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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international college students of their visas, and eventually get deported if they didn’t attend classes in person was rescinded.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.

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

“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 Education System is Broken. Covid-19 may be the cure (Pt. 1)

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Studying From Home (SFH) due to Covid may transform the entire education system (image: 123RF.com)

Institutional procrastination has kept the education sector globally from making long overdue changes to keep up with the ways of our evolving world. However, just like the first minor heart attach that doesn’t kill a person but forces them to finally take their cholesterol level and exercise seriously, Covid-19 might just be the disrupting force to permanently reshape formal education as we know it.

I believe there will be two distinct changes to the system, one that is bound to happen, and one that needs to happen.

In this first article of my two part series on education reform, I’ll discuss the first big change, and the one that we need to get started on right away: a complete revision of the educational curricula writ large.

Consider my daughter Maya. She is 13 years old and in 7th grade, and has 5 more years of school left. Let’s assume that she goes to a 4 year undergrad (ed:she better!) and then maybe takes a gap year before starting her first job. I know from my own experience, that most of us are pretty useless in our first 2–3 years in the workforce. At that time we are just learning the ropes, building the habits of showing up, navigating office politics and developing some sort of competence in our chosen career path. So, even excluding a master’s degree, etc. we’re talking about 12–15 years before she is really contributing to society.

For just a moment, now look back 15 years ago. In 2006: the very first iPhone had not been released. Netflix was still mailing out DVD’s in red envelopes. In that year. Twitter was founded and Facebook was still only for students on college campuses. The EV-1 electric cars had just been destroyed, and the space shuttle Columbia had just blown up upon re-entry. The world was a very different place 15 years ago, and the pace of innovation is still accelerating. That means that look forward to 15 years from now, will be like going 25 years back.

The cost of solar energy has dropped by 97% in the last 25 years. Between abundant solar, and massive projects in geothermal, our kids are going to live in a world biased towards renewable resources for the first time ever. Autonomous cars and trucks will wipe out a huge portion of driving careers, which are currently the no.1 job category 29 of the 50 States in the USA. Even software engineering is significantly changing as the world moves from bottom-of-the-stack system coding, to no-code applications through assembly of existing open-source modules and libraries.

Today’s schools are preparing our kids for a world which will not exist by the time they get there.

Forrester and Mckinsey estimate that almost 40 million clerical and location based jobs will be wiped out in the USA by 2030 due to automation. That is 25% of the total workforce. The Bureau of Labor statistics estimates that 43% of the total workforce in the USA in 2020 are what we now call “gig workers”, self-employed doing short-term task based jobs (like driving an Uber, tutoring online or freelancing).

Of course, new jobs will be created, just as today there are over eight hundred thousand technology jobs in Silicon Valley which did not exist before the digital revolution. However, these new jobs will be in new areas that we can’t currently foresee. As a (depressing) example, there are over 15,000 content moderators whose job it is to just review potentially awful & inappropriate posts on Facebook everyday, a dystopian career choice that was unimaginable 25 years ago.

What is certain though, is that this next generation of today’s students have zero chance of holding a single “cradle to grave” career. They will inevitably exist in a world of uncertainty and change.

Resilience, adaptability, and lifelong learning are the three most important traits we need to be teaching them.

There is little point in teaching “facts”, in a post-Google world. We have externalized knowledge such that any fact, or skill can instantly be learned by watching a few YouTube videos, or reading a collection of articles on Google. What needs to be taught are: curiosity, a passion for learning, and a dedication to cognitive reflection – the practice of thinking beyond an intuitive answer/media message, and considering a potentially less comfortable/intuitive correct answer.

Homeschooling interest peaked with Covid-19 (source: Google Trends)

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Google searches for the term “homeschooling” shot up 400% compared to the previous 5 years. Inquiries to the National Homeschool Association jumped from 5 calls a day before Covid, to 3,400 per day in August. My own family formed a “microschool” taking the choices of teachers and curriculum into our own hands. While health and safety are undoubtedly the primary motivation for this trend, the genie is out of the bottle. Covid has shown us that the same Internet platforms that connect us with a global talent pool of employees, can also connect us with a global pool of amazing educators. My daughter’s Spanish teacher is in Puebla, Mexico. She’s taking a music technology course from the University of Adelaide. My son’s physics teacher is a NASA engineer working on the Mars rover. Thanks to Covid, “School” has transformed from a place where they go, to a thing that they do.

