- VC: Africa’s base for research, innovation weak
A revolution that will change the current narrative of science and technology development in Africa, and bridge the gaps in the teaching and learning of science and other science-related fields in Nigerian schools and by extension, Africa, has been unfolded at the Lagos State University (LASU).
The novel project, which is being sponsored and funded by the World Bank, is to be driven by the LASU Africa Centre of Excellence (ACE) for Africa Centre of Excellence for Innovative and Transformative STEM Education (ACEITSE).
The stage was set last week with the Commencement Lecture of the LASU ACEITSE, which is aimed at improving critical mass of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Master’s STEM teachers.
With the mandate of the Africa Centre of Excellence to focus on Innovative and Transformative STEM Education, the Centre is expected to promote the development of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education in Nigeria and the Africa continent.
LASU, in 2018, was selected by the World Bank among other 10 Nigerian universities as Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE), a three-year project for the promotion of innovation and research development that will trigger economic and knowledge transformation of the continent and enhance quality of scholarship in STEM Education training.
The ACEITSE, led by it Director, the Distinguished Professor Peter Okebukola, after months of activities towards its smooth take off, last week opened its doors to the pioneer set of students from Nigeria and some other African countries, including Ghana, Cote D’ivoire, Republic of Benin, The Gambia, Togo and Sierra-Lone.
The centre, which took off with pioneer 15 Nigerian students, comprising 10 Masters and five PhDs, will run programmes at Postgraduate level for Masters and Doctorate Degree students.
Under the N1.8 billion World Bank project, the Centre, New Telegraph learnt, would attract Visiting Professors from universities in American, European and Asian countries, as well as collaborate with universities in South Africa and Ghana to stimulate development of science and technology.
Some of the programmes are MSc STEM Education and Entrepreneurship, PhD STEM Education and Entrepreneurship, PhD in ICT Education with specialisation in Artificial Intelligence, among other well-carved out programmes that will enhance quality of the centre and position it as one of the best centres in Africa.
These programmes, according to the Centre, will be driven under the Culturo-Techno-Contextual (CTC) Approach, which is the focal pedagogy of the Centre, a homegrown approach invented by Professor Okebukola and his research team.
Under the programme, the students for the Masters programmes are to spend a three-semester (one and half years) duration, while the PhD students are expected to spend three years (six semesters).
At the end, of the programme, the graduates are expected to be the Africa’s best master STEM Teacher Educators, who will train teachers to teach difficult concepts in STEM through the Cultro-Techno-Contextual Approach and other innovative and transformative Afrophilic methodology; Africa’s best in STEM content knowledge; skilled in researching and addressing grand challenges to STEM education in Africa within the framework of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); highly skilled in fostering the development of the 21st Century skills and entrepreneurship in learners.
The students will also be equipped and trained to be pillars and agents of STEM renaissance for Africa’s development; skilled in school leaders and exemplars of good character befitting of the teaching profession; and skilled in preparing African youth for STEM-related jobs of the future.
Given its mandate, the mission of the LASU-ACEITSE is to promote excellence in the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through culturally-relevant; innovative and transformative models for addressing regional developmental challenges.
The Centre is also to produce innovative and transformative teachers that will inspire learning in STEM subjects through the delivery of a range of engaging, contextual and technology-mediated teacher professional development programmes for addressing regional development challenges.
Part of the objectives of the Centre are “to offer unique, qualitative and transformative training aimed at promoting excellence and innovation in STEM teaching, development of 21st Century skills and leadership; to serve as a train-the-trainers’ centre of excellence for skilled STEM master teachers who will later undertake training of other teachers and school leaders and policy makers.
It is also to develop and apply models of innovative STEM teaching and learning based on cutting-edge research and practice; address science and technology-related national and regional development challenges through the provision of better-trained STEM teachers; and to undertake continuous monitoring of the critical mass of master teachers training by the Centre in institutions where they are multiplying their innovative and transformative skills.
Meanwhile, in his remarks, Okebukola said the global centre would train the best STEM teacher educators, even as he underscored the critical role of STEM Education to national development. The don, who had earlier conducted the Vice-Chancellor and other principal officers of the university on a facility tour of the centre, however, expressed regret that STEM was improperly taught in schools, and noted that the large proportion of the blame rests on how teachers were trained.
“This Centre is to correct all those deficiencies so that we will have master trainers that are the best in Africa. So, the importance of the event is that the first lectures for our Masters and PhD students start today,” he added.
Since the programme will be a three-year under the World Bank sponsorship and funding, the don hinted that the three semester for Master’s students and six semesters for the PhD students, would be enough duration to graduate the first set of students of the centre.
