We are living in unprecedented times. As I write this, the world is experiencing major societal shifts in work and education. Universities and other schools and industries are re-evaluating their roles now and what they can be in the future.
In our work in education and research, we have seen schools and universities struggle to adopt meaningful ways to improve 21st-century learning. The skill sets required for current innovators and the workforce is still a missing gap that needs to be filled.
How can we recast educational systems while being cognisant that creating change is nothing but a daunting task? How can we ensure that we can achieve rapid learning and rapid execution to stay ahead?
After years of conversations, research, and meaningful collaboration with universities, research institutions, and colleges, we were glad to collaborate with Manor House Agricultural College, African Maths Initiative, and IDEMS International. January 2020 saw us offer a month-long Foundational in 21st Century Skills course. One of the major aims was to cultivate skills such as programming, critical and logical thinking, media making, data literacy, and communication among persons of different backgrounds. These students could be young people awaiting to join universities,colleges or self-employment, current university/college students, unemployed youth, or professionals who would want to learn these skills.
We took in 12 students for a start and within a month the young and timid students had grown in remarkable ways. Things did not end there. As part of our capacity building, we took in six of these students as interns since February 2020. This was a chance for the students to work on a Collaborative Group Project on Web Technologies.
They are now learning employable skills in web and app development. In just over three months, we have enabled them to learn skills useful in the work we are doing with our partners; Oxford, CWBSA, UNICEF, UCT and they are now fully involved in the development of Parenting For Long-life Health Mobile application which is a suite of open access, non-commercialized parenting programs to prevent violence in low-resource settings in 20 low and middle-income countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean.
While reminiscing about what they learned in January, flexibility, independent learning, and adapting to unexpected changes were a major part of the Foundational 21st Century Skills course back in January. Even though most of the classes were in a physical place, assignments, communication, and learning were online through platforms such as MOODLE. A few weeks after the lapse of the course, a coronavirus pandemic hit the world, and we now live in extraordinary times. The world transformed within months if not weeks.
Virtual work became the only option for us and luckily, we had introduced them to this world of work and we are glad to have this team of learners and our other Kenyan team collaboratively work on projects such as Parenting for Long-Life with other teams across the world. The team is meeting regularly to discuss what’s needed for the application they are contributing to.
We understand that this learning while working virtually will be a process for all of us. But we have to do this to keep safe as we can and wait for things to get better.