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Webster University: International Education for African Students in a Post-Covid World

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Webster University students (Image source: Webster University)

The education industry, like the majority of industries in the world, has been greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. This period has been particularly difficult for international students including those from Africa, pursuing degrees at US institutions, whose immigration, visa status, and educational programs have been left in limbo. In July 2020, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced its decision to deport students who were in the country for educational purposes but unable to attend in-person classes since most universities had switched to online learning. 

After considerable backlash and criticism, the directive to strip international college students of their visas, and eventually get deported if they didn’t attend classes in person was rescinded. 

A July 2020 New York Times report stated that the deportation of over one million international students could have cost universities millions of dollars in tuition, and jeopardized the ability of U.S companies to hire the highly skilled workers who often start their careers with American education.  

“For many years obtaining a degree at an institution of higher learning in the United States has been the global “gold standard” for education. However, during the pandemic, the appeal of studying in the US has lessened for many African students due to issues related to racial and social unrest, immigration and visa status, and inability to travel due to closed borders. Webster University’s Ghana Campus has provided a well-received alternative for many students and their families who desire an undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited US university at the convenience and comfort of being at home in West Africa,” says Christa Sanders Bobtoya, the Director of Webster University Ghana. Sanders-Bobtoya has traveled extensively across five continents, spanning 65 countries, dedicating her career to the field of higher education while managing study abroad programs as well as international branch campuses of US institutions in both Europe and Africa. 

Webster University Ghana is the only international campus of Webster University on the African continent to offer US-accredited graduate and undergraduate degrees. The thriving liberal arts institution is accredited by the National Accreditation Board of Ghana and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in the United States (US). All Webster University students receive a degree issued from the US and, regardless of specific degree area, following the same curriculum worldwide. The home campus in St. Louis, Missouri, which issues the degrees, has an impressive track record of 105 years of providing high-quality American education. 

“Webster University students are exposed to new ways of thinking and benefit from the cultural diversity and enriching academic environment that strengthens their critical-thinking skills. Since opening our doors in 2014, we have enrolled both undergraduate and graduate students from over 25 different countries, spanning four continents including many from Africa and its Diaspora who later join Webster’s elite network of over 157,000 alumni worldwide,” adds Sanders-Bobtoya.

Webster University Ghana offers a practical, hands-on approach to learning with small class sizes that don’t exceed 30 students per class. The campus boasts a growing number of undergraduate academic majors and on the graduate level, a Master’s of Business Administration, MA in Human Resource Management as well as an MA in International Relations.

The University also offers students the unique opportunity to study abroad during their course of study for either an 8/9 nine-week term, semester, or an entire academic year at any of Webster University’s international campuses that include Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, US, Thailand, China, Greece, the UK, and Uzbekistan.

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“As we all are adjusting to a new normal especially in the field of education the pandemic has presented, it is imperative that students from the African Diaspora especially know that they have an alternative for obtaining a high-quality international education at Webster University Ghana.  Our unique university experience provides an opportunity to enhance global academic partnerships and provide an avenue for Africans/Diasporans to collaborate on research and exchanges right here on the continent while on their journey of becoming global citizens,” concludes Sanders-Bobtoya.

Webster University offers the flexibility of 5 enrollment intakes every year, allowing new students to begin their collegiate journey when it best suits them. Prospective students may apply at any time during the year and start in August, October, January, March, and May.

The Ghana Campus has a rotation of visiting faculty every few weeks to teach students in both the undergraduate and graduate programs and graduate classes are held in the evenings and weekends to allow working professionals to be able to continue to work while pursuing a higher degree.

For more information, visit www.webster.edu.gh ghana@webster.edu

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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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