THE BLOG

Here's What The Conventional Curriculum Isn't Telling Us

What is African education, if it doesn't solve our own problems, but instead is steered towards solving problems for others?

08/11/2017 18:09 SAST | Updated 08/11/2017 18:09 SAST
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Sadly, today's conventional curricula is simply a reminiscence of neocolonialism. Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu, in her TED talk How Africa can use its traditional knowledge to make progress, vividly points out how A-for-Apple-education has been -- and still is -- instilled in us, a land where apples clearly don't grow wild.

Then, what is African education? What is African education, if existing education systems steer us in pursuit of conventional employment trains? What is African education, if it doesn't solve our own problems, but instead is steered towards solving problems for others?

Is it a system that embraces love for problems, or dread of problems?

Techonomy Media
Leroy speaking at Techonomy 14 panel, 'Africa's re-invention generation' Photo: Techonomy

When I was in Grade 10, I was lucky enough to be selected to be part of an innovation camp on Human-Centred Design Thinking (HCDT), thanks to a renewable energy project I was working on. This project now offers clean renewable biogas solutions from everyday waste, while offering sustainable income to the local communities being served.

As I advanced academically, my reality was further separated from my secondary school education. My mindset took a turn for the better. I guess the epitome of it was after my panel discussion, Africa; the re-invention generation at the Techonomy Conference in 2014 with my mentor Dr. David Sengeh from Sierra Leone, a research scientist at IBM Research Africa in Nairobi.

There, we argued for what matters in Africa. I was probed on what my goals in life were, and what would happen if I don't achieve them. Honestly, it was a conversation that challenged me to do more about equality, economic prosperity and peace.

Disrupting for good

For quite some time now, I've spent my time deliberately learning and unlearning, failing and succeeding, in search of a tool that could lead me to this path to Africa's remedy. From random conversations with strangers, calls and moderated discussions, I couldn't find a better tool than HCDT.

When I graduated from my national public high school at Maseno in 2015, I interned part-time for eight months as a primary facilitator with Global Minimum, an international NGO based in Kenya advocating for creative thinking amongst secondary-school students and supporting science projects aimed at solving the community's needs. Here, I was keen on learning managerial expertise in strategic planning, and execution on the different components of innovation camps. It was perhaps my most reflective internship yet.

This year, together with close friends, we set out to kick off CampBuni, a platform where many more high-school students could access this type of education. CampBuni's vision of creating problem lovers is deeply embedded in the key components of HCDT: creative thinking, empathy, critical thinking and resourceful thinking.

The bottom line is that Africa needs HCDT by the people, for the people.

Through these pillars, we engage primarily high-school students, teaching them skills for tackling problems that their local communities face. For our first endeavour, we held a five-day camp at iHub Nairobi's space in conjunction with our partners Moringa School, African Leadership Academy and Chandaria Industries.

Energy driving the HCDT revolution

What struck me most from our first camp was *Thato, an Eritrean participant who spent most of his life as a refugee. His deep enthusiasm throughout the programme stood out from his peers. In my view, Thato is not only a beacon hope for his nation and Africa as a continent, but a solution to Africa's tomorrow. It's seeing such spirits that give me hope for Africa and a sense of fulfilment.

Sadly, such content has no place in our curriculum. Working with relevant stakeholders in the education sector, we hope to change the narrative by making such content available to them. At CampBuni, we believe that the even the biggest project begins with small steps. We are open to collaboration with our work in charting a way to re-invent Africa's education landscape.

Mark Tipple/ Getty Creative

People need it

While seeking partners for our first camp, we were, however, not surprised when one of them asked us to instead teach their staff our content. It's evident that the demand for HCDT spans both corporate and governmental organisations.

According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Kenya, 2,310,066 students are enrolled in high school. But even if we get it across the board, how do we make sure it's a sustainable curve? It's a pivotal moment for us, as Africa in curating our narrative, in the midst of all the problems we face as a continent.

The bottom line is that Africa needs HCDT by the people, for the people.

* Thato -- name altered for privacy and protection of identity.