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Fixing education for sustainable development in Africa

At Edugist’s August rountable, subject matter experts in technology, curriculum design, teacher development and management education took the proverbial bull by the horn and offered creative solutions to old problems in education. The goal was to show how education is the bedrock of sustainable development in Africa.
Flyer of Edugist's August roundtable
Flyer of Edugist's August Roundtable Credit: Edugist graphics
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Once upon a time, in a small village in Africa named Kiburi, there lived a curious and determined young boy named Lengo. Lengo had big dreams of becoming a scientist and helping his village overcome the challenges they faced. However, the village’s education system needed to be updated, lacking resources and technology, making it difficult for him to pursue his dreams.

Lengo’s journey to transform education in Kiburi began when he discovered an old, discarded computer in the nearby town. With the help of a few knowledgeable villagers, they managed to get the computer working. This opened up a whole new world for Lengo and his friends.

Together, they started learning about technology and its potential to improve education. Lengo’s enthusiasm was infectious, and soon more children joined their group. They called themselves the “Young Innovators.”

Here’s how Lengo and his friends began turning education around in Kiburi:

Access to Technology: Lengo and his friends started a campaign to collect old computers and smartphones from nearby towns and cities. They refurbished these devices and set up a community tech centre in Kiburi, providing access to the internet and digital resources.

Digital Literacy: The Young Innovators began teaching their fellow villagers how to use computers and the internet. They created simple, engaging lessons on basic digital literacy, including how to use online educational platforms.

Local Language Curriculum: Recognising that many in their village spoke their native language, they worked on translating educational content into their local dialect, making learning more accessible.

Community Involvement: Lengo and his friends organised community meetings to discuss the importance of education and technology. They encouraged parents and elders to support their children’s learning journey.

Skills Development: Beyond traditional subjects, the Young Innovators started teaching practical skills like agriculture techniques, health awareness, and entrepreneurship using online resources.

Collaboration with NGOs: Lengo and his friends reached out to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in education and technology. They received support in the form of books, educational software, and even solar panels to ensure a stable power supply.

Over time, the village of Kiburi transformed. Children were not only attending school but were actively engaged in digital learning, gaining 21st-century skills. Lengo’s dream of becoming a scientist became a reality, and he even developed a low-cost solar-powered device to address the village’s energy needs.

Kiburi’s success story spread to neighbouring villages, inspiring similar initiatives. The impact of Lengo and the Young Innovators went beyond education; it brought hope and progress to their entire community.

In this tale, Lengo and his friends exemplify how passion, determination, and community collaboration can turn education around to benefit 21st-century learners in Africa, even in the most challenging circumstances.

Read also: Speakers at Edugist’s roundtable show how to fix education

Read also: Technology in Education: Counting costs and benefits

Read also: ‘Earlybrite combines my passion for education and love of technology’

Using education to drive sustainable development in Africa

The elements of Lengo’s narrative such as the milieu, and characters may be fictional but the story, the raw material of the narrative is not. The story speaks of the necessity of using education to drive sustainable development in Africa. A quick definition of sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable development sits on four pillars of sustainability, namely, human, social, economic and environmental. The human is focused on people’s development. The social caters to communities and cultures. The economic pillar is about the efficient use and pragmatic management of resources without impeding on the other pillars of sustainability. The environment deals with natural environments and ecosystems. The United Nations has codified these sustainability pillars into 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) with sub-targets for each goal. To achieve these noble goals, education plays a critical role.

This was why on August 31, 2023, Edugist, Nigeria’s first full-time education-focused newsroom convened experts on a virtual roundtable to harness education’s role in promoting sustainable development in Africa. Themed “The Role of Education in Promoting Sustainable Development in Africa,” the roundtable shed light on the pressing issues facing education on the continent and proposed innovative solutions to bridge existing gaps.

In the past, there have been disparities in the distribution of high-quality education across Africa. The development of education has been seriously hampered in many areas by problems ranging from infrastructure deficits, sociocultural norms, and economic constraints, as seen in Lengo’s story.

Education is the cornerstone of sustainable development, it was decided during the deliberations. Sustainable progress is difficult to achieve without a solid educational base. Vanessa Sesi, a Ghanaian education consultant and lecturer who lives in la Cote d’Ivoire emphasised that education is about more than just delivering knowledge in the classroom; it also involves developing moral values and life skills that go beyond the scope of academics. These principles, such as conserving resources responsibly at home, are crucial in establishing a sustainable society for the coming generations.

Participants at Edugist’s August roundtable emphasised the need for comprehensive solutions that make use of public-private partnerships to improve infrastructure and educational quality in order to solve these concerns. It was believed that this cooperative approach may guarantee that students obtain an education that equips them not only for individual success but also for making a positive impact on their communities and environment, advancing sustainable development in Africa.

The possibility for public-private partnerships to revolutionise education was at the heart of the roundtable’s conversation. According to experts, these partnerships could result in better infrastructure, improved curriculum development, and higher performance on standardised assessments. It is in the best interest of businesses to build top-of-the-mind awareness and market presence through investing in educational projects. It is equally in the best interest of governments to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, since government alone cannot fund education adequately. This symbiotic relationship leads to an overall improvement of the educational system and promotes sustainable development in Africa.

Another significant area of contention concerns how technology may help underserved rural populations and urban centres connect. Again, Lengo’s story captures this so well. The digital gap has become a major problem, especially with regard to unreliable internet connectivity. In order to guarantee that high-quality education reaches every corner of the continent, it was underlined that investment in educational technology infrastructure, including hardware and internet access, is crucial.

The Chief Executive Officer, of Earlybrite, Victor Tubotamuno, stated that we urgently need to update the curriculum to match the fourth industrial revolution. He thinks that infrastructural investments in educational technology devices are necessary and it is the responsibility of the government to make this investment, just as it is the responsibility of the government to build roads and provide security.

Participants emphasised the significance of revising the educational curriculum to reflect contemporary circumstances, especially the fourth industrial revolution. For instance, multiple award-winning educator Opeifa Olasunkanmi emphasised the importance of incorporating ideas about climate change, the green economy, and other important topics connected to sustainable development into the curriculum. They contended that, in order to ensure that students are prepared for the shifting global context, curriculum modernisation calls for cooperation between government representatives, legislators, educators, and business professionals.

A modernised curriculum requires teachers who would deliver it but the teaching profession is not attractive. Edugist’s roundtable advocated a three-pronged strategy known as FCT: facility improvement, curriculum enhancement, and teachers’ capacity development and welfare. This strategy will elevate the teaching profession and recruit qualified educators. It was proposed that improving the teaching environment, modernising the curriculum, and giving educators continuing support and training would increase the appeal of the profession and improve education overall. This is the ultimate driver of sustainable development in Africa.

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