Given the slow bureaucratic nature of most ministries of education, making sweeping changes to the national curricula in “traditional schools” is going to be a 5 to 10 year process. If we are to adapt our systems of learning in time to not waste a generation of students with the wrong lessons, then these changes need to start now.

In part 2 of this series, I’ll discuss the second major coming change: the explosion of the education bundle.

Author: Jay Shapiro, Co-founder & CEO of Usiku Games

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Africa speaks

2020: A year to remember

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Matthew Odu MA Taxation, FCA

The coronavirus pandemic has infected over 70 million people, has caused over 1.6 million deaths and has subsequently led to the suffering and heartache for billions of people the world over.

From an economic perspective, the once in a century event created a slump not seen since the second world war. The International Monetary Fund estimates the global covid-19 cost at $28trn in 2020 lost output.

The pandemic suffering has also been skewed by race. According to The Economist a 40-year-old Hispanic-American is 12 times more likely to die from covid-19 than a white American of the same age. In Britain, an official inquiry found that racism and discrimination suffered by the country’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic people has contributed to the high death rates from covid-19 in those communities.

A topic that is in need of more attention is the injustice felt by students caused by the covid-19 fallout. 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. The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that the pandemic is threatening a loss of learning that may stretch beyond one generation of students. In the global south, school closures are likely to erase decades of progress made by educators.

In Africa, although ed-tech surged during the summer, it wasn’t enough to overturn archaic disparities and make-believe generation next infrastructure. Data suggests that a combined total of just 19 million regular users had access to online education platforms, compared to the at least 450 million children aged 14 or younger that live on the continent.

Fortunately, Covid-19 has not just brought about the need for change, it also points a way forward. Just last week world leaders in education met virtually to help set in motion far-reaching changes to education in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

RewirEdX focused on three main issues in the education sector; youth and future skills, education financing and innovation in education. Leaders driving the change at the event included former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, now the UN’s Special Envoy for Global Education and Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia & Chair, Global Partnership for Education.

Chief amongst the discussion was the vital importance of connectivity in underpinning effective distance learning and so making education accessible to all.

Giving every single African child access to quality education is one of the visions for HESED. A lack of access to quality education and the sluggishness in adopting new methods of learning has immediate and long-term effects that countries on the continent cannot permit to spiral out of control.

Even before Coronavirus struck, education was in crisis but now we have an opportunity to turn things around.

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.
It’s time to rethink education. Let’s give our children a head start in 2021.

By: Matthew Odu MA Taxation, FCA

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Education

Webster University Ghana Director Christa Sanders Bobtoya on Advancing Global Learning Experience

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Christa Sanders Bobtoya has been involved in the field of international education for the last two decades. She’s currently the Head/Director of Webster University’s Ghana Campus, the only American university in the sub-region offering US-accredited graduate and undergraduate degrees. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Christa talks about the Webster University Ghana, it’s impact and achievements, life-long learning, leadership and much more. Excerpts.

Alaba: Kindly tell us about Webster University, the gap it’s filling and why it stands out?

Christa: 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 (NAB) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in the United States (US). All of Webster University students receive a degree issued from the US and, regardless of specific degree area, follow the same curriculum worldwide.

Webster University Ghana offers a practical, hands-on approach to learning. 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, China, Thailand, The Netherlands, etc.

Alaba: Since your appointment as the Director of its Ghana campus in 2014, what are the set milestones, achievements and challenges?

Christa: Since we first started receiving students and I received the appointment as Director of the Webster Ghana campus, one of the greatest milestones during this period has been hitting an enrollment of roughly 200 students. While we’re still relatively small, we started with eight students. We’ve gone from having three undergraduate programs to 6 and also the addition of graduate programs as well as a minor in African studies.

In terms of challenges, entering the higher education landscape in our part of the world has its inherent challenges. We were not very well known as an institution in the country and so it did take a few years for us to be able to establish some sort of brand awareness.

Alaba: As an international institution of repute, how do you measure impacts?

Christa: We measure impact based on what we see on the ground happening, with roughly 11 thousand students worldwide, many of our Alumni are well known in the area of communications, business and computer science through The Walker School of Business and Technology. Webster University has many notable alumni, these include:  Indonesia’s 6th president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono;  American actress,  Jennifer Lewis and Colonel Eileen Collins, Astronaut and Commander of the Space Shuttle.

