Digital Education in Africa Meeting in Dar es Salaam 24-26 June 2019: The Beginning of the Journey
Having just returned from Tanzania and an intensive round of workshops as part of a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) small grant for theme development, I wanted to take a moment to report in on the details. This all has relevance to digital education so bear with me.
The Time and Place: 24-26 June 2019. The University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
The Team: I was joined by a dedicated and competent group of people there that deserve praise. Professor Adamu Zoaka Hassan from the Distance Learning Centre at the Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria and Gossy Ukanwoke of EduTech are building a rather large digital education infrastructure at their university with over 4000 students and growing. Dr Joel Mtebe, Dr Lulu Mahai (herself a graduate of the University of Edinburgh under Sian Bayne’s supervision) and Dr Christina Raphael from the University of Dar es Salaam (our truly gracious hosts), Dr Rovincer Najjuma and Dr Rebecca Nambi from Makerere University (who brought some excellent theoretical and methodological perspectives), and Mr Said Yunus from the State University of Zanzibar (who had brought wonderful ideas around expanding the teaching of Kiswahili through open courses). And me of course representing the University of Edinburgh. I couldn’t have asked for a more dedicated, more open to what we were trying to do, and more good-natured group of people. The three full on days of the workshop sped right by in such company.
The Process: we met early on the Monday and were introduced to Dr Kissaka, the Principal of the College, who wishes us luck on our work together. We then got to work with introductions around research interests and hopes for the theme (and emerging research cluster), which we then used to find common themes amongst our team. A day of deliberation around the themes followed with much debate and dialogue and votes (which I abstained from).
Theme 1: Integrating marginalised groups into tertiary education.
This is a broad category with individual groups represented within (which were articulated: internally or externally displaced peoples, those marginalised by gender, indigent groups, those with physical disabilities, and more. This theme clearly emerged as the most critical.
This directly speaks to the needs of all the countries represented but skews differently across each. Nigeria’s issue is with scale as the HE infrastructure isn’t sufficient to account for its population (hence Ahmadu Bello’s decisive move into online education). For Tanzania and Uganda, issues around displacement and displaced peoples are the focus.
Theme 2: Digital Pedagogy for Faculty
This theme is a recognition of the fact that there will be no real progress on this front without improved pedagogical approaches (and support) for faculty. There was a keen emphasis in the group for teaching and teachers and particularly for those with a greater sense of how the digital impacts all of this.
Theme 3: Digital education for improving access to Tertiary Education
We see this as broader then Theme 1, a general scaling of higher education. All the universities present were expanding yet all noted limitations in their capacity to expand. This theme will look at models to do so that don’t sacrifice teaching quality or research rigour.
Theme 4: Education for Employability and Entrepreneurship
Linking directly to needs around employability and the plague of youth unemployment, this theme explores educational approaches for employability (the broader category) and entrepreneurship (the subset with unique variables). Both are critical and both will be explored but we felt it necessary to emphasise employability due such an emphasis on entrepreneurial development in interventions (particularly by INGOs).
From there we defined research projects that spoke to those themes, scoped them, developed research questions, defined roles (PIs primarily), created WhatsApp groups for each project, and attended to administrative duties, communication, and more. We recorded each other speaking about aspirations for the cluster (which I will edit and post subsequently) and then bid each other goodbye.
More to come!