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Calvin University Appoints Adejoke Ayoola Founding Dean of its School of Health

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Calvin professor of nursing Adejoke Ayoola, PhD, RN, FAAN (Image & Article: Calvin)

Calvin University has appointed Adejoke Bolanle Ayoola as the founding dean of its School of Health. Ayoola stood out among the high caliber candidates reviewed by the search committee – a team which included Provost Noah Toly and representatives from each department and program in the School of Health.

Ayoola is nationally and globally recognized as an experienced practitioner, educator, researcher, and administrator. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, and earned her PhD from Michigan State University. Ayoola has been a member of Calvin’s faculty since 2007, contributing to both the nursing and public health programs and most recently chairing the nursing department.

“Dr. Ayoola not only met but also clearly excelled in the critical leadership requirements established by the committee,” said Toly. “She has a vibrant Christian faith, possesses a deep understanding of the Reformed tradition, models a prayerful life, and demonstrates a commitment to joyful integration of faith and learning.”

Accomplished thought leader and scholar

Ayoola’s academic influence runs deep, as she has contributed to her field with research in the areas of community based nursing, and maternal and infant health. Since completing her PhD, Ayoola has earned several awards and distinctions recognizing her accomplishments in the health field.

Notably, from 2012–2015, Ayoola served as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar. The program, involving intensive leadership training, was created to inspire the next generation of national leaders in academic nursing. Five years later, Ayoola was inducted into the 2020 Class of Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing.

Ayoola is a member of the American Association of Nurses, the Honors Society of Nursing, Sigma International, and the Midwest Nursing Research Society; and she currently serves as a reviewer, associate editor or on the editorial board of 12 scholarly publications.

Guided by God

For Ayoola, the field of health has always been a passion, and it is a passion that is rooted in her faith.

“I am motivated to act when I see people or members of my community hurting —physically, emotionally, and spiritually – and when the vulnerable population experience health challenges,” she said. “I see health as an important part of what God wants for us.”

Ayoola believes that it is God who equipped her with the skills needed for this position, not only through her academic experiences, but also through her community work such as leading the African Ladies Fellowship of the African Resource Center in Grand Rapids and serving as an elder in her home church, Brookside CRC.

Carrying on Calvin’s mission

“Dr. Ayoola is deeply committed to the mission and vision of Calvin University,” said Kerrie Berends, kinesiology department co-chair and professor, and member of the search committee.

Ayoola has demonstrated this commitment by playing an integral role at Calvin, participating herself in a search committee for the dean of the School of Business, founding H.E.A.L.T.H. Camp at the university, and serving on the task force that articulated a vision for Calvin’s university structure – to name just a few contributions during her 15 years of service. Former advisees, research assistants, and research fellows recognize Ayoola for her commitment to their learning and post-graduate success.

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For Ayoola, this next vocational step was confirmed by God’s guidance through prayer. She believes her vocation also includes preparing others well for work in the field.

“My vision is also for the experience in the School of Health to be transformative and for our future health professionals to be well-prepared in their calling to serve as great advocates for their patients,” she said.

Building on collaboration and partnerships

Beginning July 1 Ayoola will lead the School, serving approximately 600 undergraduate and over 75 graduate students studying directly in health-related programs, and dozens of other students in pre-professional tracks.

While the School is already involved in many community partnerships and collaborative scholarship, with Ayoola at the helm, colleagues say it is poised to broaden its impact.

“Dr. Ayoola has prioritized interprofessional collaboration among our departments, West Michigan communities, and globally,” said Berends. “It’s exciting and energizing to anticipate the impact that faculty and students will have as we expand our reach.”

Ayoola is ready for the challenge.

“I love creatively designing new programs in collaboration with people and in response to identified needs,” she said. “The idea of serving as a founding dean of the School of Health is exciting because it will provide me with opportunities to work with stakeholders to shape the School of Health’s programs.”

