STEM education which primarily revolves around ‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics’ has become highly sought after by learners all across the world and is crucial in encouraging a nation’s development.
Recent reports suggest that over the next 5 years, STEM jobs will grow by 13% – particularly in the areas of Computing, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing. This shift in the global labour market should be a central focus of African leaders as the United Nation’s (UN) projections show that by 2035, the working population of the continent will surpass that of the rest of the world.
I join the call led by Stefania Giannini, assistant director-general for education at UNESCO – who has asked governments to put education investment at the centre of their post pandemic recovery. The past 12 months have witnessed the most severe disruption to global education systems in history, which during the peak of the crisis – led to more than 1.6 billion learners out of school. In the global south, school closures are likely to erase decades of progress made by educators.
As education expenditure continues to increase in the west and in the far east, the opposite is true in Africa. Millions of our children are gifted in science, math and physics yet the vast majority are not being given a fair chance to compete in this fast-evolving world. The supply of quality education is lagging behind.
A new report released earlier this week by The Education Finance Watch, jointly commissioned by the World Bank and UNESCO, revealed that two-thirds of low- and lower-middle-income countries have cut their public education budgets since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In comparison the UK’s Department for Education recently announced a new £700M plan to help young people in England catch up on lost learning due to the pandemic and in 2020, public spending on education in China reached 3,633.7 billion yuan.
“The learning poverty crisis that existed before COVID-19 is becoming even more severe, and we are also concerned about how unequal the impact is,” Mamta Murthi, World Bank vice president for human development, said in a statement.
What is the African response?
Recently many of us have been horrified at the images circulating on social media showing dilapidated school buildings in Nigeria, with no infrastructure being led by teachers who haven’t received salaries in months. This is totally unacceptable and should not be tolerated by the educators on the continent.
During a recent HESED webinar themed ‘Next generation School Leadership’ we engaged with teachers in Nigeria who expressed a willingness to push their students more in the classroom but felt the situation impossible without adequate training, modern infrastructure and an improved curriculum.
Fortunately, Covid-19 has not just brought about the need for change, it also points a way forward and for parents, online learning is one of the bright spots. It is safe to say that the success of online STEM education has made a clear case for adopting a hybrid model.
HESED is an initiative and my own personal contribution to providing quality education to Nigerians, as a borderless structure with an unrestricted curriculum. The e-learning platform compliments the current school system by using a national curriculum with the option of studying an international syllabus.
Quality STEM Education is the new normal.
By: Matthew Odu, A Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria
Ubongo Celebrates 10 Years of Transforming Education in Africa
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.
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.
Digital technology a game changer for education in Africa
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.
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.”
Kevin Hart Visits Masibambane College in Orange Farm
Kevin Hart, comedian and Hollywood box office powerhouse, visited Masibambane College in Orange Farm as a guest of Education Africa. He was accompanied by HE Dr. Reuben E. Brigety II, Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of South Africa, and Lord Matt Scheckner, Chairman of Advertising Week and President of Education Africa Inc. They undertook an interactive tour of the school before Kevin Hart took to the stage to engage in conversation with some 2 000 school learners.
Social cohesion is a cornerstone of Education Africa, a Johannesburg-based NPO that was established in 1992 and prides itself on delivering a diverse portfolio of educational projects to disadvantaged South African communities for more than 3 decades. Education Africa’s motto is Educate • Equip • Empower and the organisation is committed to Make real change Happen. Masibambane College is one of Education Africa’s flagship projects.
James Urdang, CEO & Founder of Education Africa said, “When we heard that Kevin Hart was coming to our school, we wanted to share the experience with other schools in the Orange Farm community, as well as St John’s College with whom we partner in ensuring the maintenance of high academic standards at Masibambane College.”
The learners who braved the wet weather and participated in this social cohesion event represented the following schools: Masibambane College; St John’s College; Highlands North High School; Leshata Secondary School, Mphethi Mahlatsi High School; Jabulile Secondary School and Aha-Thuto Secondary School. They were not aware that Mr Hart would be addressing them.
“You can imagine their surprise when we announced that Kevin Hart was our special guest,” said Urdang. “The level of excitement was off the charts!”
Kevin Hart shared the stage with 5 of the high school learners, answered their questions, and offered some heartfelt words of motivation to the enthusiastic audience. He expressed how moved he was by the people he had met at the school and told the learners that, “Knowing that you guys are part of the future; that you guys will be a part of the change; that you guys are responsible for breaking new ground is what I’m most excited about. I hope you guys truly understand how bright your future is. I am so inspired by everyone that I have met today. Dream big, love strong and take advantage of your now.”
He added that some people struggle at times with being themselves. “But things become easier once you find the happiness in you, and then everything else will fall into place. Through comedy, I found happiness in telling my story, living my story and putting that story on display for everybody to see. You must always be true to yourself. I love to put people in an environment where we can all laugh together.”
Hart also shared some advice on the important aspect of mindset. “You can choose to focus on the bad and let the bad weigh you down, or you can find new reasons to live and smile. Embrace the idea of a dream, because that’s what keeps you going. When you don’t have a dream, that’s when life gets stagnant. He also encouraged the learners to embrace the idea of work. “Always give 100% – sometimes when you give 100% you get 1 000% in return; stay grounded; life is hard but know that the sun always comes out at the end of a storm.”
And finally, he urged learners to take advantage of their education. “I challenge you guys to take advantage of your now; I challenge you to think about your future. Be a future leader; be a ground-breaker; be a changer – that’s what you’re supposed to do because you are the next generation. You are the future of South Africa. If you want change, then make change.”
Also speaking at the event, Ambassador Brigety offered this piece of advice to the students: “Your passport to your destiny and your future starts here. I hope and pray that you take advantage of every last second of your education. Because South Africa and the world needs you, and we cannot wait to see what you are going to do with your lives.”
At the closing of the event, James Urdang thanked Mr. Hart for visiting Masibambane College and interacting with the Grade 1 learners. He also thanked Kevin Hart for meeting with Education Africa’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) team and their ECD students from the Orange Farm community.
Urdang presented Kevin Hart with a gift from Education Africa – a framed plate of the late Walter Sisulu who was a great friend and supporter of Education Africa, and on whose recommendation Masibambane College was built in Orange Farm.
Kevin Hart is in South Africa for the World Premiere of his Amazon film Die Hart the Movie along with making stops in Cape Town and Johannesburg on his Reality Check world tour. Hart along with Thai Randolph (CEO of Heartbeat, Hart’s global media company) were keynote speakers at Advertising Week Africa. Hartbeat partnered with Advertising Week to bring the inaugural edition of Advertising Week Africa to Johannesburg. Advertising Week is the world’s largest annual gathering of marketing, media, and technology leaders. Its long-anticipated debut in Africa took place from 15-18 February 2023.