Friday, June 30, 2017

African Science Week 2017 in Cameroon: Igniting the power of science



In our recent article: implication for promoting science and art literacies in the digital age for the future: the case of the Cameroonian context ; the issue of guidance and counselling services to be at the centre for promoting science literacy was raised. In fact, the periods of childhood and adolescence are critical to enable core skills to be obtained. By immersing children and adolescents in very rich and stimulating environment they readily develop their interest in a variety of domains. This naturally fosters curiosity and the scientific attitude all pre-requisites of the scientific mind. Igniting the power of science means that the interests of students with respect to science and technology would have been harnessed and channelled to produce competent scientists. However, one fundamental problem that affects science developement in Africa remains the type of education, and instruction students recieve (3) and the interference of Africa's educational heritage (1) on the perception   (how information is interpreted) and cognition (how information is treated)  coupled to the effect of the influence of the cultural factor (for example  there is mounting evidence that language influences perception and cognition 5, 6,). Science and technology were born in Africa (4). Science and technology in Africa were indisociable (4). If Africa is lagging something went wrong. Trying to undertand what went wrong could also prove to be among many other things be suistaianble manner to develop science in Africa. Even if this is not the aim of this article , it is important to raise  these questions. Inquiery is a fundamental scientific activity.

 
Africa Science Week 2017
Science in our context should no longer be limited to subjects taught in class. The need to make competence in science more concrete is an imperative to make science literacy measurable among students. ICTs provide a means of immersing learners in environments which provide them with 21 century skills. However, more practical day to day activities that can develop their critical thinking skills and problem solving skills are necessary. There is still a cultural problem faced by African students emerged in a  triple educational system (Indigenous, Islamic-Arabic and Western Christian) (1), which  we posit prevents them at the same time from taking full advantage of exogenous education and at the same time indigenous education. What  students learn with respect to sciences in class does not always match with their reality. It is therefore still the task of parents, educators and the educational system to provide more spaces where children and adolescent would be exposed to science and technology in ways which they are familiar with. The African Science Week as a  science competence incubator is of extreme relevance when  we know there is no or very little opportunity for African students to be exposed to science in ways that look simple, yet relevant to the present era and the knowlegde and information societies/economies. 

Several activities marking the African Science Week in Cameroon were organised in the Center region/Yaounde, Littoral/Douala and South West Region /Buea respectively. In Yaounde, at the Next Generation Technology Center, over a 100 adolescents participated during the event. The presence of a good number of girls at this event  needs to be highlighted. Because of the negative beliefs surrounding the inability of girls to achieve or even be interested in science many girls in schools have shown very little interest in science and science subjects. Yet, the involvemnt of women  and girls in science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) is imperative to fill the gap in the labour market with respect to science and IT jobs(2). Notwithstanding , in Cameroon since a few years now there has been some private and public initiatives to encouarge girls  and adolescents to be interested in computer science and information technologies..

 Janet Fofang, Tech entrepreneurn on right talking to young participants during the Africa Science Week 2017 in Yaounde Photo Didier De Masso


The African Science Week in Cameroon could also be thought of as  a platform to link  science teachers, school counsellors, scientist of various field to students. The teachers been the ones concerned with instruction and the school counsellors detecting interest in science literacies and developing networks or opportunities for students, scientist and teachers to meet. Like for most literacies the role of school counsellors in developing science literacy skills is becoming extremely crucial. Government needs therefore to train better equiped school counsellors to meet up with the growing demand of the knowledge society and digital economy with scientists and engineers.

 
Next Generation Technology Center where African Science Week 2017 took place in Yaounde  Photo Didier De Masso
References
1         (1)  Nsamenang, B., A., Tchombe, M., S., T. (2011). Handbook of African Educational  Theories and Practices A Generative Teacher Education Curriculum. Bamenda, ISBN : 978-9956-444-64-2
    
2         (2) Dasgupta, N.,Stout, G., J. (2014). Girls and Women in Science, Technology,  Engineering, and Mathematics: STEMing  the Tide and Broadening Participation in  STEM Careers  In Policy Insights from the  Behavioral and Brain Sciences Vol. 1(1) 21 –29.DOI: 10.1177/2372732214549471

3          (3) United Nations Educatinal Scientific and Cultural Organisation (n.d).Current Challenges in Basic Science  Education. UNESCO.

