spreading those concepts to teachers throughout Africa. In order to implement this, there must be tremendous changes in how much African governments support education development. Education investment cannot merely comprise of a few scholarships or laptop donations (which are nonetheless important) but must also include investment in adapting and developing educators, educational technologies, and research into education such as that by the University of the Witwatersrand’s SETMU education research project. Once the core education issues are addressed, the everyday success-mitigating circumstances also affect African students. This can range from arduous school commutes and malnutrition which inhibits cognitive capacities to minimal water and electricity access which also affects the success of other prerequisite goals of reforming education.

With my vehement belief in MOOCs and the change they can initiate in education, I believe great professors worldwide must partner with African schools and governments to contribute towards the development of these online courses that can assist in establishing essential resources for the African educator. Resource-rich education and research institutions must develop coalitions with African universities to share knowledge and develop more modern and efficient means of transferring knowledge to students. This can also be accelerated by the ephemeral exchange of professors to encourage the overlap of different minds to spark creative ideas. Business investments that are not only economically but also socially motivated will assist Africa in these education goals too. An example is an investment by Google that is attempting to provide WIFI internet to remote parts of Africa through new WIFI Blimps. Cardinal investments like this also aid in moving the utilisation of the internet for education forward.

I must not forget the role that I am obligated to play in this development. As a student who loves science and learning, it’s imperative that I begin making contributions to the spreading of knowledge. Firstly, this should be done by creating YouTube videos that are interactive and exciting which assist in the goal of more personalized education through the web. Also, as a future business owner, Corporate Social Investments must constantly be enacted. Currently, I expect my company to contribute to education through providing practical high school level courses that would teach students how to apply what they have learnt in school to develop new ideas and products for real life application. I will also run high school and post-high school internship programs which are very scarce on the continent and thus lead to ineffective college graduates. Education must be of utmost importance worldwide and so foreign governments must channel their aid towards education. Many industries that would otherwise develop through necessity are unintentionally stifled through foreign aid; education should not suffer because of such ramifications.

Attempting to alter a system as dogmatic and historically engrained as the education system is a daunting endeavour. Through changing the memorization-based nature of education, encouraging a pragmatic approach to learning, employing the wondrous web, willing to constantly adapt to new research findings, and the involvement of investment by governments and businesses, the same erudite of the Ancient Egyptians will confidently be extended to all Africans.