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Education

The Space Prize Foundation and UNESCO partners to propel Space Education across Africa

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The Space Prize Foundation announces the launch of its partnership with UNESCO, aimed at democratizing access to space education and inspiring a new generation of female scientists and engineers in Africa. Despite sixty years of space exploration, women are grossly underrepresented in the space industry, making this initiative potentially transformative on the educational landscape and, ultimately, the future of space exploration. 

Starting in Rwanda, this visionary partnership will unfold over the next several months as both organizations meticulously plan the framework for the implementation of the Space Prize Foundation’s Space Education Curriculum. The initiative is designed to equip teachers across Africa with the tools and resources they need to empower young minds, particularly young women, to pursue careers in scientific and engineering fields. The open source curriculum is the first of its kind and was developed by leading science teachers across the United States of America. 

Key elements of this initiative include: 

Survey for Teacher Development: The Space Prize Foundation will conduct a comprehensive survey to identify the specific needs and levels of development required by teachers. The survey will delve into teaching styles, current practices in space education, and the resources available to educators. 

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Workshops for Curriculum Implementation and Teacher Empowerment: UNESCO and the Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO will identify participating teachers. The first workshop will provide participating teachers with an introduction to the Space Education Curriculum. A leading expert in space education will guide teachers in customizing the curriculum for their students and schools. The second workshop will be dedicated to Q&A, ensuring teachers have time to digest the curriculum. 

Curriculum Reception: Following the initial workshops, teachers will be encouraged to present the tailored curriculum to their students at least twice a month. Feedback from this implementation will be reviewed in two 90-minute workshops to discuss the curriculum’s reception. 

Structured Roll-out in Q2 2024: The formal launch of the curriculum is scheduled for Q2 2024, during which the Space Prize Foundation, UNESCO and participating teachers will design the cadence of classes and schedule monthly review sessions. This flexible approach aims to cater to the unique needs and capacities of different educational settings. 

Impact Assessment: UNESCO will design an impact survey to measure the effectiveness of the Space Education Curriculum.

By commencing this journey in Rwanda, the Space Prize Foundation and UNESCO are laying the groundwork for a transformative educational initiative that will resonate across the continent. This partnership embodies a commitment to fostering the next generation of space enthusiasts, driving innovation, and building a brighter future for humanity. 

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Education

Ubongo Celebrates 10 Years of Transforming Education in Africa

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Ubongo, Africa’s leading children’s edutainment and media company, is excited to announce its 10-year anniversary, marking a decade of transforming education and empowering millions of children across the continent. With an impressive portfolio of educational programs including Akili and Me, Ubongo Kids, and the recent addition of the captivating new show Nuzo and Namia, Ubongo continues to set the standard in innovative learning experiences for kids.

Since its founding in July of 2013 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Ubongo has been dedicated to providing fun, localized, and multi-platform educational content that helps children foster a lifelong love of learning. Through accessible technologies like TV, radio, and mobile phones, Ubongo has reached over 32 million families across Africa, making a significant impact on the continent’s education landscape. Independent research studies examining Ubongo’s programs have consistently revealed their profound impact, enhancing school readiness, improving learning outcomes, and fostering positive social and behavioral change among both children and their caregivers.

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Over the past 10 years, Ubongo has grown from a small Tanzanian grassroots startup to a Pan-African non-profit organization and the market leader in African edutainment. Ubongo’s innovative and engaging edutainment programs empower kids with the knowledge and critical skills they need to change their lives and their communities for the better.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this incredible milestone of 10 years,” said Mwasi Wilmore, CEO of Ubongo. “It is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and passion of our team, partners, and supporters who have believed in our mission and contributed to our success. Together, we have made a significant impact on education in Africa, and we are committed to continuing our journey of transforming learning for generations to come.”

In commemoration of this significant milestone, Ubongo has arranged a special 10-year anniversary event in Dar es Salaam to celebrate the accomplishments and milestones achieved throughout the years. The event will feature inspiring speeches and captivating presentations showcasing the journey and impact of Ubongo’s edutainment programs.

