Young Africans are embarking on promising careers using new skills acquired with the support of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). For example, Open and Distance Learning can help actors, musicians and story tellers to make a good living. This was one of the many innovative projects presented at eLearning Africa where the main conference theme was: “Youth, Skills and Employability”. In one dedicated African youth-led session, young people came up with their own recommendations on how to bridge the skills gap.
By Ludger Kasumuni in Dar es Salaam
Dr Onyekachukwu Iwuchukwu, a lecturer at the National Open University of Nigeria, demonstrated the role of eLearning in the creation of jobs for young people in the performing arts sector as professional actors, musicians, dancers, artists, designers, singers and photographers.
In her paper “Performing Arts in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Curriculum for Youth Employment”, she said that young people could be gainfully employed after blended learning using computers, DVDs, CDs, flash drives and mobile phones.
“Performing arts professionals are now gaining wealth, prominence and popularity. In the face of increasing unemployment in many African societies, young people are turning to the performing arts for employment, self-employment and sustenance.“
Shooting videos about HIV/AIDS
Richard Chole from PMM’s Girls’ School in Uganda told how the Adobe Youth Voices scheme, using video, multimedia, digital art, web animation and audio tools, had enabled teenagers to conduct HIV/AIDS voluntary counseling campaigns and fighting the stigma against those who live with the virus.
“In Uganda under the Adobe Youth project, the fifteen learners from PMM’s Girls School at Jinja recently participated in making video coverage as part of their media working project with the broad theme: Living positively with HIV,” said Mr Chole.
Developing skills in youth press teams
Michelle Lissoos, Managing Director of South Africa’s Think Ahead Solutions explained how students on the iSchoolAfrica scheme eventually used their cameras to interview eminent politicians like President Jacob Zuma and produce films and documentaries that have earned them internships and scholarships.
“What started as a project to give young South Africans a voice about the Soccer World Cup has grown into a media phenomenon with more than 20 school teams making videos on real South African issues. Students in disadvantaged schools or communities create topical, broadcast-quality video on important community topics like HIV/AIDS, sport, entertainment, advertisements and human rights. The project delivers benefits in computer literacy, filming and photography, personal skills and inter-personal skills, motivation, leadership and assertiveness.”
What young people want
One session, “Wazup? Youth Voices on Life, Love and eLearning” was run by a group of young people chaired by Allan Kakinda from SchoolNet Uganda with co-facilitators Lomo Hamza and Sekela Mwambegele from Tanzania, and 13 young Tanzanians. They discussed their use of digital technologies including Facebook, Twitter, mobile phones, how they find them useful and why they think they can be used for learning and teaching (or not). They also discussed their key messages for parents, teachers, governments on communication technology
The young Tanzanians urged their governments to further reduce taxes on Internet services. Currently Internet services and technology equipment include value added tax at 18 per cent and import duties. This would lead to better access to learning opportunities in a country where poverty prevents thousands from buying their own personal computer. A recent random survey in the shops at Kariakoo area in Dar es Salaam showed that a desktop computer is currently sold at a retail price ranging between Tsh. 450,000 (USD. 300) and Tsh. 650,000 (USD. 433). The US Dollar is pegged at Tsh. 1,500.
ICT challenges identified by young people
Apart from poverty, the young people at the “Wazup” session listed the lack of ICT policies for teachers, inaccessibility to Internet services in many schools, the lack of ICT curricula in their teacher training colleges and the lack of ICT literacy that plague their teachers.
Other drawbacks were erratic power supply, lack of government commitment to provide technological support and school regulations that prohibit students from using mobile phones. The participants suggested that mobile phones could be used to record lectures in class.
They put forward several extra recommendations, that ICT studies should be incorporated in all subjects to motivate teachers into using computers and that ICT should be a compulsory subject in all schools.
They argued that social media like Facebook, Wikipedia, blogs and Twitter are very useful means of collaborative learning, developing practical skills, sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas for increasing the students’ learning capacity.
For science subjects, they said ICT-supported learning is relevant because students can clearly see the working tools for practical or laboratory lessons when for example they study physics and the working of human body organs such as kidney and heart in biology lessons.
The facilitator, Allan Kakinda of Uganda’s SchoolNet/IEARN, had grouped the students into two camps for a fruitful dialogue. There were contending views on ICT-supported learning but they eventually agreed that ICT-supported learning should become the backbone of effective and efficient youth learning.