26 August 2022
The Africa Report: ‘Some of the more mature economies assume that very little is going on in Africa…’ says Kagia

The Africa Report, 26 August 2022

In an interview with Rachel Ombaka of The Africa Report, our advisor Ruth Kagia talks about the status of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education in Africa, the challenges in advancing such disciplines and her take on the way forward.

“Too often we talk very generally about education, which is important, but focusing on specific elements, such as STEM, becomes the spearpoint of change,” she explains.

“We have a science and technology programme, which was launched in 2014 and quite a few institutions have been formed around this to support the broad strategic thrust, including capacity building for Africa. Every so often, during the African Union summit they do give an update on where we are, but as you get more granular—at the individual country level—progress has not been as great as what would have been expected,” she says.

Uneven progress

Ruth points out the uneven progress in education development across Africa and puts emphasis on the importance of educating girls, particularly in STEM. “Less than a third of science researchers are women. Less than 25% of higher education students pursue STEM programmes. We are not there yet,” Ruth says.

In response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ruth highlights the fact that only a third of children in Africa were able to access online, mobile-, radio- or TV-enhanced learning. “A study we did in Kenya showed that most of the children were getting 2-3 hours of learning. There was lost learning momentum,” she says, adding that there was an increase in inequality between children who could access computers and those who could not.

Ruth believes that COVID-19 meant that teachers, parents and communities found new ways of overcoming the hurdles. She says that the COVID-19 pandemic brought the importance of education technology into sharp focus, and that it can help to close the education gaps.

She uses the work of the 2020 Yidan Prize for Education Research Laureate, Professor Carl Wieman as an example. His PhET Interactive Simulations are an intuitive, game-like environment where students can learn STEM subjects through exploration and discovery. “You don’t have to be sitting in a classroom to learn,” she says. “It opens up opportunities for new learning programmes.”

Ruth also talked about the need to transform agriculture, the influx of technology start-ups in Africa and her frustration at misconceptions about Africa:

“There is an assumption from some of the more mature economies that very little is going on in Africa, which is a misconception. The challenges that our education systems face are big. There is a lot of creativity that is required to overcome them, but we need to platform creativity as part of the innovative response to COVID-19, going forward,” Kagia says.

Read the full article here.

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