            (4)Bogucki, P. (2008). (Editor in Chief )ENCYCLOPEDIA of Ancient  World Society andCulture in the Volume I.ISBN 978-0-8160-6941-5
(   
            (5) Boroditsky, L. (2001). Does Language Shape Thought?: Mandarin and English Speakers’ Conceptions of Time.Cognitive Psychology43,1–22  doi:10.1006/cogp.2001.0748, available online at http://www.idealibrary.com on
    
6             (6) Dils, T., A.,  Boroditsky, L. (2010). Processing unrelated language  can change what you see. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17 (6), 882-888 doi:10.3758/PBR.17.6.882









Friday, June 16, 2017

Implication for promoting science and art literacies in the digital age for the future: the case of the Cameroonian context




   Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into   the logic of the present system and bring about conformity, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” (5) Paulo Freire

Introduction

        The words science and art are certainly very common. Each one has its own idea of what they mean. Many people are even scientific and artistic in their everyday lives. Science and art literacy is becoming very important in the digital age because they determine how we will be living. We are in the ICT-Kultur, a specific context which encompasses both our thought processes and ways of acting on nature just with the use of how the mind treats information and communicates it. The ICT-Kultur is a specific point in human evolution which unlike the agricultural revolution and industrial revolutions is affecting humanity at all levels.
Science Slam enables students or individuals to talk  about science in a funny , artistic and interesting  way . Curbing the heavy jargon or using it less or explaining it artiscally.  Photo Didier De Masso
Science (1) should be understood bearing in mind that it:

1)     is a knowledge generating activity which is based on systematically organized bodies of accumulated knowledge obtained through objective observations.
2)    Science is to understand, explain, and predict by specifying the systematic relationships among empirical variables. It must be consensually valid and general. It must not be on authority, sloppy, or simply to “better” mankind.
3) uses unconfounded empirical tests to develop, discover, and explain systematic frameworks within which relationships can be explored.
4)      is not so much concerned with accumulating highly precise and specific data (although it is necessary)  but rather science seeks to discover uniformities and to formulate statements of uniformities and consistencies of relationship between natural phenomena
            Simply said science is the systematic study of nature that enables someone through systematic observation to describe, understand, make links and predict phenomenon occurring in nature. Science seeks to know and to find solutions to problems using research, experimentation. Basically, the scientific attitude is inborn. The way children get to know the world is a clear example. They are curious. They try things, the ask questions, they challenge norms. On the other hand art could be thought of as a product of the mind, an art work “characterized by their possession of, respectively, representational, expressive, and formal properties” (2). Equally very relevant, art is “whatever among artifacts is capable of arousing and sustaining aesthetic experience in suitably prepared subjects we call a work of art.” (3) In other words, art is a mental production made tangible or not relating to our sense of beauty and form in relation to how we perceive nature and ourselves in nature. It sure matters to say that art is very difficult to define because of the history tied to the word. We can even say that the word art in “english” came long after (4) the expressions of art, “work of arts” existed. Technology and techniques precede science just as artefacts precede art. This tells us a lot of things about the mind and our use of language all still embodied within culture. It matters most now since we are living a specific period of human evolution.

Slammer and Model Lydoldollystar. her style is unique. She fetches her words for her slams in her experiences  Photo Art Didier De Masso


What is literacy?
There is no clearer explanation of literacy (5) than UNESCO, Statement for the United Nations Literacy Decade, 2003–2012
“Literacy is about more than reading or writing – it is about how we communicate in society. It is about social practices and relationships, about knowledge, language and culture. Those who use literacy take it for granted – but those who cannot use it are excluded from much communication in today’s world. Indeed, it is the excluded who can best appreciate the notion of “literacy as freedom”.
The digital revolution like all the other revolutions (agricultural, industrial and sexual) is tied to the production of information and knowledge about a variety of things linked to humans modes of life. However, it is only within the digital era that information and knowledge societies have truly emerged with a very precise and unique combination of arts and science. What is a knowledge society? "A knowledge society is a society that is nurtured by its diversity and its capacities" (6). Thus in a way every society is a knowledge society depending on the culture with which things are seen. Yet globalisation and the digital era (6) imposes a new way of seeing things
-          A knowledge society must foster knowledge-sharing
-          The diffusion of information and communication technologies creates new opportunities for development
-          Knowledge societies are not limited to the information society

