Tag Archives: africa

Welcome to Education 4.0

All great changes are preceded by Chaos – Deepak Chopra.

When Covid-19 set foot into this world, little did we know the kind of impact it would have on our countries, governments, lives and families. More than a year later, so much has changed in the way we lead our lives. Much of what was being resisted initially has now been embraced.

For years, employees tried to convince their employers about the need to be allowed to work from home but very few could tolerate that. The belief in clocking in and out of an office building was so high but now, with Covid amidst us, many are comfortably working from home.

Numerous employees always thought that their jobs were their lives and restricted themselves to measly earnings without realising the full potential they had. The threat to their livelihoods brought about by Covid-19 changed everything. Today, some are wondering whether they will ever really go back to seek employment.

In this article though I want to focus on Education. As I write this, one of my children has been out of school for 22 months and will clock a year by the time the Government allows them back at school. Am I sad? Not really.

The absence of brick and mortar classroom instruction as well as the health scare has led parents and schools to seek alternatives for the education of their children. Online learning has taken root and has been embraced even by the most conservative of schools.

A classroom that used to hold 30 pupils now contains only two teachers

Parents who thought phones are there for gossiping on WhatsApp and Facebook have had to surrender their gadgets to allow their children study. It has dawned upon us that students do not need to be confined at school endlessly under the guise of learning. The excuse schools used to always justify very high school fees charges has been severely watered down. Alot of learning can go on without the over investment in infrastructure that could be outsourced. Why should every school have laboratories in place

Instruction has gone electronic, classrooms have gone electronic, exams have gone electronic. Apart from practicals in the science field, I do not see what cannot be done electronically with ease currently. By the way, as Virtual Reality takes off and becomes a common resource, even the practicals in sciences will no longer be an issue.

Education is going digital and it is a fact we can’t run away from. Even day schools in my view need to stop demanding that children study the entire week from school. They should allow for a flexible learning approach that gives the students only one or two contact days at school during the week.

Parents are definitely likely to spend less on day schooling children if you consider the hustle of dropping and picking them up daily coupled by giving them endless supplies of snacks. Yours truly has been down this road for 15 years. However, it calls for us the parents to cease outsourcing our children’s study 100% to the schools. We have to start getting involved. I have enjoyed the unorthodox chance I had to instruct my children not only on classroom matters but other social and practical life skills too that I have always wanted to embed in them. As I write this article, they have constructed two mobile chick protection shelters that have enabled our newly hatched chicks feed in a semi free range arrangement. They designed them from scratch utilising their mathematical and design knowledge and only asked me for materials to purchase materials which they used to install the frame. Which school would have given them the space to exude such skills in today’s Uganda apart from Mengo Secondary School?

The frame of the chick shelter designed and constructed by children

I have not left out boarding schools. They have some importance too that we parents like but with the ever advancing technology, they have less justification for the high charges they currently impose upon us parents also. Those reams of paper they request us to supply religiously should be explained going forward. Classrooms no longer need that much chalk, markers and flip charts since electronic instruction alternatives like smart boards, smart TVs are readily available. School libraries can now go electronic. Why make each student buy textbooks destined to deliver the same content? Online registration should ease such and the charge per student is usually measly. When I see the brilliant content by Ugandan teachers freely available on YouTube, it implies that the number of teachers in schools need to be dropped because through online instruction, a class that had 4 instruction teachers for Physics could do with one only. Every school doesn’t need to have its own science laboratories. This could become an outsourced service with an investor setting up the laboratory infrastructure and schools hiring it out on a need basis.

Then comes the concern for the lay man out there, commonly known as “Omuntu wa wansi,” whose child goes to a school wholly supported by the Government under the Universal Education scheme. Ain’t I being mean by not considering their plight regarding these seemingly futuristic changes I am talking about? Many families can hardly afford to pay school fees and here I am telling them to invest in electronic infrastructure? How insensitive of me.

For once I have chosen to be selectively insensitive and tell anyone that cares to listen that change is never bothered by the economic situation one is in. When it’s time is due, it’s due. It is only politicians that tend to love massaging the past. When the government chose to transition from the use of scratch cards to load airtime in preference for an electronic approach, many populist politicians spelt doom for the lay man claiming they would be left out. Today, every Ugandan with a phone is comfortably loading airtime electronically irrespective of location and economic ability.