Christa Sanders Bobtoya and Mohammed  Adjei Sowah, Mayor of Accra (Source: Webster University Ghana)

Beyond this we are highly ranked in annual US News and World Report. In this last edition, Webster University has moved up in terms of its national rankings at least in the US based institution by at least six places and we are now number 15 for the Midwest region.

Alaba: What are currently the biggest challenges facing Africa’s education sector?

Christa: I believe one of the biggest challenges facing Africa’s education sector is the lack of access to basic education for most people. Girls are also often left behind due to issues of gender inequality and financial barriers prevent most people from accessing textbooks, basic school supplies and the general technological resources needed to be successful in today’s complex and ever-changing world.

Classroom infrastructure and teacher training programs must furthermore be enhanced. A radical transformation of school systems from traditional rote learning to a more modern approach that encourages debate, critical thinking, ethical reasoning, etc. is also needed now more than ever before.

Alaba: Kindly share your thoughts on the importance of life-long learning?

Christa: The process of learning is a life-long journey. We should always strive to be inquisitive and improve upon our general knowledge by grasping new ideas and adopting new perspectives. I believe we are never too old to learn something new.

It is imperative to broaden one’s worldview and take on new experiences in the process. I enjoy learning languages and meeting people from different cultures, so I continue to remain open to acquiring new knowledge (in this case language skills) and further developing myself both personally and professionally.

Alaba: What’s the future for Webster University, especially post COVID-19?

Christa: In terms of the future for Webster University post Covid-19. I believe that as long as we have the approval from the National Accreditation Board (NAB) of the Ministry of Education, we will continue to offer a hybrid model of education.

In addition to this, through Webnet technology, students throughout the Webster worldwide network have the opportunity to join classrooms around the world in “real time.” Although this technology is mostly offered in campuses in the US and Europe to date, in the future students around the world will also be able to join classes in Ghana and vice versa.

Alaba: How would you describe your leadership style?

Christa: I would describe my leadership style as inclusive and empowering, if not transformational. I believe in motivating others as well as being supportive. I enjoy leading teams and also value the input and ideas of individual team members.

Christa Sanders Bobtoya, Dr. Beth J. Stroble, Chancellor of Webster University and Dr. Julian Schuster, President, Webster University during a visit to the Webster Ghana Campus (Source: Webster University Ghana)

Also, I always want to be a positive role model and show empathy and understanding where needed but also encourage others to strive to be the best that they can be.

Alaba: What is your advice for women in leadership and aspiring women?

Christa: I believe there have always been challenges facing women in the workplace and certainly in positions of leadership. It is therefore important to always remain determined, focused and prepared for possible obstacles along the trajectory towards success.

Today, I am especially inspired by the example of the newly appointed VP, Kamala Harris, as she exemplifies a powerful leader, who has remained determined and has kept her “eyes on the prize” from early on to arrive at this monumental moment in history. I think it is important for every woman to have a role model who inspires her and a mentor to engage with continuously.

Alaba: What inspires you and how do you relax out of work?

Christa: I would say that working in the field of education inspires me and having the opportunity to interact with young people every day. I enjoy working in the field of higher education by providing the resources, inspiration and encouragement to young people to pursue their dreams.

In terms of relaxing, my favorite thing to do is to travel. I love to be near water so I like going to the beach on weekends. I love connecting with nature and any opportunity to travel to a new place to learn a new culture, language and try a new type of food.

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B I O G R A P H Y

Christa Sanders Bobtoya have been involved in the field of international education for the last two decades. She has lived in Accra, Ghana since 2004 and currently the Director of Webster University’s Ghana Campus, the only American university in the sub-region offering US-accredited graduate and undergraduate degrees. Christa spent the first decade in Ghana as the Associate Director of New York University’s (NYU) 6th global site and the university’s first study abroad program on the African continent.

Her previous professional experiences include a role as a Program Officer for the Institute of International Education (IIE) in New York where she managed a range of scholarship programs for both Latin American and African students through the Institute’s Scholarship and Training Programs (STP) division. And as the Chief Counselor of Students for Syracuse University in Madrid, Spain where she also co-founded a support organization, Voices of Change, to help students of color cope with discrimination outside of the United States.

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