        Knowledge societies can enable relevant development for the countries of the South (e.g. Cameroon) but under an important condition: that technology transfer be truely effective. Technology transfer that is “the flow of know-how, experience and equipment amongst different stakeholders such as governments, private sector entities, financial institutions, NGOs and research institutions” (7). Better, knowledge transfer can be defined as « the transfer of new technologies from universities and research institutions to parties capable of commercialisation » (7). The need to systematically transfer knowledge produced in universities or even secondary schools to lay persons is imperative for inclusive development and passes through rethinking education, science and arts in the Cameroonian context. The principal of knowledge societies is also rooted in the freedom each citizen has to contribute to development.
Insofar as much as nothing is new on earth, the exact prediction of the future is beyond science and arts. Cameroon’s emergence by 2035 cannot wait since time is fast running. This statement implies a redefinition of what science can do and what arts can imagine essentially. Yet it becomes clear that the present state of our world raises a lot of questions linked to determining how to see the future (Climate change, poverty, (cyber) terrorism, cultural evolution and so on). For African educators it ought to imply rethinking what learning and knowing even means for their students. Students are at the same time products of their environment and producer of it. They are now exposed to various types of information in an era they were not prepared for. They have to learn things completely alien to their culture. The digital era for the typical African learner is a psychological and culture shock. Could this explain the several “deviances” observed on the Cameroonian cyberspace? The role of educators to prepare learners to what they will experience in cyberspace becomes more than ever a necessity.
Human development has passed through successive revolutions (agricultural revolution, through the industrial revolutions till the digital revolution). But there have been important inequalities in the distribution of wealth. The digital age has changed the way we acquire, use, organise information and knowledge. Within the Cameroonian context it can change the way we become wealthy (6, 7). Moreover, it is changing how we think and how we produce information and knowledge. If the aim of old or new globalisation is linked to inter-connectedness (7) paradoxically, our knowledge societies have become too categorized and polarised. The pedagogy of subjects thought in schools and formal schooling promote specialisation whereas global awareness brought about by globalisation not at all. This dichotomy is harmful for the educational system and the future adults which will result from the system. Again it is not a simple task to reflect on the origin of how we know, what we can know, what should be known. It even seems to be an irrational endeavour. Indeed, it should be for knowing in itself is not just a physiological act. Moreover, knowing with rigour and methodologically requires a context.
In which context do Cameroonian students learn? The situation is piteous. Most educational communities are not conducive for learning. Albeit the use of traditional learning methods which studies show are very effective (10, 11), Cameroonian children and youths still are lagging in fundamental 21st century skills. Promoting science and art literacies albeit the oddness it might imply means that children, youths, students and learners in general should be given various opportunities to learn, know and share knowledge.Educators should adapt to the new ay learning is occuring. Importantly it is more than a necessity for the future generation of children, and youths born and to be born within the digital age.
The problems that the digital revolution possesses are tremendous and numerous. It re-questions the cultural elements of humanity (12). More paradoxically not only does culture shape the way ICTs (12) are used but ICTs are now shaping human culture and its specificities. In other words, ICTs is shaping the way science and art are thought, made and “sold”. It’s a serious problem when we know diversity is inherent to nature and humans been part of it. More critical is the fact that knowledge societies are societies of cultural diversity. Culture encompasses a wide variety of practices, thought processes, attitudes and behaviours which have considerably enabled since the foundation of humanity man to live and enjoy life (1). Culture is intrinsic to the human and its social nature. Humanity is developing, just like a foetus in the womb of a mother. This maturity is indicative of the power of the mind. For the mind is the source of all man’s production ceteris paribus and stricto largo. The present state of human’s evolution is historical and very fundamental for humanity for it poses fundamental questions whose solutions might prove salutary.  The arts, technology and science of information has been very diversified across the history of mankind. But the digital age proves to be specific in this process of human evolution  . It still matters to talk about what science is science it is at the base of human’s activities from a developmental perspective.

