BARCAMP HO 2013

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Barcamp Ho 2013 is a free networking forum bringing people together for a day of discussion, demos and dialogue on Ho, Ghana and beyond. It will take place on October 26, 2013 at the SRC Auditorium of Ho Polytechnic. The theme for this year is yet to be determined. This Barcamp hopes to assemble stakeholders to network, build a supportive enterprising community and partner to build together.

The GhanaThink Foundation has successfully organized 20 BarCamps in Ghana. BarCamp Ho 2013 will be a showcase of how Ghana’s youth are taking charge of its development and how they can be spurred on to do more. There will be a focus on channeling the present energies around entertainment into positive developments and progress for Ho and surrounding areas as well.

The Barcamp will feature multiple user-generated breakout sessions about business, social entrepreneurship, technology and development, alongside topics relevant to the Volta Region and beyond. There will be a speed mentoring session where mentors will give insights and answers to questions from attendees. Various Ho leaders will be on a panel that will center on the theme.

Register/RSVP at the BarCamp Ho eventbrite website (barcampho13.eventbrite.com) or text “Barcamp Ho [name] [email address] to 1945 through any mobile network.. You may also contact the BarCamp Ho team through the eventbrite page for sponsorship opportunities. If you are interested in organizing a breakout session, let us know, especially if you have special needs.

BarCamp Ho 2013 is sponsored by GhanaThink Foundation, Nandimobile, etc. Our media partners are the Ghana News Agency. Join us to move the Volta Region and Ghana forward.

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IQ4News Expands to Nigeria and South Africa

IQ4News

IQ4News, Africa’s innovative online journalism organisation, has expanded its news and analysis offerings to Nigeria and South Africa.
“For the past year or so we have focused primarily on the East African market, especially Kenya,” said Dr Yemisi Akinbobola, founder and editor-in-chief of IQ4News. “We recognise the pivotal role that Nigeria and South Africa play on the African continent, and we have responded to this by recruiting exceptionally talented online journalists in both countries”. Covering news from Nigeria, Iliya Kure is a seasoned radio journalist with experience with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), as well as freelance work with the Voice of America (VOA). He has also previously worked with the Nigerian Television Authority(NTA), and is a mass communication graduate of the University of Maiduguri. Kure was a 2009 Ford Foundation/Devcomms Fellow, and was the recipient of the 2008 Health Performance Award for a series of reports on polio and other health reports. “I am delighted to join the growing team at IQ4News,” said Kure. “I believe the company has the potential to initiate much needed innovation in the news media industry in Nigeria and across the continent”. Media consultant and TV producer, Dan Akinlolu, will be leading IQ4NewsTV content from South Africa. Dan’s productions have enjoyed national and international broadcast, and alongside his film making achievements, he is also an award-winning creative writer. “I am very excited about the video projects we have at IQ4News,” said Dan. “IQ4News is a growing organisation and I believe that gives it room to try out new and innovative formats for the web”. Africa has seen a rise in the emergence of online news organisations in the past decade, and this has facilitated greater access to news, not just in relation to the medium through which news is consumed, but also in terms of the kind of news that is made available to the public. “This is an exciting period for journalism in Africa,” said Joab Apollo, IQ4News journalist, Kenya. “IQ4News has a big role to play in ensuring that the momentum is not lost”. Recognising the important role that social media and user participation plays in the industry, social media and contributor management manager, Kofi Yeboah, will be advancing IQ4News’ presence on social networking sites, as well as managing how IQ4News interacts with its contributors. “User generated content was part of the original business model for IQ4News, and we do not want to lose sight of our interaction with our users and contributors,” said Kofi, who is also a final year student at Cape Coast University, Ghana.

Visit IQ4News at www.iq4news.com.

NOTES

IQ4News is an online journalism organisation that produces news and analysis on Africa with a team of reporters and contributors, IQ4News provides key insights of news from across the continent. IQ4News is the first African news website to use a hyper-local delivery mechanism to organise a large information portal. IQ4News combines a wide range of media types which include articles, videos, audio, photojournalism and editorial cartoons.

