Centres of Excellence

My participation at the Kick-Off Meeting – DIGI-FACE

As part of the Kenyan delegation, Susan, John & Raymond had the distinct pleasure of attending the much-awaited Digital Initiatives for African Centres of Excellence (DIGI – FACE) Kick-off Meeting held in South Africa by the world-renowned university, Nelson Mandela in Port Elizabeth. The meeting brought different scholars whose vast experience in pursuit of higher education was not only inspiring but an open door to insightful thought on the direction higher education needed to take, chiefly digital in nature, in order to stand the test of time for African Centres of Excellence (CoE). Precisely, the project aim is to develop and put into action digital learning strategies across Africa. A big part of DIGI-FACE is to enhance digital capacities of lecturers and academics and that the training of trainers (ToT) is a very crucial pillar of the project.

The kick-off meeting took place on March 3-6 with delegates drawn from universities in South Africa, Niger, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Mali, Namibia as well as Germany. Pursuant to achieving the goal, the delegates consisted of the Centre of Excellence Project leaders, Project Coordinators, Curriculum developers and the IT personnel. This was a brilliant mix in order to make the matrix of content development and dissemination complete.

At the opening session the delegates were taken through the overall aims of the initiative by the lead persons notably, Prof Ewald Eisenberg, representing project lead partner Kehl University in Germany; Prof Bernd Siebenhuener, German academic from Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg and Prof Paul Webb, Project Leader of the East and South African German Centre of Excellence for Educational Research Methodologies and Management(CERM-ESA).  A quick rejoinder on the collaborative approaches to capacity development and digitalization was brought into perspective by Professor Michael Samuel from the University of KwaZulu Natal who also doubled up as the event moderator. The meeting was officially opened by deputy vice-chancellor, learning and Teaching, Prof Cheryl Foxcroft, Mandela University who emphasized the need for all of us to make provisions for students to learn in digital spaces.

With the elaborate intro, the sessions that followed included the delegate’s reflections on their motivations; on-line learning experts presentations that shed more light into the digital classrooms; practical sessions of designing an interactive online session; Centres action steps, collaborations and partnerships; business plan; delegates visions and recommendations. The sessions were not only in-depth but quite mind-boggling in terms of reflections on the core challenges such as geographical complications, equipment deficiencies alongside proposed methodologies for accomplishing the DIGI-FACE project.

The project’s aspiration for the future could have consequences that undoubtedly would bring positive change and especially education without borders. The goal for the meeting was not only a means of documenting the problems faced by CoEs, nor was it an opportunity for CoEs to complain about the situation that they face, rather it was a critical discussion with actionable points aimed at reducing these challenges and possibly eliminating them entirely with guidance from a knowledgeable partner.

The discussions proposed scholars to take up the opportunity to create content on their own terms, with assistance from IT and Multimedia experts within the Institution, but with an eye for great and reusable content to a student, market to generate revenue for the Centre’s sustainability. The market out there consists of students willing to assimilate new information faster, with a lowered barrier to entry such as cost and time, and the reduction of time spent by students closing the physical geographical gap courtesy of antiquated forms of education.

Content in this context indicates the use of video, text, and interactive media as a delivery mechanism. By integrating open source software such as Moodle, specifically built to handle demands of heavy course material, it is by no means an end to itself, but rather the first step that scholars can take in order to achieve their personal goals and of the institution. Another valuable resource was H5P.org which utilized the power of HTML5 to create, share and reuse the content in a browser. The H5P platform is particularly useful since it can be integrated with MOODLE for added functionality.