The Government now has to make up its mind whether going forward it wants an educated populace or not. The pretense of valuing education that we keep seeing being perpetuated can no longer hold. With all the money stolen regularly from the coffers and that spent on classified expenditures in Defense, on the overrated Covid-19 pandemic to mention but a few, we cannot claim not to be able to turn around our education delivery approach.

Every Ugandan should be able to benefit from the emerging approach to education. Learners in Nakapiripirit, Butaleja, Luuka, Nakasongola, Ruhiira and all over should be able to use electronic gadgets to study. It is not as expensive as it is made to seem. What is lacking in my view is commitment.

Welcome to Education 4.0 where even UNEB will need to go paperless and deliver examinations online.

James Wire
Business and Technology Consultant
Twitter: @wirejames
YouTube: With Wire

Precision Farming coming to you

You’ve probably been through or continue to go through the various uncertainties that afflict our farming in Africa. Knowing when to plant a crop is usually a preserve of people that have been at it for long. Fertilizer application, pesticide spraying as well as disease detection are also usually just chanced upon. We have turned out to be reactive as opposed to being proactive. This, among others is one of the reasons we have very low Agricultural productivity on this continent.

Lately, there is a new buzzword, Precision Agriculture, Precision farming or smart farming. I believe apart from the sophisticated sound it emits when mentioned,you might not be having much of a clue about what it is.

Precision agriculture is viewed as an approach to farm management that leverages information technology to enable a more accurate and resource efficient approach to crop and livestock management.

You might be told that you need Phosphorous in your soils to enable a particular plant grow well. How much of it you need tends to be a variable that makes you either over or under supply the soil. With precision agriculture techniques, you should be able to determine the exact quantities needed hence avoiding resource wastage.

It hinges alot on sensing using various approaches like satellites, ground and aerial (e.g drone) surveillance, among others. With the ever increasing need to supply more food with less fixed resources like land and water, a need has arisen to increase efficiency of resource utilisation.

How is it expected to change farming in Africa?

Just the other day someone was questioning why Uganda is looking at the prospect of launching a satellite in space yet we still have lots of poor people around us. I recall responding to him by reminding him that the likes of SafeBoda are offering a very low cost service to the masses thanks to satellite technology.

A similar concern may be leveled when it comes to African farming, and this is what one should consider, the technologies being deployed currently are indeed expensive for the average african farmer. However, like Mobile phones permeated the communication industry and have now become commonplace, the same could be true for precision agriculture. A time will come when soil testing will be as simple as using a phone app to screen a soil sample.

In Africa, technologies that tend to gain traction are those that easily enable communal usage, as in shareable technologies. Take a look at transport that for long was dominated by the expensive buses, taxis and cabs. When bikes (boda bodas) came along with their “small small” payment approach, they are all over the place.

Precision technology can enable one monitor gardens for disease, pest attacks, soil conditions, animal performance and many other variables through the use of simple technologies like drones.

Take the example of the so-called “telephone farmers,” usually urban based but with farming operations in the countryside. By subscribing to a drone service, you will be in position to easily monitor and make decisions on your farm investment without having to fully rely on the farm hand’s report alone.

For those into irrigation, there do exist smart solutions that can monitor the soils and tell when to actually water and for how long.

If it is dairy, you can maximise individual animal potential through telling the daily yields, milk component monitoring i.e. fat or protein content among others.

As the technology averse smallholder farmers see the kind of benefits the “telephone farmers” are getting from their new approach to farming, the demand is likely to surge leading to the introduction of innovations aimed at mass service consumption.

Why for example, shouldn’t a drone based monitoring service costing Five dollars per season not be put in place to meet the needs of thousands of smallholder commercial farmers in an area?

This stuff may look futuristic but that is where we are headed. It is no longer a preserve of high tech farms in Europe and the USA but can be localised to solve our challenges.

James Wire
Technology and Business Consultant
Twitter – @wirejames
Blog – The Wire Perspective