Work in Africa - reply for Stewart Hase

Following the 2014 Heutagogy Conference Stewart Hase asked about my work in Africa, so I wrote this short outline for him.

The start

I've been connected with Nigeria since 2000. Initially it was through the late Peter Adetunji Oyawale. The first time I went to Nigeria was for his funeral in Ago-Are, Oke-Ogun. When I came home I carried on doing the kind of things he'd wanted me to do to help his project when he was alive.

I knew nothing about Nigeria or development but I had a few things I could offer:

  • I knew his vision. 
  • I had met some of his contacts in Nigeria, and had started to developed close friendships.
  • I was in the UK and I had easy access to the Internet (so I could network with people, do research, go to meetings about International development on behalf of his project etc).
  • I was a teacher with a long term interest in the potential of computers to alter the roles of teachers and learners.

The team

Gradually a team of us developed. We were: Peter's uncle (Mr Timothy Oyawale), Chiefs Adetola, Adejumo, and Mojoyinola, David Mutua (a Kenyan working with Voluntary Service Overseas) and me. By 2004 our project in Oke-Ogun  - Oke-Ogun Community Development Agenda 2000 Plus  - had attracted the attention of Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA). By the time David finished his time with VSO, new resources were being added to the project by COL and IITA.

Collaboration with Fantsuam Foundation

By 2003 my online research on behalf of the Oke-Ogun project had led me to discover John Dada (he's the "Dada" of "Dadamac") and Kazanka Comfort and their work at Fantsuam Foundation (FF). We started to collaborate in various ways. 

In 2004 John asked me to help him respond to the requests of local teachers for training. They needed to become ICT literate, although most of them had no hope of getting computers in their poorly equipped schools. The Teachers Talking (TT) project was the result.

Realities on the ground

During my working holidays in Oke-Ogun and at FF I was bewildered by the gap between what I read online about International Development and what I actually saw.

I wanted people in the UK to know more about the realities I was learning about. This was partly because I wanted less of a disconnect between the information I could find online and the informaion I was seeking to inform my practice. I was on a steep learning curve. I wanted to find theory that would help me, and I also wanted to rub minds with other practitioners.

Telling the FF story

The first time I visited FF I was impressed at how much was happening, and each time I went back there seemed to be even more activity.

I wanted John or Comfort to tell the story of FF but they were too busy, so I started to experiment with ways of helping them to do it. Dadamac.net was the space that I set up for these experiments.  We started regular UK-Nigeria online meetings, which Nikki Fishman blogged about from November 2009 to December 2012 (see Nikki's blog).

Wider community

The online global community Minciu Sodas (MS), which included many people in East Africa, was also relevant to the development of Dadamac. The leader Andrius Kulikauskas is a strong advocate of sharing in the public domain. Andrius and the MS community have influenced me strongly.

Collaborations

In addition to helping FF to become more visible Nikki, John and I also enabled a number of collaborative projects between FF and the UK - details of which are scattered around the Dadamac.net site.

Personal interest

My connection with Africa is unusual because it has simply emerged through:

  • Friendships
  • Responding to what friends in Africa have asked me to do
  • Working with them on the ground during "working holidays", but mostly working online from home in the UK.
  • Finding that I needed to hold my assumptions lightly
  • Trying to make sense of things (learning-by-doing, seeing patterns in what we are doing, checking how relevant those patterns are, continually dancing between theory and practice)

Importance of the Internet

Much of my UK-Africa work has been at a distance, over the past 14 years. This has meant personal involvement in the changes in rural Nigeria as mobile phones have rolled out. It has also meant enormous reliance on the Internet, and deep experience of collaborating at a distance, running online communities and many aspects of online teaching and learning.

Heutagogy

I have written this because Stewart Hase asked me for information about my work in Africa after the 2014 Heutagogy Conference, so I'll explain my connection with heutagogy. According to wikipeadi "In education, heutagogy, a concept coined by Stewart Hase of Southern Cross University and Chris Kenyon in Australia, is the study of self-determined learning."

My own experiences of self-determined, Internet-enabled learning, are related to my UK-Africa interests. I have been describing "my kind of learning" for many years, including a chapter on "E-learning in Virtual Academia" in this book. However it was only recently that I learned the term "heutagogy" for the study of self-determined learning, and my ideas were extended by attending the 2014 Heutagogy Conference.