As the conference progressed, we came to the understanding that many CoEs already have course material ready for digitization but lack the channels to take their course materials online. On that note, the question of sustainability arose on numerous occasions. Naturally, other questions were derived from this such as, would the funding partner, DAAD, provide sustainable solutions to the CoEs or would the CoEs be equipped with their own means of sustainability mutually beneficial to both students and CoEs.  These were just a few questions out of the many that came up. However, they were not all to be answered conclusively in this first meeting but rather at an ongoing basis customized to each CoEs needs. Furthermore, evaluations carried out at the end of the meeting could have captured more concerns from the delegates. At the close of the meeting, we were treated to a delicious dinner and thrilling excursion that cemented our continental bonds as well as giving us a chance to appreciate the beauty of Port Elizabeth and South Africa at large. Honestly, it was a great life experience and a real eye-opener for us all.

In conclusion, the flow of events throughout the meeting was pretty seamless under a powerful organizing team notably Prof. Eisenberg, Prof. Webb, Mike Swanepoel,  Merlin Kull, Ayanda Simayi just to mention a few. DIGI-FACE is headed for imminent success. We say a big ‘THANK YOU ‘to DAAD under the auspices of Dr Dorothee Weyler.

Centres of African Excellence Digital Initiative Kicks Off At Nelson Mandela University

By Gillian McAinsh, Port Elizabeth

An international project kicks off this week at Nelson Mandela University to develop and put into action digital learning strategies across Africa.

The Digital Initiatives for African Centres of Excellence – or Digi-Face – aspires to open up educational access by linking geographically separate participants with user-friendly tools and technology.

The kick-off meeting from March 3-6 in Port Elizabeth has drawn delegates from universities in Niger, Senegal, Kenya, Mali and other African countries as well as Germany.

Prof Dr Ewald Eisenberg, representing project lead partner Kehl University in Germany, said the plan was to roll out Digi-Face over the entire continent.

“Sometimes there are thousands of kilometres between a supervisor and student, which makes learning complicated. There also may be unrest, or difficulties with travel,” Eisenberg said.

He listed e-learning (electronic) and m-learning (on a mobile device) as well as blended learning (a combination of traditional and digital) as possible solutions to the challenges of education in Africa.

“Blended learning is the most useful because we can adapt the various learning scenarios to what people really need,“ Eisenberg said.

However, despite high demand and motivation for e-learning, a Kehl University survey showed that very few African universities were able to access this due to lack of basic equipment and a stable internet connection.

This gap has to be bridged because, as Mandela University Learning and Teaching deputy vice-chancellor Prof Cheryl Foxcroft noted at the conference, “increasingly, if students cannot learn in digital spaces then we are not doing our job”.

Project Leader of the East and South African German Centre of Excellence for Educational Research Methodologies and Management Prof Paul Webb, also based at Mandela University, said it was important to build capacity in Africa so that all its universities could use the relevant tools.

“Our role is also to train trainers on aspects of using apparatus and digital assets provided by the project within their own areas of expertise,” Webb said. “We want to make life easier, not more difficult. And no matter what we do digitally, it depends on the content, in other words, it depends on human beings!”

German academic Prof Bernd Siebenhuener from Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg said Digi-Face would offer a variety of modules across five areas or “work packages”.

“The idea is to develop skills for everyone at the universities, not only the IT people, and that is why we will offer a range of courses. Digi-Face is for everyone,” Siebenhuener said.

Although Digi-Face has an open-source policy where access to resources is free, this week’s conference also is looking at how to generate revenue to ensure sustainability.

The German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD) – with funds from the German Federal Foreign Office – is the sponsor of Digi-Face, and Mandela University is one of the leading drivers of the project in Africa.

Mandela University will produce at least six generic modules for post-graduate students and academics on research supervision and online learning and teaching for all 11 of the DAAD funded Centres of Excellence in Africa.

