Some problems are the same world wide. Youth unemployment is one of them. What can young people do if there are no jobs for them? This is a problem that John Dada is planning to tackle at Fantsuam by providing accessible and affordable tertiary and vocational education for local youths. We have been "rubbing minds" on our vision for such a centre, and how it fits in with what we have done in that past, what is already on the ground, and our philosophy related to learning. We're calling it the Dadamac Knowledge Centre.
Practical training and work experience.
John is already providing some vocational training through the Cisco academy at Fantsuam. Sometimes young people who have completed the Cisco training stay on to get work experience at Fantsuam Foundation and are then able to go on to much better paid opportunities elsewhere.
The Dadamac Knowledge Centre will involve a similar mixture of practical training and theory. There are many initiatives FF is involved in that could provide practical work experience, including permaculture, fish farming, health care, small scale solar power, and construction. We want to help our trainees to be work-ready, able to go into "off the peg" jobs or have the skill to create their own opportunities, with the support of fellow-trainees or others connected with the Dadamac Knowledge Centre. See also the kind of useful knowledge sharing and collaborative approaches with engineers touched on in "For want of a nail" - Why a stronger Dadamac is urgently needed
There are some elements of training that will be appropriate to all trainees, examples include English (spoken language and literacy), business skills such as financial planning and account keeping, and negotiation skills with conflict resolution. The latter is useful in business for dealing with suppliers, staff and customers, but is also a valuable life skill, especially for these youths who live in an area which suffers from sporadic sectarian violence (much of it fuelled by unemployment)
We are also considering Life-Long-Learning opportunities for the local artisans (e.g. road side mechanics, carpenters, masons, hairdressers). How can we support them in upgrading their skills? How can we assist them to set standards for their services, bring their current apprenticeship system into a more formal and regulated setting, and raise the profile of their improved services?
The theoretical work will happen at the Dadamac Knowledge Centre. This will have its first home at the Knowledge Resource Centre in the main Fantsuam Foundation (FF) compound. It has internet access, which is amazing given its location, but the bandwidth is limited. It is provided by FF's social business Zittnet. (We have described elsewhere on Dadamac.net some of Zittnet's challenges and John's work to collaborate with others to upgrade the service over the years. Discussions continue.)
John and I touched on the relevance of past and present work for our planning including:
- Regarding accreditation - our experiences with PeoplesUni.org - PeoplesUni.org project overview see its website for information about its current, affordable, accredited e-learning courses for health professionals in low income countries.
- Regarding development of online supprt and sharing expertise from various countries - Teachers Talking online support group see Teachers Talking project overview and, for other practicalities of that course - Teachers Talking
- Collaborative course creation - Cameras for Communication
- Various experiences of peer-to-peer online learning, self-directed online learning, collaborative learning, and general learning-by-doing.
- Various blended approaches for course delivery - a mixture of distance learning and traditional teaching - such as group access to online materials, or to printed distance learning materials, through the mediation of a teacher or trainer.
A realistic approach
We know that limited bandwidth is only one of our problems. Technical issues often pale into insignificance compared to other, more human, challenges. These have to do with accustomed styles of learning and teaching, levels of literacy, and preferred languages.
Accustomed styles of learning
Accustomed styles of learning are a big challenge if we are considering any kind of individual, internet-enabled learning. Normally in local schools the learning is teacher-driven and based on rote learning. This is not surprising given that teachers tend to teach the way they were taught. Rote learning is an unsurprising method in poorly resourced rural schools, where there are few if any books, and everyone has to pay attention to what the teacher has written on the board. Asking questions is not seen as evidence of engaging with the materials. It is more likely to be seen as evidence of stupidity, or failing to pay attention, or insolence for implying the teacher has failed to teach.
It's a big jump from such passive learning to working independently online.
Language and literacy
English is not the main local spoken language of choice. It's the language of administration and education. People who have completed tertiary education should be able to cope with English, but our trainees may be struggling. Our typical initial trainee will have had an education up to secondary level only, and probably in a poorly resourced school (possibly with teachers who also struggle with the English language).
Looking ahead, as the Dadamac Knowledge Centre develops we may be able to extend our reach and cater for trainees who have not even had the opportunity to complete primary school. This means that we will want to provide for trainees who have not had sufficient education to acieve funtional literacy in a foreign language - i.e. English. We know that lack of education is not the same thing as lack of intelligence.
The human-computer interface.
We understand and accept the challenges of creating and using appropriate course materials. We care about computer-human interfaces and recognise that where there are barriers to the free flow of information then we need to put people in place as information channels.
As well as our many years of first hand experience in integrated community development and emergent 21st century approaches to learning, we are influenced by ideas relating to resilient local communities, appropriate technologies, and "Small is Beautiful" approaches to economics.
Work at Fantsuam Foundation is always driven by local needs. The development of the Dadamac Knowledge Centre is influenced by the urgent needs of unemployed youths, not just on the personal level of wasted lives, nor just on the local level of sectarian violence among youths, fuelled by unemployment, but also on the global level of the urgent need to reduce inequality by raising self-help skills and thus raising living standards. See "For want of a nail" - Why a stronger Dadamac is urgently needed
We welcome collaborators and supporters of all kinds.
We have ambitious long term vision for the Dadamac Learning Centre, with realistic small steps along the way. We'll soon be starting to put things into place - how much and how quickly will depend on what support we can get to set things up. We'll do it under the wings of Dadamac Foundation - but they are very small wings at present.
Your help is invited. You can help by joining the Dadamac Knowledge Centre Support Group (the name may change). It will help to develop course materials, get involved in collaborative learning, and supply online support to local trainers and trainees, contact me for details. Or you can help in a more general way - see How to help Dadamac - From re-tweeting to mentoring. Collaboration with Dadamac Knowledge centre will also feature at GlobalNet21 and Africa Changemakers - Learning and Doing
Even a single re-tweet, or sharing on Facebook can help raise our visibility. Small help is valuable to us, and large help would also be most welcome. Please think of joining us and tell others.
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