“Science is both a body of knowledge and the process used to expand and revise it. The body of knowledge includes discrete facts, patterns that order them, and explanations of why those patterns exist. The process of expanding and revising that body of knowledge has many elements, among them observation, experimentation, mathematical analysis, and computer modeling. All can be used to test new explanations and re-examine old ones. The results of the process are shaped, but not determined, by the cultural context in which it takes place: influences such as political tensions, economic pressures, religious beliefs, personal ambitions, and institutional rivalries” (13)
the cultural diversity of cameroon enables students. and educators to construct meaning and knowlegde in funny and artistic ways. Here student presenting "Obom" Beti-fang traditional material used for clothing  Photo Didier De Masso
On the 10th of June at the Goethe Institute Kamerun was organised the fifth edition of the Science slam.  Since Our last participation in the very first science slam there has been a considerable improvement in the diversity of thematic and approaches to tackle the thematic. In fact, we think that the specific ways of tackling the different scientific questions and problems is linked the cultural unique in Cameroon. There is gradually a need for women, and youths to express their thoughts and their know-how (social empowerment). The fifth edition of the science slam was a mosaic of colours reflecting truly the diversity of culture and needs of the Cameroonians society: A society which needs all sorts of people for an inclusive development.

The intrinsic elelemnt of diversity in the knowlegde socities implies the participation of people with disabilities, women, and minorities. Photo Didier De masso
Science slam puts into the hands of the Cameroonian learner a new medium for intellectual expression totally different from the traditional school system. Along with “Ma These en 180 seconde” organised by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie and Institut Français du Cameroun, science slam exposes Cameroonian educators and learns to new ways of seeing learning and education. The adjustment to this way of seeing the world brought about by the science slam has a number of implications for educators, policy makers, youth, women and students
-          A complete redefinition of education
-    Guidance and counselling services should be fully equipped at all levels of the Cameroonian society to meet up with the challenges brought about by the digital economy and era.
-       Cameroonian Youths should consider their living context as a powerful source of all sorts of mental creations which result with hard work into scientific discoveries or fabulous master pieces.
-     Women participation in sciences most be encouraged at all levels for women’s ways of representing reality proves in most cases to be beneficial for the many.
-       For sustainable development the Cameroonian and global society should be totally inclusive. Disability should not be a hindrance.
-        Empowerment and support of youths and women in scientific endeavours is necessary
Participants of the Fith edition of science slam  Photo Didier De Masso
Conclusion
It is  in a mosaic of sounds, colours, and scientific thematics that the science slam  June 2017 session at the Goethe Institute Kamerun ended, attended by almost 100 participants. We think that the pedagogic usefulness of science slam should be encouraged by all educators of all levels of the educational system, and by parents. It is not an option, for science and art make our universe. They are systematically in harmony and enable us to live. We need to know, seek for knowledge and express our creativity in the most conducive ways possible. This will enable Cameroon to be more competitive and contribute effectively to the knowledge society as a whole. Promoting science and art literacies are thus fundamental necessities within the Cameroonian context. On to them is based inclusive  and suistainable development and emergence.
    