 

Members of the Digi-Face Steering Committee (from left to right): Prof Andreas Pattar, Nilly Chingaté Castaño, Junes Arfaoui, Prof Paul Webb, Merlin Kull, Dr Susan Kurgat, Prof Ewald Eisenberg, Prof Bernd Siebenhuener, Prof John Chang’ach

Digitalisation of the Centres of Excellence – Innovative digital project DIGI-FACE launched

In the frame of the African Excellence program a new project for improving higher education and research at the Centres of Excellence via digital components and capacities has been launched. The new project called

DIGITAL INITIATIVE FOR AFRICAN CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE (DIGI-FACE)

is financed by the funding of DAAD with support of the German Federal Foreign Office. The aim of this new project is to support the African Excellence program objectives by setting up and using digital tools to be developed in order to promote digital learning, teaching and research competencies at the Centres. It addresses all the Centres of Excellence and aims on strengthening the African Excellence Network, so that geographically separated participants become part of a broad community of learners and practitioners of interactive digital learning progress and reflexive research supervision. Students, doctoral candidates, alumni, lecturers and research supervisors will contextualise their learning and research issues within their own disciplines and institutional policy frameworks, and communicate their contextualised view clearly to others via an appropriated range of digital modalities.

DIGI-FACE will develop and implement a needs orientated interactive learning platform based on existing learning management system software and appropriate multidisciplinary online training courses. The platform will provide a wide range of possibilities for connecting learners to tutors and to peers for sharing and online collaborating.

The overall objective of the project is to contribute via better digital learning and teaching facilities to a more effective and efficient functioning of societally relevant areas in African countries through the activities of graduates in key positions in teaching, society and business. Further, the program will contribute via the digital elements to build up internationally competitive, sustainably operating and socially perceivable Centres of Excellence.

DIGI-FACE is managed by the consortium of the German Universities of the Centres of Excellence CEGLA (Centre for Local Governance in Africa), CERM-ESA (East and South African-German Centre for Educational Research, Methodologies and Management), CCAM (Congolese German Centre for Microfinance) and WAC-SRT (West African German Centre for Sustainable Rural Transformation) and will serve all the partners of the African Excellence program.

 

The Kick-Off Meeting of DIGI-FACE project involving all interested Centers of Excellence will take place from 3 to 6 March at Nelson Mandely University in Port Elizabeth.

Start of the third CABLES Training for Centres of African Excellene in Accra

The third offering of CERM-ESA’s Capacity Building Programme for Lecturers and Supervisors (CABLES) has kicked-off successfully in Accra this morning. A group of 25 participants representing the
West African-German Centre of Excellence for Governance for Sustainable and Integrative Local Development
West African-German Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Rural Transformation
Congolese-German Centre of Excellence for Microfinance
Ghanaian-German Centre of Excellence for Development Studies and the
– Namibian-German Centre of Excellence for Logistics

are engaging in questions of postgraduate supervision, curriculum development and interpersonal competencies for excellent teaching. The week-long professional development programme is the last in a row of three international and cross-disciplinary CABLES offerings that DAAD  has sponsored for those lecturers, researchers and supervisors, who contribute to the success of the Centres of African Excellence.

Participants and facilitators of the CABLES@WA2019

The cane keeps Africa going

cane african

Interviews from the International Alumni Conference in Cape Town November 2017.

What does this have to do with beating?

If you ask an artist, a painter, he will tell you immediately that sometimes you have to change perspective. Go far away from your painting, to see it as a distant structure or go very close to see the patterns of the brush in a spot of color on the canvas.

Looking at the development of Africa, you can change your perception and go deep down your own childhood, to the very beginning in the upbringing of you as a child. The upbringing of children in Africa also shapes the development of the continent, as was my upbringing in the late 60s and early 70s in Germany, which was very similar.

If there would be no cane – and all what it stands for – young Africans would be raised in a climate of personal self development, free will and even more important free speech. Just imagine that even in primary school and at home in the family young Africans would speak out freely and openly what they don’t like and what they think should be different in the world they are living in and be responsible for as adults. These young untamed beings would oppose every elderly, boss, superior or politician immediately when they see some wrong behaviour, be it corruption, unfair treatment of subordinates or just being to selfish to see others suffering.

The cane is also preventing that such a habit would flow into daily life, and therefor avoid the steam of anger to rise in the pot until it explodes with the loss of many lives.

 

So the conclusion is: The cane keeps Africa going, as it is.

