Barak Obama’s Young African Leaders ﬂagship program beneﬁciary David Sebulon last week held a successful workshop which incorporated students from all around Namibia and received training in basic coding to promote an interest in STEM as a means to meet government half way in creating a rich I.C.T foundation.
STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of inculcating in students on four speciﬁc disciplines which are Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. To date the United States is credited as being a historical leader in these ﬁelds, however with African countries having joined in the band wagon, David also has thrown in his lot to promote STEM in Namibia which is key to economic and industrial development.
Speaking to The Villager, David who has toured the U.S. and had an opportunity to engage U.S. former president Barak Obama on leadership issues said the American approach to economic and education system development prompted his training initiative back home. “What is very inspiring is that we saw amazing things happening in the U.S. How they are getting people from poverty, and taking people from the middle class to higher levels. Coming back to my country, I realised that so much needs to be done but this cannot be done by government alone,” he said.
His workshops have generated a lot of interest from primary/secondary school students, parents and guardians alike and last week’s event saw some of these parents even joining their children who took hours to come up with a variety of mobile apps and received certiﬁcates.
“We were learning to program the computers to do something for us, it was hard and challenging at ﬁrst but with some help we ﬁgured it out. I am thinking of being a programmer one day and I want other students to join us to learn about coding and help those who do not have the skill sets,” enthused one Nande Kanguatjivi (13) from Orban Primary School. A University of Texas graduate and UNAM Computer Science Lecturer, David said he had to quit his job and sort ways to make use of his abilities in giving back to the community through elementary computer training.
Last week’s training was part of the campaign to impart entrepreneurial skills on young people so that they, “Don’t just consume the technology but actually create innovative solutions the students create games and apps, they are actually improving their mathematics and science,” said David.
Science writer Elaine Hom agrees with this approach as he says, “Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.” “We have developed a mobile application that allows young people to get quality Math and Science education. We record the best teachers in the country and we put this content onto the mobile app that learners use.
If you are in one school you do not have access to teachers from other schools, so we create a data base of this quality rich content from the best teachers and have it accessed by all leaners,” he explained. With the emergency of a vast collection of interesting applications David said, “We want people to make use of technology in the right way, people go to Facebook, YouTube and so forth to watch videos instead of using this as an opportunity to develop the country. School drop outs for example can create mobile applications that can be used by the industry.”
While STEM is a proven alternative to industrial development, a trajectory which Namibia ﬁnds itself grappling on, Dr. Nkem Khumbah, University of Michigan laments that the foundations of the economic performance underlying the Africa rising phenomenon are shallow, predominantly based on the extraction of natural resources rather than human capital development.
He observes that the proportion of students in STEM averages less than 25 percent in Africa, an indication that, “Africa lags behind other regions of the world in scientiﬁc productivity and knowledge systems.
“African political leadership has yet to embrace the STEM Education imperative for transforming African society with the enthusiasm it deserves; and policies aimed at addressing Africa’s long-term prospects in STEM need to be situated within a global context, to better appreciate all the actors and forces inﬂuencing its development, as well as the level of attention and effort required for meaningful progress,” he says.