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SciAfrika offers science courses in major native languages -Mohammad

We plan to extend our language offerings beyond Nigeria’s major languages to include other African languages, ensuring that students across the continent can access our courses in their native tongues.
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In a transformative approach to education, SciAfrika is pioneering a mission to break down language barriers and empower African students with STEM knowledge. In this exclusive interview, SciAfrika’s founder Mohammad Jamiu Shuaib sheds light on the inspiration behind this groundbreaking initiative.Discover how SciAfrika’s innovative curriculum, offered in local languages, engages students and prepares them for successful STEM careers. Explore their vision for the future, aimed at democratising access to quality education across the African continent. Excerpts

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Mohammad Jamiu Shuaib, CEO SciAfrika

Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind founding SciAfrika and the driving force behind your mission?

Absolutely. We recognised that the conventional approach to education, which often relies on teaching in English, is no longer effective for many learners, especially those in underserved communities. Language proficiency should not be a barrier to learning and understanding. Almost every member on our team has experienced this as a teacher or instructor. I witnessed this during my national service (NYSC) in a remote village in Ebonyi in 2019.

We are committed to bridging this gap, not only by offering courses in major African languages. We are building an alternative school where students are future-proof with in-demand skills before graduating from high school starting with STEM School this year. We are planning on launching other Schools including Data, Engineering and Product schools in 2024.

In summary, we are building a learning solution to equip the next generation of workforce on the African continent. We believe that traditional schools, while well-intentioned, often fall short in preparing African students to compete on a global scale. Our mission is clear: to equip the workforce of the future through education.

How does SciAfrika’s educational approach differ from traditional high schools in Africa, especially in terms of STEM subjects?

SciAfrika’s educational approach represents a departure from traditional high schools in Africa, especially in the realm of STEM subjects. Here are some of the reasons why our approach differs: One, in traditional high schools, most science subjects are taught in English, which can be a major hindrance for students who lack English proficiency. SciAfrika addresses this challenge by offering science courses in major native languages.

This ensures that students can learn and engage with STEM subjects in their home language, removing a significant barrier to comprehension and retention. Two, our curriculum is designed to be culturally relevant. We incorporate real-life examples, case studies, and practical applications that resonate with students. This approach fosters a deeper connection with the subject matter and encourages students to explore further studies and careers in STEM. Lastly, students can learn at their pace and spend enough time as possible on a topic and understand it before moving to the next course. This is not possible in conventional schools as students need to move along with the class with dedicated period to learn each subject.

The language barrier is a significant challenge for many African students in STEM education. Could you elaborate on how SciAfrika addresses this issue effectively?

Certainly, addressing the language barrier is a core aspect of SciAfrika’s mission to make education accessible and engaging for African students. SciAfrika offers courses in major African languages, starting with Nigerian languages like Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, and Pidgin. We recognise that many students struggle with English proficiency, which is often the medium of instruction in conventional schools. Learning in one’s native language naturally leads to increased engagement. Students become more active participants in the learning process because they can express themselves, ask questions, and discuss the topic with their peers. This engagement fosters a deeper interest in STEM subjects, motivating students to explore these fields further, leading to greater academic performance and enviable retention.

SciAfrika aims to equip the future workforce through education. Could you share specific examples of how your programs prepare students for successful STEM careers?

Preparing students for successful careers is a central focus of SciAfrika. Our programmes can be basically divided into phases: the STEM phase and upskilling phase. Interestingly, the two go together. In the former, students are equipped with a strong foundation in STEM subjects. In the later, they are prepared for career readiness by entering into any of the three other schools (Data, Engineering and Product) based on their interest with each having different discipline a student can specialise in data analytics, software engineering, product designer, et cetera. If you observe, even thousands of graduates of university only left with their degree and no marketable skills. Added to the fact that many efforts have been placed on equipping students in universities and graduates with relevant skills and ‘somehow’ we are neglecting the secondary age students. Through our programmes, students are prepared to enter the workforce, where they will be able to build a career from high school, make money and provide for their family and add value to the economy. There are also plans on placing our students in internship after completing the requirement of their learning to further gain hands-on experience. This is one of the reasons we are launching other schools, if many young ones can have marketable skills before graduating from high school, I think we are solving a massive problem of unemployment in the continent. This is especially because not all students will have the ability to further their education to tertiary level.