Company History

IQ4News is a website that was established as a media blog in 2007, and later re-branded as an info-columnist blog of Africa in 2008. It was registered as a company in 2010, and subsequent launched its new website in January 2011 with a tagline of “Ubuntu through New Media”. Our business philosophy, “Ubuntu through New Media”, refers to the creative combination of ‘Ubuntu’ – the African philosophy promoting community – with the new information age, to create a collaborative platform. The vision for IQ4News is to deliver investigative and incisive analysis on current affairs in Africa; exploring the ‘why’ and ‘how’, NOT the ‘what’ and ‘when’. IQ4News wants to make a lasting difference to online journalism in Africa. We cherish our role in the society as journalists and are committed to strict ethical guidelines needed to better inform our audience.

Contact us for more information:
General: info@iq4news.com
Editor: editor@iq4news.com
Contributors: contributors@iq4news.com
Advertising: advertise@iq4news.com
Charity of the Month: cotm@iq4news.com

GHANA: RESTRUCTURING THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM CAMPAIGN (THE GRADE “A” DISEASE)

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Has the education system failed our students and the nation at large? The answer is yes, perhaps it is how our education system is structured that needs to be questioned. Students especially those in the  tertiary get disappointed when they graduate with all the best grades they have when they do not get all the glorious life and happiness education promised them. Other students in the so called developed countries do enjoy that promise because of the different educational structure they have. Parents pay huge sums of money and still get no reward for doing that, they have to even continue to feed their child until he/she finds a job to do.  The number of graduates that complete the university increase every year, but unemployment rate is rising and never declining.

In the year 2011, the rate of jobless graduates hit 44.8%. 44.8 percent of graduates from the universities, polytechnics and other tertiary institutions are said to be jobless, a data has revealed. These graduates are believed to be in the age bracket of 22 and 25, a study conducted by Dr. William Baah-Boateng, a labour economist and senior lecturer at the Department of Economics, the University of Ghana has disclosed. The study was based on 2006 findings, but the number of jobless graduates is said to have gone up following the implementation of the fiscal stabilization programme, spanning 2008 to 2012. However, most of the jobs created during the period are vulnerable with limited or no social protection, the study indicated. Vulnerable employment has declined but still remains high. Yearly, several graduates from the country’s tertiary institutions estimated to be in the region of 50,000 come out of school searching for jobs. This excludes those from the senior high school and the junior high schools, who number over 300,000……….. He was optimistic that these graduates will find jobs after four years, noting some of these graduates do not even know where to go and find jobs. In 2006, about 2.6 million Ghanaians were not working or jobless with some deciding not to work. Nana Owusu Afari, President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), who also made a presentation, noted that industries do not need second and third degrees, urging young graduates to acquire skills and experience before doing so. He urged government to support the training of graduates, adding that industry can only offer short courses and not the entire training programmes.  (GhanatoGhana.com)

I believe education is supposed to bring change and make students creative. Why do majority of Ghanaian graduates look for jobs after they complete school? Could this be one of the reasons for the rising unemployed graduates? Did formal education teach us to be dependent on the government for jobs?

People enter the tertiary institutions and become less creative; their ingenuity gets shuttered for life. It is as if the formal education covers the eyes of our imagination with an unseen blanket. Students do not even think beyond the walls of the tertiary environment, their minds tend to be closed from the outside world. They do not even know the trending opportunities that easily put money into ones pocket. All they think of is how they are going to pass their quizzes, how to get past questions and get an “A” in every course. “Getting an “A” in the formal education does not make you an A student in life”. Students in the tertiary do not even bother to know what is happening outside them (current affairs). Business students study about marketing, but will never sell anything on campus, they are good sales people with respect to grades, but not in the real life. Selling is even seen as a job for illiterates. Every graduate wants to work at a place where his study of interest is. We are limited in life due to the courses we read, we read nothing else in school apart from the books and notes given us. We are being prepared to take the seat as future leaders, but we all know that our colleagues who schooled in the foreign countries will take these seats first and leave the unimportant ones to us because they have a better education than we do. For example in some countries like Singapore which has per capita GDP higher than USA, Japan and other so called developed countries, changed their educational system from the traditional way of learning to innovative, less classroom and more creativity.

