The eLearning Africa 2013 report includes my interview with the title “Entrepreneurship Isn’t About Easy Money “. I re-blogged some of the questions with my answers. To read the full interview and report, click here.
What do you think is the most significant change that needs to happen in order to tackle the education and training challenges that Africa faces?
The first and basic change that should occur is that Africans need to believe that if we don’t solve our problems, no one will. But I think I am too late to state this. Most Africans are already aware of that. The basic change is done. Education is the key and it all starts at the family level. Families have the highest responsibility in raising the next generation. I believe the biggest change should happen to tackle education and the challenges we face in Africa is to have a tight relationship between communities and educational institutions.
The Internet infrastructure should be improved. Schools need to be more equipped and open. I have noticed in the schools in Ethiopia that schools are only for the students. This attitude should be changed. Higher education should work closely with the private sector; students need to get their hands dirty. If education is all about theories, we only need to teach people how to read and write. We need to learn but also practice what we learn. I know these are basic and elementary statements. But these are the essentials.
Education reforms and curriculum revision should be carried out at every level. We should stop teaching, we should start educating.
How do you think technologies can best help build sustainable human development across Africa?
The answers for most of the questions we have in Africa are critical thinking and access to technology.
Usually, people think about high-techs whenever they think of technology. The truth is we need to get access to technology at every level. Promoting and using technology should be widely practiced. As the famous saying goes: “it is easier to have old problems than new solutions”. We need to accept new solutions. There is no a magic technology which solves all the problems we have. In reality, only few technologies work in specific situations out of thousands of technologies available. We need to try out, test and keep on promoting and using these solutions.
Africa is famous for mobile technology and social media. If the next big thing doesn’t come out of Africa, there will be no next big thing. Africa is big. My knowledge is very much limited to my surroundings, but I believe that in every village everyone should work to enable access to technology and encourage people to think critically.
What do you consider to be the most transformative, innovative and exciting initiative currently taking place in technologies and education, skills development and lifelong learning and training in Africa?
I’m really excited to be part of the reading research project currently running in two Ethiopian villages. This project is aimed to tackle low literacy level – a serious problem in Africa. The research is carried out in collaboration with OLPC, MIT and Tufts University. Basically, we give tablets to the kids and check if they can learn how to read just through using apps. The programme has been running for one year, and the children in the project are at the cusp of being able to read. This is a very innovative and transformative initiative going on in Africa right now.
M-Learning is very transformative. There is high penetration of mobile phones on the Continent. This is something growing at an interesting rate. There are more mobile phones in Uganda than light bulbs and 91 per cent of South Africans own at least one mobile phone. In Gabon, there are more mobile subscriptions than inhabitants.
Using mobile phones for education is not only innovative; it is also far cheaper than traditional models. Schools don’t need to provide mobiles as students already own them. This is a great advantage over organising a computer lab. The culture of mobile communication is also mature – people in Africa know very well how to operate a mobile phone. This is especially interesting considering the fact that mobile technology is one of the fastest growing technologies in the world. Ubuntu already introduced standard Operating Systems for mobiles. I believe the schools should seriously consider how to teach students to get the maximum use out of their mobile phones.
The vibrant spread of innovation and incubation centresis also a good example of great African initiatives. These hubs help the students learn entrepreneurship, life-skills and business skills and they have enough facilities to give on-the-job training.
Questions that are also included on an interview.
Looking forward to the next five years – what do you see on the horizon in terms of influential changes, transitions, technologies and trends that will affect the integration of educational technologies in education, skills development and lifelong learning landscape in Africa?
What will iceaddis contribute to Africa’s human development over the next five years?
Please tell us about your personal journey: what was your most influential formative educational experience as you were growing up?
What was it that inspired you to start iceaddis?
Please tell us how you influenced iceaddis since it was started?
Can you give us an example of the challenges you have faced whilst working at iceaddis: how did you overcome them?