The Second Edition of Innovating Education in Africa Expo, organised by the African Union Commission in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Botswana and several key partner organisations was held from 20 – 22 August 2019 in Gaborone, Botswana. At the risk of stating the obvious, we were compelled to attend to learn and gain insight and inspiration from peers applying creativity and innovation in education across the continent.
The Expo showcased ICT based innovative education solutions with considerations for the African context. It provided a platform for education practitioners, policy makers, private sector, civil society and other stakeholders to exchange experiences, policies and
challenges in enhancing education and learning outcomes through ICT based innovation education. The Expo raised the visibility of education innovators and innovative practices so that they can be supported, upscaled, replicated or further developed. The following Member States were represented by Ministers responsible for Education: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe; while the following were represented by senior officials responsible for education: Angola; Benin; Chad, Comoros, the Gambia, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa. About 450 participants from over forty countries attended the event. A key stakeholder represented from Lesotho was the Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN).
While those of us operating in lesser developed states (in terms of limited infrastructure, access to resources and sustainable financial opportunities) lamented the long road ahead for ICT integration in our respective locales, it was encouraging to see innovations that integrated technology with human interaction. As Ba re e ne re, we firmly believe in language and literary texts as the ultimate software towards learning. We do not advocate for literacy simply for the sake of it, but as a pathway to further self-guided learning and therefore skills development and cultural transformation. Ultimately, as a starting phase, it is easier to distribute literature to people than it is with computers, tablets and the likes.
We were impressed by initiatives that shared our vision for literacy in the form of organisations such as Nalibali from South Africa, Hadithi Hadithi! from Kenya and NENA from Senegal. An organisation that really stood out to us and to the entire expo (they were awarded the 2019 Innovator’s award of $50 000) modeled their innovation upon paying special attention to the value of human interaction. through their Peer2Peer program, GOLD Peer Education Development Agency use positive youth pressure as a methodology to bring about sustained community change using a comprehensive ‘manual’.
Key recommendations from the expo were as follows:
- Harness the capacity of ICT innovations in education for effective teaching and learning process to ensure inclusion, quality and impact in education and training in Africa.
- Create facilities that promote girls and women’s education at all levels, focusing on STEM education and provide carrier guidance to create jobs for women in the applied sciences. Establish ICT-related vocational training centres for out-of-school girls;
- Increase integration of ICT in school curriculum to enhance digital skills of the youth to prepare them for the digital world and the 4 th Industrial revolution towards generating employability of youths.
- Strengthen strategic partnerships based on common vision, comparative advantages, alignment of activities, mutual accountability and effective communication to support development of transformative policies and practices at national and continental levels.
- Strengthen innovative digital technologies for empowering teachers with the necessary digital literacy and ICT skills. Recognise the efforts made by teachers in promoting ICTs through awards, and strengthen alternative education provision including open, distance and e-learning.
- Improve ICT Infrastructure and internet connectivity to enhance access in primary schools and secondary schools for a Smart Education. Develop Student Technology Centres and Teachers’ Experience Centres.
- Ensure the use of ICT in education and training. Facilitate access to all including itinerant communities, people living in refugee situations, people living with various disabilities including silent disability.
- Develop good data management and information system for the collection, storage and analysis of data to increase the effectiveness of policy interventions. Use technologies in National Education Management Information Systems.
- Encourage African Education Innovators and support to give visibility to their innovations for further development and scale-up. Expand Network Platforms which enable networking, experience sharing and mutual support.
- Support substantive youth engagement within and across generations to ensure capturing of the youth voice and contribution towards harnessing the power and agency of ICT in education, training and development.
- Collaborate to review curricula at all levels to enhance skills acquisition at secondary school level, as well as links with industry for relevance at all levels including higher education and research. Declare digital literacy as a foundational skill alongside literacy and numeracy.
- As stewards of the education system, governments must own and lead the transformation of education ecosystems by creating an enabling environment for multiple stakeholders to contribute.