Getting excellent grades does not equate to getting higher income in life, if it was so teachers would have been the richest people in the world. In Ghana, about 90% of teachers are poor, why! Why do we keep on deceiving our generation that this kind of formal education is the key to our progress?  All a child knows in Ghana is to go to school, get a job, marry, go on retirement and spend your pension salary and wait to die. Let us wake up from our sleep, nobody will come and change what we need to change for us. The current educational system is not helping and is the cause of our consistent poverty as a nation. Students are so concerned about their grades that even if they do not get good grades they assume that they have failed in life. They equate higher grades to higher income and it’s not true. Ask yourself why Ghanaians start business and they fail, but a foreigner comes to start the same business and they succeed and they will intend employ us. Many graduates are employed in businesses that they barely apply what they learnt in school. We come out of school and we don’t even know how to do common power point presentation, we do not even find time to assess ourselves to see how well we are ready for the market, instead we are busy thinking of how we can excel in out quizzes and exams. One thing graduates forget is that there is a vast difference between schooling and education, the former is a want and the latter is a necessity. Ninety percent of education is learnt in the real life and not in the classroom that is why some graduates get surprised when they come out of school and they do not get jobs to do. Universities award best business student and these students have not even come out with any business idea or have not been running any practical business while on campus, no award is given to the best entrepreneurial student. We praise students who excel in grades and condemn those who excel in real life. If we really want our students to be at par globally, then we need to change our method of teaching from kindergarten to tertiary.

Computer science students do coding on papers, study programmes that are outmoded and does not meet the current standards. We have students who are reading courses that are literally irrelevant to their programme and one sad thing is that they are sacked from the institution if they fail that course. For example, a student reading Biological Science will be given an African Studies course which is supposed to help the student have a fair knowledge about Africa, but if he should fail that course and he even get A’s in all his main courses, he will be sacked, how? Student are seen as intelligent based on their ability to solve past questions so if a student is not fortunate to get these past questions then he is not a brilliant student. Anybody, who is very good at memorizing without being a student, can get A’s in most of the courses in our tertiary institutions.

 

 

MENTAL SLAVERY

My greatest concern has been for those who write exams and fail especially entry exams to tertiary institutions. Those who fail assume they are failures in life and that they will not amount to anything in society and they begin to act as such. We have made them to believe that their contribution outside the classroom is worthless. Their self- esteem is killed and they assume they are incompetent, some struggle writing the particular subject they failed numerous times with the hope that they will pass one day. Mentally, they cannot think beyond passing their exams. I believe that it is not everybody that will be okay with the classroom style, instead there should be another alternative. Imagine someone who read Visual Arts in the High School and did extremely well in his electives and had to stay in the house for close to four years because he failed Mathematics. There should be a different grading system for every programme in the SHS. We are wasting human resources if we allow all these brilliant people to stay in the house for these number of years.  Young people with creative ideas are in the house re-writing courses they failed in SHS of which they will not be using in the real world and teachers and society make them  believe that they are not intelligent. In the university we read courses which have nothing in relation to our main programme of study and a student who fails will be sacked and labeled a failure in life. This mental harm will make the person not function to his maximum because he has also come to the realization that he is a failure. The fact that a student failed to remember the solution to a past question does not make him a failure. If you are first or second class student in academics it should reflect in the real world as well.

 

ALTERNATIVE METHOD

Technology (Bill Gates’ view): This is a conversation that Jeffrey R. Young had with Bill Gates about the Future of Higher Education, which was originally published by The Chronicle of Higher Education, USA. He shared a very effective method of learning and teaching with technology. You can get the full conversation on www.thegatesnotes.com

It is not every student who is comfortable with the classroom or lecture room setting and so this online education should be encouraged to reduce the number of youth who are in the house doing nothing.