 

At the “International Alumni Conference” in Cape Town (November 2017) I made many film interviews with attending alumni and key speakers of the conference. The conference theme was: “Tackling the root causes of displacement in Sub-Sahara Africa”. But of course the statements covered a wider range of individual perspectives.

 

Coming home with five hours of film footage, I realised it will be hard to find the “best” statements in each interview and put it down to a less than seven minutes final film. So I started to look for a thematic map in the answers of my interview partners and approached the footage from a qualitative interview perspective 1.

To my surprise I really found a clear structure to which, in a second step, I could edit the film footage:

 

  1. migration in general
  2. external migration
  3. internal migration
  4. inform policy and do research
  5. government
  6. enforcement of law
  7. education
  8. poverty and food security
  9. Schengen for Africa
  10. investors and business
  11. conference and network
  12. my time at the Centre and my values

 

With this approach I tried to turn the conference of scientists into a source for research about the respective subject. Seeing the alumni of the African Excellence Centres as a resource for data gathering, also closes the circle to a scientific project I worked on at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in 1984. In the WZB study we looked at implications of psychological mindsets, related to the dying of the German forests, that at that time massively threatened our ecosystem. The question was, while anyone, from the simple citizen to a CEO in the chemical industry, knew that something has to be done, nothing happened2. A situation that seems to be very similar to the African struggles today. What are the motivations, assumptions, interpretations and cognitive subsumptions of the key influencers and also the normal citizens when it comes to solutions for problems in the African context? If it is the cane that keeps African countries from falling apart, then you will have a different approach towards solutions than thinking, that it is the politicians who have a good law but don’t implement it for very personal reasons.

 

For me, from a psychological perspective, one of the key statements in the interviews was the answer from Dr. Juliet Okoth who said, that it took her until her PhD to develop the freedom to feel that it is okay to have a different opinion than someone else and to express it freely and to reason about it with someone who might have another opinion (video minute 33). Having been raised by the cane left these long-lasting traces in her, she tells us. In another interview a master student told me, that even until today – having a stipend and being one of the heavily selected students of the African Excellence Programme – her father doesn’t talk to her, since she violated the tribal based family expectations for a girl. Many African countries are challenged by high teenage pregnancy rates. In Namibia a high rate of female university students get unwanted pregnant, despite family planning at the hospital being free and the hospital itself being in walking distance from the university. Tribal social rules, family expectations, the church and also the rude behaviour of the nurses in the hospital (assuming that every young girl who asks for family planning is a prostitute) creates a climate of pressure and extrusion.

The hippie generation in Europe had to fight the hardened expectations of their conservative narrow-minded parents. The older post Second World War generation in Europe had a longing for a small nicely ordered social context, but the Vietnam War, the longing for sexual freedom and social justice had been stronger and changed our society in Europe forever.

Now it seems to be the turn of the educated African middle class to create for their youngsters (and themselves), at least at home and in school, an atmosphere in which a free and creative personality can develop and flourish. Assuming that, if the inner attitude of people will change the rest will follow automatically.

 

The Video

Unfortunately there are still no iframes possible on this blog so you can only watch it on the zazu.berlin Website. Choose:

“Alumni Conference Cape Town 2017 – 1 hour – Interviews with Alumni”

https://zazu.berlin/referenzen

This rough and not finalised edit of the footage was not ordered, paid or  certificated by the DAAD, it represents my own view and necessity to contribute to the discussion.

The video is approximately one hour in length!
Please lean back and take your time to listen to the statements of some of the most brilliant brains in and around the African Excellence Programme.
It is worth it!