Okebukola, who said the students will be drawn from Nigeria and other African nations, said that the Centre is partnering the Nigerian French Language Village in Badagry and the Department of Foreign Language of the university for French immersion programme in order to teach the students from Francophone countries admitted into the centre English language.
“We have put in place immersion programmes with the Nigerian French Language Village and the Department of Foreign Language of the university to give a little touch of English for our Francophone students,” he added.
On the activities of ACEITSE, Okebukola added that the Centre was designed to get great scientists, technologist, engineers and mathematicians that would proper Nigeria’s economy to greater heights.
He said: “When have great STEM teacher educators, they will be able to train teachers in our schools for Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Engineering and Information Communication Technology (ICT) very well. These teachers will in turn train and teach students properly, and when the students passed their Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) they will in turn go into the tertiary institutions to study medicine, engineering, technology, law and other teacher education programmes. At the end of the day, the country will have a mass of great and quality scientists, technicians, engineers and technologists that will drive Nigeria’s industrial, technological and overall economic growth. It is going to bring about a chain reaction in the system.”
The Commencement Lecture was declared open by Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun (SAN) at the ACEITSE Building, Ojo main campus of the state university.
He lauded the Distinguished Professor Okebukola for having the capacity and the wherewithal to put together the programme and in ensuring the smooth take-off of the Centre and the lecture activities.
The Vice-Chancellor, however, described Okebukola as “a great mind,” saying these achievements were made possible by the great minds that constituted the ACEITSE team.
Also, Fagbohun lauded the World Bank, AAU and the National Universities Commission (NUC) for believing in LASU and selecting the institution for the project, promising that the university will not fail the organisations.
“We will make Africa proud in the way we discharge our responsibilities,” Fagbohun added, saying: “Today is significant not only in the life of Lagos State University and Nigeria, but also in the developmental trajectory of Africa. When you look at the narrative of science in Africa, you will realise that one of the reasons the continent has continued to grapple with development is because the base for research and innovation is weak; it is because Africa is still lacking that economic strength. It is your innovation that you commercialise which will in turn fetch you economic power. Indeed, the significance of the event of today must not be lost on us.”
The Vice-Chancellor, however, challenged the pioneer students of the Centre on the critical need to go out to the world and change the mindset of people towards the development of STEM education and be ready to compete with scholars from other Ivy-League institutions.
“You are the flag-bearers of the Africa Centre of Excellence that we desire in terms of innovation to develop the continent, saying there are three things that could be killers of this dream, but advised the students to use the fire in them to propel the action that was required.
Fagbohun, who noted that he was fulfilled with so much satisfaction that the goals set by the university were being achieved steadily, however, added: “We want a situation whereby by the time four years is over, we will continue on our own to sustain the centre without blinking.”
The Vice-Chancellor, who also pledged the readiness of the university to sustain the centre after four years of World Bank target, further warned: “We must say no to strike in this institution because for this programme, we will have international students. We must be focused on finding alternatives to our disputes. We have entered the big league; but entering it is not the issue but remaining in it.”
Meanwhile, the Coordinator, Africa Centre of Excellence, Dr. John Attah, congratulated the Lagos State University on the formal take-off of the centre at the institution, expressing optimism that the Centre will become a reference point for other centres in Nigeria.
“For the pioneer students, we are sure you have made a good choice by joining the ACEITSE Centre in the university. As you join the elite students, I trust you have also prepared your mind for the challenges ahead. We trust that you will get the necessary support and you will turn out to be the best among your peers,” he added.
While lauding LASU-ACEITSE, the Secretary General, Association of African Universities (AAU), Prof. Etienne Ehile, said that given the calibre and professional qualifications of the ACEITSE team, led by Prof. Okebukola, it is not a surprise that LASU was selected as one of the universities to host the Centre in Africa.
According to him, the key developmental challenge that the Centre seeks to address is to improve the quality of STEM teachers in Nigeria.
“We look forward to the successful implementation of the programmes, which is aimed at improving quality of STEM education in the country,” he stressed.
This was as the World Bank Coordinator of the project, Prof. Jamil Salmi said that STEM Education had become a top priority and concern to the world, and it is against that backdrop that he commended LASU for emerging an ACEITSE Centre.
“You are now part of elite institutions in Africa, and I hope that you appreciate fully the privilege of having Prof. Okebukola as Director of the Centre,” he noted, describing him as renowned scholar not only in Africa, but in the world.
Jamil, therefore, reminded the LASU team that their purpose was not only to conduct great researches, but to also become responsible citizens that could contribute to the development of Africa.