I will share a few strategies that can help our educational system to be better:

  • There should be less focus on grading or passing of “paper exams” and refocus on passing practical service. Students should be made to take field work relating to their study and much of the grading should be based on this. This will minimize cheating in exams and quizzes as students will know that their grading is not based on the written exams.
  • We should bring experts in the working field to come and lecture students about the changes in the market, to help student adapt to current trends.
  • Universities should allow companies and organisations to mount courses and bring their own people to teach them.
  • Students should be taught to create their own businesses than to wait on government to be employed. Entrepreneurship should be practically taught. Business students should set up businesses on campus and run it for profit. This is should be part of their grading system.
  • Students should be given exams questions (some programmes) before they sit for the exams, this will make them become expects in that area.
  • We should do away with traditional structure and replaced it with a more flexible approach that encourages creativity and problem solving, individualized learning, and a wider range of academic and vocational options. This is one of the decisions Finland made and today, its students rank among the top on global assessments of student learning, http://www.oecd.org/pisa/.
  • There should be an assessment system or team to consistently check the progress of the education system and effect changes where necessary.

These are my own views on Ghana’s educational system, there might be mistakes to the approaches i suggested above, please do well to comment or share your views.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BRIGHT SIMONS.

Bright B. Simons is the Director of Development Research at IMANI, and the Coordinator of the mPedigree Network. He performs a range of  functions for IMANI related to social marketing, research and coordinating alliances. These duties have involved speaking engagements around the world and led to numerous quotations in the international press, ranging from opinions in the Asian Times to appearances on the BBC.  In 2009, he joined the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer Community at Davos. Bright, a TED and Ashoka Fellow, is a member of the Evian Group, and an active member of other development-focused societies in Africa and elsewhere, including the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Mobile Communications of the World Economic Forum. He is a recipient of numerous awards, ranging from Marie Curie and Commonwealth Vision Grants to a PPARC Scholarship in Gamma Ray Astronomy.

@Kofiemeritus: What really sparked the idea behind MPedigree project?

@BBSimons: Between 2004 and 2005, I was committed to returning to Ghana after a number of years in Europe, where I was involved in social activism. Having previously been a student activist, I was somewhat frustrated by the results the activist community was getting in connection with a number of critical social issues. I wanted to do something that was likely to have more measurable and transformative impact. Something which could paint a clear “before and after” picture for a particular social issue of high significance. I was convinced that social entrepreneurship was the right path to follow and I had already begun reaching out to organisations like Ashoka. Seeing however that I was committed to solving a high-impact problem and yet had very little resources, I saw mobile phone technology as the best ally in addressing the goals I had in mind. The infrastructure was already widespread and entrenched; all I had to do was negotiate access. Convincing major organisations to come on board was a challenge that appealed to my activist mindset. Because I also maintained connections to the policy community, partly because I was then an adjunct fellow at IMANI, I had access to some persuasive voices. I teamed up with some doctoral students after I came up with the first concept – using mobile technology to enhance agricultural supply chains. That project however required more resources than we originally anticipated. But the experience was priceless. Before I finally relocated to Ghana, I came face to face with the problem of counterfeit medicines while exploring the original supply chain issue. I knew immediately that this was the supply chain issue that most fitted the concept I had developed and mPedigree was born.

 

@Kofiemeritus: Tell me briefly about the mPedigree project and the social problem it solves.

@BBSimons: mPedigree enables manufacturers and marketers of medicines to uniquely track each pack of medicine through a labeling technique known as ‘serialisation’. When consumers buy a pack of medicine that has been serialized, they are able to send a unique serial ID on the pack to a secure hotline for an instant response whether the pharmaceutical is of sound quality or not. The service is completely free of charge to the consumer/patient. The goal of the service is to protect consumers and patients from the super harmful effects of counterfeit medicines which are estimated to kill more than 2,000 people daily. mPedigree works with several telecom companies and global technology companies like Hewlett Packard to provide the service.

@Kofiemeritus: How easy was it to come up with the name of the company & product?

@BBSimons: I always believed the success of the project will hinge on how holistic it was. Since we were committed to gradually deepening the service to cover the entire supply chain, we were very attracted to the word ‘pedigree’ which connotes full assurance about the origin of a species. The ‘m’ stands for ‘mobile’ or for some people ‘master’, ‘modular’ or ‘monitor’.