References
(1)       Definition of science. Retrieved from www.jsu.edu/depart/psychology/sebac/fac-sch/rm/pdfs/Ch2v4.pdf on 16th June 2017
(2)   Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2007). Definition of arts. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/art-definition/7 16th June 2017.
(3)  Den,T., J. (2003).The Nature of Concepts and the Definition of Art http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/15406245.00089/epdf?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1&purchase_referrer=www.google.com&purchase_site_license=LICENSE_DENIED.
(4)       The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology 2003).. Oxford University Press         
(5) Media and Information Literacy retrieved from www.ifapcom.ru/files/News/Images/2012/mil/Wilson.pdf on 16th June 2017
(6)       UNESCO (2005). Towards Knowledge Societies. Unesco Publishing
(7)   MEKONGO, E., P. (2017).The Invaluable Tool of Economic Growth retrieved from http://cameroonbusinesstoday.cm/articles/378/fr/d%C3%A9tail-de-l-article on 16th June 2017
(8)       Demassosso, B., D. (2014).How India and Africa Can collaborate to co-create a bright future? INDIAFRICA Winning Essay Contest.
(9) Brown, S., J. (n.d). Learning in the Digital Age retrieved from https://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ffpiu015.pdf on 16th June 2017
(10)   Omolewa, M. (2007). Traditional African modes of education: their relevance in the modern world. International Review of Education.53:593–612. DOI 10.1007/s11159-007-9060-1.
(11)   Nsamenang, A., B. & Tchombe , M ., S., T. (2011). Handbook of African Education Theories And Practices : A generative teacher education curriculum . ISBN  : 978-9956-444-64-2
(12)   Frank Thomas Leslie Haddon Rosemarie Gilligan Peter Heinzmann Chantal de Gournay Cultural Factors Shaping the Experience of ICTs: An Exploratory Review In Haddon, (Ed.) (2005) International Collaborative Research. Cross-cultural Differences and Cultures of Research, COST, Brussels
(13)   A. Bowdoin Van Riper (2002) Science in popular culture: A Reference Guide. Westport. Greenwood press




Thursday, February 4, 2016

ICT Communities, Training of ICT Professionals and development of the ICT sector in Cameroon : A Brief Analysis


          Recently, Cyprien Tankeu  mentor of the Google Developer Groups (GDG) (one of the most popular ICT communities in cameroon), chapters in francophone African contries was acknowlegded for his work in an article written by  Dzekashu MacViban  in  IDG connect .
Cyprian Tankeu (standing during a wikithon at the Goethe Institute Yaounde in 2015) is a computer scientist and GDG mentor for Francophone african countries. His professional developement is deeply enrooted in the emmergence of ICT commuities in Cameroon. Especially the Google developers Group (GDG) /Photo Didier De Masso

His interview with Dzekashu MacViban gives a precised account of the history and role of ICT communities (ICT communities are also called Tech Communities in cameroon)  in Cameroon. In this article we define ICT communities as communities of interest and practice. So, even if the experience of Cyprien Tankeu relates solely to the GDG's, it enables a fine analysis of the place ICT communities have in the world of work (ICT sector) in Cameroon. It is worth noting that at the end of 2014 there were 14 GDG's (GDG Yaoundé, GDG Douala, GDG Ebolowa, GDG Dschang, GDG Foumban, GDG Maroua, GDG Bambili, GDG Nkongsamba, GDG Limbe, GDG Buea, GDG Bamenda, GDG Ndéré, GDG Bandjoun and GDG Bagante) in eight regions of Cameroon. This number makes Cameroon to lead francophone African countries with Google Developer Groups. In terms of Google communities in Africa, Cameroon ranks third. There are many other ICT/Tech communities in Cameroon namely: Linux Land Cameroon, Ubuntu Cameroon, Mozilla Cameroon, Java User Groups. It is very relevant to undertand why GDG's or ICT communities are increasing in Cameroon

        The creation of ICT communities seems from first analysis to have emulated several developers, students of computer science, and other IT professionals to be more sensitive of the role ICT has for community and national development. Since then there has been a more oriented practice of computer science.. This intention put forward in ICT communities strongly demarks itself from the largely theoretical and out-dated teachings in universities and professional training institutions. The major characteristic of ICT communities in Cameroon is that they are at the same time communities of practice and interest. Merging professionals and non-professionals They are laboratories for students to come and experiement and learn.ICT communities in Cameroon are in fact potent learning communities It is important to pinpoint the role ICT communities have had in making ICT and Kulture a reality. The idea of ICT and Kulture became real after attending the Barcamp Cameroon (so far the oldest ICT/IT community in Cameroon) in 2012 in Yaoundé at the Goethe Institute. Only passion for ICT was enough to plunge us into this fantastic world. Therefore, ICT communities gathers , ICT lovers, passionate and professionals. It is important in this article to understand how the rise of ICT communities is linked to an increase or decrease of computer science/ICT training institutions. In other words, is there a significant relationship between training of ICT professionals scientists and the increase in the number of ICT/IT communities in Cameroon? 
Conference at the Muna Foundation, Yaounde Tueday 2-02-2016 on the publication of the results of an independent study aimed at classifying professional institutions of training in cameroon by managers/ Photo Didier Demasso
       Answering this/these question(s) requires us to have a precise view of the landscape of professional/vocational training institutions in Cameroon teaching and training computer scientists, IT engineers, computer science teachers, briefly IT/ICT professionals. Chaning Consulting and Services  at a conference last Tuesday 2nd organised at the Muna Foundation in Yaoundé presented the results of a study on the perception of operation managers on the quality of training offered by professional training institutions in Cameroon under 25 domains. Chaning consulting’s results is an independent ranking of Higher education institutions for vocational training all over Cameroon, SUP-PRO RANKING 2015 Edition. The presence of the Minister of Higher Education Prof. Jacques Fame Ndongo and representatives of GICAM and ECAM indicate the relevance on the one hand of the study in underpinning the quality of  training for a more competitive and productive work force and job market in Cameroon.