 

Credits
  • Judith Christabella Aceg
  • Callistus Akachabwon Agaam
  • Zihembire Gerald Ahabwe
  • Brenda Akia
  • Kennedy Alatinga
  • Sylvester Nsobire Ayambila
  • Chifundo Chilera Patience
  • Christian Eanga
  • George-Grandy Hallow
  • Kenasi Kasinje
  • Elisabeth Munee Kiamba
  • Fleming Lumumba
  • Joyce Marangu
  • Jesse Mugero
  • Penelope Malilwe Mulenga
  • Peter Mwesigwa Katoneene
  • Patrick-Didier Nukuri
  • Juliet Roselyne Amenge Okoth
  • Charlton C. Tsodzo
  • Faustine Wabwire
  • Wilhelm Löwenstein
  • Matlotleng Patrick Matlou
  • Dorothee Weyler

Author: Thomas Hezel – zazu.berlin

 

Berlin, July 2018-2019

 

Reference:

1.

Aghamanoukjan A., Buber R., Meyer M. (2009) Qualitative Interviews. In: Buber R., Holzmüller H.H. (eds) Qualitative Marktforschung. Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden Germany

 

2.

Fietkau, Hans-Joachim (1984) Bedingungen ökologischen Handelns: Gesellschaftliche Aufgaben der Umweltpsychologie. Beltz Verlag, Weinheim Germany

Coming soon: Network Meeting of the Centres of African Excellence 2019 in Dakar

10th Network Meeting of the Centres of African Excellence
Networks for Sustainable Impacts on African Development

from 18 to 21 September 2019
at Centre Africain d’Études Supérieures en Gestion (CESAG)
Dakar, Senegal

 

This year’s Annual Network Meeting is entitled “Networks for Sustainable Impacts on African Development” and shall reflect the importance of our internal and external networks to enhance capacities especially trough this networking, not only in higher education and research, but also with regards to policy advice, applied sciences and innovative technologies.
High ranked representatives from relevant sectors of politics, science and public will be invited to the meeting, to provide a platform for discussions and strengthening ties among the network. With a view to international cooperation activities in higher education and research, we also seek to create links with corresponding stakeholders and to identify and maximize synergies. Moreover, we will further elaborate our strategies on how to benefit from recent developments in the context of digitalization, while considering local circumstances of sub Saharan African realities at the same time.

This year´s network meeting will kindly be hosted by the West-African-German Centre of Excellence for Local Governance in Africa (CEGLA). The official opening of CEGLA will be part of the Network Meeting. The inauguration ceremony will take place on 18th September 2019 and will be hosted by CESAG.

CERM-ESA offers up to six DAAD in-country/ in-region Master’s scholarships and up to two PhD scholarships

THE EAST AND SOUTH AFRICAN-GERMAN CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES AND MANAGEMENT (CERM-ESA) at Moi University announces up to

6 Masters Scholarships for our Master of Education in Research Programme,
funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) starting from the 1st of September 2019

Please read the full text here: Announcement for_M_Scholarships_in-country_2019

and up to

2 PhD Scholarships in Sociology of Education funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) starting from the 1st of September, 2019

Please read the full text here: Announcement_D_Scholarships_in-country_ 2019

 

Centres of Excellence for Africa’s future

Jubiläumsfeier der Fachzentren Afrika
Im Dialog: Das Netzwerktreffen der Centres of African Excellence führte in Berlin Experten unterschiedlicher Fachrichtungen zusammen
On the occasion of the ten-year anniversary of the Centres of African Excellence initiative by the Federal Foreign Office and the DAAD, a large network meeting was held in Berlin. The South African Minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor spoke of the ten Centres of Excellence with different orientations as a “foundation of enormous benefit”. The centres make it possible to train the future leaders of society, academia and business.

 

Sustainable network: the Centres of African Excellence focus on a wide variety of issues in Sub-Saharan Africa

How can we make development cooperation successful? And what is the role of the education sector in that endeavour? Naledi Mandisa Pandor is an expert on these questions. She has worked as a teacher and lecturer, and for nearly fifteen years has been active as a minister in various cabinets of the South African government, mainly dealing with education and science. Currently she is the Minister of Higher Education. About higher education, she says: “I think one crucial factor is a long-term perspective. Countries must have the possibility to form their own institutional structures. And they need personnel to do that: a new generation of academics.”