@Kofiemeritus: What should Africans and the world expect in the next five or ten years from the mPedigree project. (What other new things will you be adding to the existing one)

@BBSimons: The original goal was massive: to create a system to completely illuminate the supply chain of medicines across Africa and South Asia. We have never wavered. We have never deviated. So far we have only achieved bits and pieces of it in about half a dozen countries in Africa. Our passion is fuelled by the urgency to see that original mission to its conclusion, bringing on board as many partners as possible, and inspiring as sustainable a whole new movement.

@Kofiemeritus: What has been the greatest hurdle to have overcome in the course of implementing the mPedigree project?

@BBSimons: There has been several. For a start, we started with very little resources and still run on a super-lean budget. You learn to do only the things that matter most, and to focus on core values when there isn’t a sea of resources to splash around. But it can also mean that things take longer. As an African organization, our influence with global organisations has been predictably limited. Given the global character and scale of the problem we definitely need more influence to make more progress. We have also not been very impressed by the orientation of several of the governments in Africa to this problem. Sometimes, regulation has tended to get in the way rather than smooth things along.

@Kofiemeritus: How does your work with IMANI Ghana shape the future of Ghana and Technology?

@BBSimons: I strongly believe that social and technology innovators in Africa ignore policy and politics at their peril. The challenges of the continent are such that innovators require a strong exposure to both in order to advance the new models that are required to scale fresh solutions in Africa. I believe working with IMANI has broadened my understanding of critical social and political issues and given my work a more sophisticated edge. As you probably know, IMANI has been very active in pushing policies that advance telecom development in Ghana.

@Kofiemeritus: Have you passed up any opportunity which you now regret? Are you happy with your current career and job?

@BBSimons: Well I could have charted an academic path and perhaps made some original contributions at the cutting edge of scientific scholarship. God knows more African voices are needed in global academia. But I believe becoming an entrepreneur while maintaining strong links to the policy and research communities should ultimately make my contributions to knowledge even sharper and original.

@Kofiemeritus: You have met a lot of great people, How was meeting former President Clinton and President George Bush like? Any memories to share?

@BBSimons: I am always touched by the complexity of these encounters. I was surprised to learn that President Bush was quite intimately familiar with Ghana. He rattled off several facts and names that left me truly astounded. President Clinton, while not referring to Ghana specifically, came across as very policy-conscious in how he views Africa. He is a fan of the mobile technology revolution going on here but he appeared concerned about the pace of policy innovation to go alongside it.

@Kofiemeritus: What is your greatest dream for Ghana?

@BBSimons: A new EGYPT and ABYSSINIA rolled into one. A modern African country that does not rely solely on past glories, but strives to make original contributions to knowledge, innovation and intellectual excellence in world civilization.

@Kofiemeritus: What are some of the books you read that you will encourage young ones to read and what is your favourite quote in life?

@BBSimons: I am fond of books that address the foundational and fundamental essence of social and political organization, especially in the context of Africa. Generally, anything by Steve Biko, Hayek, Achebe, Freire and the early Diop.

@Kofiemeritus: What practical advice will you have young Ghanaians with dreams of starting their own business; courses to take in schools, groups/associations to join, mentors, etc.

@BBSimons: The greatest skill in my view is to use failure, rejection and disappointment as motivational forces to achieve more. Be angry, not depressed. Embrace anger, not self-pity. If someone won’t play fair or right by you, it’s their loss not yours. Don’t waste your time fighting irrationality – the social system is dysfunctional, so it can by definition not be rational. It is to be uprooted not reasoned with. Fight, rage, start something else. Never let rejection take you down. Learn from your mistakes. Be furious about injustice. Be committed to seeing the dignity in all fellow human beings realized. Find trustworthy friends, and stick to them with the fierce loyalty of a warrior to her companion in battle. If you think solely of your success, it will be hard to rebounce after each failure. Go to bed believing that your success will bring meaning to a million lives. That is the only way to effectively harness anger without being self-destructive in a world where everything is much harder than one could ever have anticipated at the start.