The Presence of the Minsiter Of Higher education and GICAM and EICAM in this study shows the relevance of quality Vocational and professional training in Cameroon for a more competitive world-of-work. Photo Didier De Masso







          The results of the SUP-PRO RANKING were obtained for the regions of Cameroon. 1090 operation managers were interviewed and asked to rank 1190 professional higher institutions of training in 25 domains of activity. The results show that there are about 136 professional training institution offering computer sciences all over Cameroon. From the results computer science professional training institutions account for  the highest number (11.43 %) of professional training schools in Cameroon

            The Core ICT indicators published by ITU et al (2005) lists four indicators of ICT for development: i) ICT infrastructure and access (ii) access to, and use of, ICT by households and individuals (iii) use of ICT by businesses and (iv) ICT sector and trade in ICT goods.  The last indicator (ICT sector and trade in ICT goods) is of interest since it relates to our analysis. Since this indicator is made up of sub-indicators which involve the relationship between training and the world of work ( ICT sector). It is clear that Cameroon’s ICT sector is not as well organised as the standards would expect. However, the rise of ICT communities and high number of training institutions has attracted our attention. Do these two variables imply that the ICT sector in Cameroon is developing? There are strong reasons to believe so. Especially with the advent of mobile telephony.  Notwithstanding, within the sociocultural context of Cameroon, the cultural factor greatly influences the use of ICT for development. Therefore the expectancy of seeing a significant relationship between the number of ICT training institutions and an increase of ICT communities with the development of the ICT sector is reduced and might be hampered. The cultural factor seems to greatly impact on all the processes involved in the training and  immersion into the world-of-work. Another hindrance too might be the quality of education of the IT/ICT professionals. Are they trained to solve real-life problems in line with the Cameroonian context? These question needs to be answered.

            From the perspectives of vocational guidance and career education, one of the merits of the study albeit a few of its methodological loopholes (e.g sampling techniques, control of extraneous variables such as desirability quotient and culture,)  is that it will really awaken within the Cameroonian context a more concrete reflection on the quality of training of professional schools and the impact it can have in the world-of-work today. Moreover, it is indirectly shedding light on the meaning and nature of professions and vocations in an emerging Cameroon by 2035.  Thus The role the ICT communities have both for professional development and training can be thought of as very relevant in a context such as that of Cameroon where professions related to ICTs/IT are still very underexploited.

References

ITU et al (2005) Core ICT indications: partnership on  measuring  ICT for Developement
Chris Westrup, Saheer Al Jaghoub, Heba El Sayed, Wei Liu  (2002). Taking Cultures Seriously : ICTs, Culture and Developement. 
Frank, T.,  Leslie, H., Rosemarie, G.,   Peter, H., and   Chantal, G.  In Haddon, (Ed.) (2005) International Collaborative Research.  Cross-cultural Differences and Cultures of Research, COST,
Brussels  Cultural Factors Shaping the Experience of  ICTs:  An Exploratory Review 

SUP-PRO Ranking 2015 Results http://www.chaningconseil.cm/component/content/article/14-sup-pro-ranking-2015/41-global