#AfricaVoices#AfricaDialogues. Africa Voices Dialogue Series with Dr Robyn Whittaker, Kaleidoscope Lights South Africa and Dr Abdelaziz Zohri, ENCG Settat Morocco
“When our education systems are able to see their own potential; realising that the key to find their own answers is the trust in the human potential, recognising that all is within and co-created, then, everything changes.” – Karima Kadaoui, Tamkeen Community Foundation for Human Development, Social Innovation Platform, Morocco
The inaugural event of the Africa Voices Dialogue Series took place on the 5 September 2020, bringing into being a long held vision of a widespread community of educators across Africa together co-creating a space to listen to the stories, experiences and learnings of those educating on the ground, and in the reality of their schools, across the continent.
The event was attended by educators (as well as those passionate about education) from over 25 countries on the continent, with excellent representation from a global audience too. The Dialogue was held between educators and education activists from Kenya, Ghana, Morocco, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a vibrant and engaged discussion on the role that education needs to play for African youth, and whether the continent is making adequate progress on this.
“This is a space where we are able to share, knowing very well that we will be assisted, that there will be someone to listen to us, so that we will then be able to assist our children.” – Khosi Ntuli, Principal Thlathlogang, Secondary School, South Africa
Participants shared some powerful examples of not only their greatest frustrations and pain points experienced in the delivery of education in their contexts, but also some of the opportunities for learning and innovation that they had witnessed or practiced in response to these. The commitment and passion that not only the dialogue conversants, but also all of those in the wider audience who were “holding the space” for the discussion, have to see their learners succeed and thrive was palpable. It was tremendously inspiring to hear, across the board, the expression of a deep sense of the potential that these educators see in their students – as well as the commitment that they have to the humanisation of the education system in Africa – to seeing the inherent value of the student unearthed through learning and mentorship. The consensus was that, as a continent and as a world, we are required to shift the focus of the education system to being in deep service of the learners – rather than it being simply a way to process learners into jobs.
First conceptualised as an outcome of the Africa Spotlight Session held in January 2020 at the ICSEI (International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement) “Global North / Global South” Conference, held in Marrakesh, Morocco, the Africa Voices Dialogues Series aims to grow the conversations that were initiated and have been maintained since this event between over 100 peer educators, hailing from all corners of the continent.
The Dialogues are intended as a forum for education practitioner and learner voices to be heard, validated and amplified. For too long, the African narrative has been unheard – despite the fact that our continent has by far the largest youth demographic globally, and that empowerment of the continent’s youth through education is an imperative not only for individual country success, but for continental – and indeed global – success. At almost every international forum on education and development the issue of the “problems of African education and skills development” are discussed – yet with little input from those most closely proximate to the issue.
“We should not focus so much on preparing our youth for the “jobs of the future” as we should prepare them to see the current challenges which are facing humankind. It is only through seeing these challenges that they will be compelled to come up with solutions for these challenges… The role of education for the youth is to nurture their full potential, and help them to acquire the global competencies of character, citizenship, creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking.” – Andrew Wambua, Educator & Researcher, Kenya
We believe that learning from educators and learners themselves about how they are addressing or innovating around education issues, understanding and appreciating what some of the binding constraints that they face are, and recognising and validating the humanity and experience of both educators and learners, is an essential part of understanding how to innovate and transform education on the continent.
It is high time that we allow educators and learners to recognise the value and validity of their lived experiences, and to grow in confidence in their own voice and perspective. Our hope is to generate a trans-continental Professional and Student Learning Network that allows education practitioners and students to witness and learn from each other’s experiences, cross-pollinate successful and innovative practices, reduce the sense of isolation faced, and, where feasible over time, facilitate the co-creation of generative collaboration opportunities (within and across countries and regions on the continent)
Through capturing and collating the unique country and continental experiences faced by educators and learners, not only over the time of COVID, but indeed generally, we hope that it may be possible to set the framework for re-imagining future possibilities which are firmly rooted in grassroots realities. Africa has seen, and continues to see, some quite astounding innovations, teaching methodologies and novel education approaches develop in the face of extraordinarily high constraining factors. We strongly believe that there is scope for these innovations to be amplified and adopted, through peer-to-peer exposure, learning and encouragement, for the benefit of Africa’s youth.
“We have many youth who have qualifications but who do not have industrial exposure. Young people are pushing for a certificate and paper, but ignoring the fundamentals and foundations affecting everything we do, specifically politics. Our commitment to citizenship and to understanding our voting rights is essential, as well as understanding the role that education has to play in the development of social, emotional and financial intelligence.” – Tinotenda Mudarikwa, Educator & Community Builder, Zimbabwe
The Dialogue Series also offers :
- the potential for cross-continental qualitative research of the common and disparate issues facing the continent, as experienced in practice at school and community level;
- the development of an understanding of the differences in country policy and practice that either alleviate or exacerbate these issues
- insight into coping techniques and capacity of educators and learners,
- potential for a cross-continental Professional Learning Network which can contribute in terms of novel peer-to-peer and learner-to-learner collective learning opportunities, the evolution of collaborative projects, and the development of combined and collective understanding of new and context appropriate innovations in the education space.
Our belief is that the pockets of innovation occurring on the continent – the instances where individuals, schools and systems are pushing back against the archaic, imported and industrially motivated education systems which have been the inheritance of the continent for too long, may offer solutions to some of the major questions faced by the globe as a whole on how to transform our education systems such that they are truly in service of the learner at the centre of the system. Our hope is that through the Africa Voices Dialogues we may visualise, validate and amplify these examples of contextually and continentally appropriate education innovations.
“What struck me from this conversation is the sheer grit in what each of the participants contributed around what their students and educators are doing to make sure that their schools are working. It is very easy to talk about the challenge of resources, or the lack of resources, and as we have seen from other colleagues on other continents, they too will talk of the same limitations of resources. However, there is no limitation to resourcefulness, which is an entirely different approach. Resourcefulness is about agency, and it is about civic responsibility and citizenship… When we talk in terms of agency, then we talk about transformative human potential that is self-sustaining at the continental as well as the global level. We should be very mindful of sustaining our resourcefulness, and of being intentional together in ensuring that the human structures and organisations that we work within support the work we do in this space.” – Mohammed Elmeski – ICSEI 2020 Conference Organiser, Morocco