Naledi Pandor’s analysis corresponds to the concept of one of the long-term German-African cooperation projects at the educational level, the Centres of African Excellence. For ten years, the centres have been synonymous with sustainable, internationally competitive academic training. From 10 October to 13 October, the joint initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the DAAD celebrated its anniversary in Berlin, with Minister Pandor as the key note speaker.

 

Jubiläumsfeier der Fachzentren Afrika
The different Centres present their projects and results to the Minister of Higher Education, Ms. Naledi Pandor, the President of the DAAD, Ms. Margret Wintermantel, and the Programme Director, Ms. Dorothee Weyler.

There are now ten university Centres of African Excellence in Sub-Saharan Africa, which will allow the future decision makers to address specific questions with international networks. Each of the centres deals with the challenges of its own country. For instance, the Centre for Microfinance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo helps to support a weak banking sector with innovative financing models. In Namibia, the Centre for Logistics works on the government goal of modernising the nation’s freight transport system. Each of the centres in eight countries is supported by a German partner university.

“Sustainable development concepts”

 

“It is absolutely crucial that from the beginning, the collaborations were designed to transfer responsibility to the African partners as quickly as possible,” says Professor Margret Wintermantel, President of the DAAD. “Such sustainable development concepts are now in demand everywhere. I think we can be proud of having recognised the signs of the times so early on.” In order to guarantee this long-term effect of the centres, she added, it is now essential to plan the next steps.

 

South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor: pleased about competitive junior academics

The same was emphasised by Heidrun Tempel, Deputy Director-General for Research and Academic Relations Policy and Cultural Relations Policy at the Federal Foreign Office: “The tenth anniversary also brings a responsibility.” Tempel said what needs to be talked about now is a strategy of slowly “fading out” of existing collaborations. “Our goal should be to endow the centres with the competences they need to acquire new funding on their own.” In addition, it would be sensible to extend the initiative as a whole. “Africa deserves at least 20 of these centres.”

How well the concept actually works in practice is illustrated by the experiences of teachers and learners in Africa. Wilhelm Löwenstein, Professor at Ruhr-University of Bochum and Director of the South African Centre of Development Research, called for a change in perspective: “Anyone who thinks our know-how alone can turn highly talented people into highly qualified experts is suffering from a delusion.” It is essential, he added, to give the young academics the opportunity to interact with one another. Three young alumni from Kenya, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo confirmed: the greatest benefit was the opportunity to form networks.

German-African economic cooperation

During a discussion attended by Minister Naledi Pandor, DAAD President Margret Wintermantel and Heidrun Tempel, as well as Bundestag member Christoph Matschie and Christoph Kannengießer, Chief Executive Officer of the Afrika-Verein der Deutschen Wirtschaft (German-African Business Association), the potential of the Centres of African Excellence once again became clear. “This initiative is not just about research,” said Christoph Matschie, member of the Bundestag’s foreign committee. “It is about recognising that we are part of a global community, and about taking responsibility for one another. To do that, there is no alternative to such collaborations.” Christoph Kannengießer believes that the initiative is creating ideal conditions for long-term German-African economic cooperation. Not least because it helps to remove one of the largest obstacles to German investment in Africa: the lack of qualified personnel.

 

Berlin round table discussion (from left): Christoph Matschie, Heidrun Tempel, discussion leader Claus-Bernhard Pakleppa, Margret Wintermantel, Christoph Kannengießer and Naledi Pandor

Minister Pandor was impressed by the “immense capacity” the DAAD and the Federal Foreign Office have built with the Centres of African Excellence initiative. “I see young academics from many different countries, even those that have previously been completely ignored by the worldwide research community.” And that, she added, is precisely what is needed to bring Africa forward. “The DAAD and Germany have built a foundation of enormous benefit. We as African governments now have to invest in these young academics and researchers.”

Written by Klaus Lüber (17 October 2018)

Pictures by: Andreas Paasch