Could you explain how SciAfrika’s values of being innovative, engaging, and fun-filled are integrated into your curriculum and teaching methods?

Learning should be fun, engaging with enjoyable experience. We incorporate elements of gamification into our teaching methods. This includes quizzes, challenges, and interactive activities that turn learning into a fun and competitive experience. Gamified learning keeps students motivated and engaged. Furthermore, our videos are done using digital whiteboard and marker, a learning experience that most students are already familiar with instead of just colourful animations and videos. We emphasise the practical applications of STEM concepts.Students are encouraged to apply what they learn to real-world problems and scenarios. This not only makes the learning process more engaging but also demonstrates the relevance of STEM in everyday life. Our learning is a project-based to encourage students to implement their problem-solving skills and creativity. This makes learning more enjoyable and innovative. We also celebrate students’ achievements on social media to boost their confidence and enthusiasm for learning.

SciAfrika is focused on offering science courses in local languages. Could you discuss the impact of this approach on students’ understanding and engagement with STEM subjects?

As said earlier, when students are taught in their native language, they can easily grasp intricate scientific concepts. This improves comprehension and enables students to ask questions, seek clarification, and engage in meaningful discussions. It fosters a deeper understanding of STEM subjects. We incorporate real-life examples, case studies, and practical applications that resonate with students.This approach makes the learning experience relatable and meaningful. Students can see how STEM is directly connected to their lives and communities. Teaching in local languages empowers students to take ownership of their education. They no longer feel like passive recipients of knowledge; instead, they become active participants in their learning journey. This empowerment is essential for motivating students to pursue STEM careers.

How does SciAfrika tailor its curriculum to be culturally relevant for African students, and what are some examples of culturally relevant content in your courses?

At SciAfrika, our educational approach is tailored to be culturally relevant for our student. We believe incorporating African culture and context elements into our courses enhances students’ engagement and understanding of STEM subjects. We emphasise the practical applications of STEM concepts in solving real-world challenges faced by African communities. For example, in physics, we might explore the principles behind renewable energy sources and their potential to address energy access issues in rural areas.

In summary, our goal is to create a curriculum that imparts scientific knowledge and fosters a deep connection between students and their cultural heritage. By making STEM education culturally relevant, we inspire students to see the value of science in addressing local challenges and contributing to the advancement of their communities and the continent as a whole.

Career mentorship and support are part of SciAfrika’s offerings. Can you provide insights into how these programs benefit students and help them pursue STEM careers?

Career mentorship and support are integral components of SciAfrika’s educational approach, and they play a crucial role in helping students pursue STEM careers. Access to mentors who has successfully navigated a STEM career path and overcome similar challenges can be incredibly motivating. Our mentors from the instructors demonstrate that it’s possible to achieve success in STEM, regardless of one’s background or circumstances.Mentors may facilitate hands-on learning experiences like lab visits, research projects, or internships. These opportunities allow students to apply their knowledge in real-world settings and gain practical experience. Mentorship goes beyond practical advice; it also provides emotional support and motivation. Mentors encourage students to persevere through challenges, instil confidence in their abilities, and remind them of the value of their contributions to STEM fields. Mentors assist with resumé building and interview preparation as students prepare to enter the workforce or pursue higher education. They share tips for crafting compelling resumés, preparing for interviews, and presenting themselves effectively to potential employers or universities.

Organising scientific expos in schools is an exciting initiative. Could you share some success stories or memorable moments from these expos?

This is part of our activities to be executed next year. We have not done any of the expo at the moment. The expos will serve as a platform bringing parents, community leaders, professionals, and experts from various STEM disciplines to interact with students and judge their project showcase. Looking ahead, what is SciAfrika’s vision for the future and how do you plan to expand your reach to more African students?
Our vision at SciAfrika is clear: we aim to become the go-to alternative school for African students, providing them with comprehensive learning solutions to future-proof their careers and democratise access to high-quality STEM education and relevant in-demand skills. As we look ahead, we have some strategies in place to expand our reach and make a meaningful impact on the lives of African students.We plan to extend our language offerings beyond Nigeria’s major languages to include other African languages, ensuring that students across the continent can access our courses in their native tongues. We plan to leverage social media platforms, targeted advertising, and partnerships with educational institutes, governments, media, influencers, and learning platforms to reach a wider audience. We are working to ensure that every African student can thrive through education and skills, unlocking their potential and contributing to the continent’s development.

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