“We invite all our partners, supporters, and stakeholders to join us in celebrating this significant milestone,” added Mwasi Wilmore. “Together, let us reflect on our journey, express our gratitude, and renew our commitment to providing quality education and transformative learning experiences for children in Africa.”

“As we look ahead to the next decade, we remain steadfast in our mission to reach even more children, leveraging the power of edutainment to unlock their potential and shape a brighter future for Africa,” added Mwasi Wilmore.

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Education

Digital technology a game changer for education in Africa

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Digital technologies and connectivity hold the key to unlocking the true potential of Africa’s young people. By opening up new opportunities for African youth to learn and for teachers to connect with students in the most remote and rural communities, these resources play an integral role in improving African education systems. But only if the right support mechanisms and policies are in place.

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This is one of the key points highlighted in new research by Vodacom Group, Vodafone and Safaricom, launched in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The research paper, entitled “How digital technologies can transform education in sub-Saharan Africa” unpacks the current state of education across the continent. It showcases how digital technologies and connectivity, combined with the necessary regulatory frameworks and support from governments as well as industry stakeholders, can be leveraged to mitigate barriers to education across the continent.

The research report outlines that there has been a sharp increase in access to education across Africa in the last 50 – 60 years but, unfortunately, an increase in access doesn’t necessarily translate into a rise in the quality of education being delivered. When coupled with affordable and reliable connectivity, digital tools and technologies offer a cost-effective and scalable solution to this problem by making it possible for young people to connect with highly-skilled educators who can help them translate educational content into valuable knowledge.

“We have witnessed this first-hand via our ecosystem of education projects and initiatives, which seek to provide access to quality educational assets, support remote learning and seek to enhance the overall educational experience for teachers and learners in some of Africa’s most under-resourced communities,” says Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group.

“Our Vodacom e-School programme in South Africa is a prime example of this”, he adds. The initiative promotes digital education by providing free access to quality education for Primary and High School students (Grade R to 12). This includes access to digital learning materials (like interactive textbooks, multimedia content and assessments), other educational resources and support services. The platform is available on mobile and desktop devices, free of charge, for all Vodacom customers.

“Access to quality education is critical to combatting intergenerational cycles of poverty and inequality. Nelson Mandela always stressed how important education is, not only for self-actualisation and individual transformation, but also in shifting the trajectory of society towards equity, justice and a shared dignity,” says Professor Verne Harris, Acting CEO for the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

While there is no doubt that these digital innovations have the potential to totally transform African education, there are a number of barriers to digital access that prevent African youth from making the most of them. For Professor Jonathan Jansen, an internationally renowned education expert and one of the authors of the research paper, these stumbling blocks include everything from lack of reliable electricity, limited technical support and lackluster Internet access to language barriers, political instability and restrictive social norms. But with the right policies, infrastructure and investments in place, digitalisation can provide new opportunities for Africa’s young people to enjoy a more equitable, sustainable and connected future, he says.

“Each of these hurdles can be overcome through the right partnerships, interventions and ecosystems. Importantly, addressing these obstacles demands political buy-in and support from governments to ensure that the mechanisms put in place are appropriate in that they meet African learners and educators where they are,” continues Professor Jansen.

In action, this means developing and implementing regulations that support digital education, building strategic partnerships and investing in digital infrastructure. In addition to this, African governments have to be enablers of small-scale digital education projects and must make a concerted effort to transform teacher training to meet the demands of digital learning.

There is no doubt that the challenge that lies ahead is an arduous one, confirms Joosub. “It is critical that we take the time to understand Africa’s economic, social and political environment so that we can bring together the right stakeholders – from those at the top in government to the students in classrooms in the most remote corners of our continent – to come up with solutions. In doing so, we can unite to fix the problems we face as a collective so that we can ensure that our young people are equipped with everything they need to add value to their communities and can properly participate in the digital economy.”

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