By Olalekan Bilesanmi

Adetola A. Salau is the Executive Director/Founder, Carisma4U Educational Foundation, a social innovation enterprise that prepares children to compete globally using Science Technology Engineering Mathematics, STEM, education. 

Integrating artificial Intelligence (AI) into the school curriculum is good. But the drivers (teachers, particularly in public schools), are they well equipped in terms of training and retraining in order to impact on pupils?

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Critics of digital learning technologies focus on the fear that teachers will be replaced with robotic avatars. They envision classrooms with students staring at screens. Let’s focus upon a more optimistic future.

Remember, technology is a tool that teachers should leverage on because technology delivers insights and analytics in very useful forms that allow them to focus their precious resources on helping students.

It is not enough to hire teachers; they must stay current with the trends in education, especially when it comes to the adoption of technology in the classroom. The question to ask is, how do we give teachers a reward for achieving these standards? To press towards this goal, we can encourage teachers to constantly equip themselves.

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Compare the response, how has it been between public schools and the private ones?

The climate for education reform is tough regardless of whether it is private or public. In order to transform our schools, there is the need for lucid vision. It should be one with a clear purpose; schools have their work cut out for them these days; they have to be creative, they have to work through the curriculum to get their students ready for exams, they have to meet the demands set by trying to satisfy students’ various learning styles and the list goes on.

Unfortunately all of this micro-managing has left schools bereft of actual progress in meeting the needs of students in a rapidly changing world. We need to start with a clear, concise vision of what schools are and what they ought to be doing. The world is over-saturated with schools that don’t work.

How about the response from students, how has it been like, what is the enthusiasm like?

We had over 50 children in our STEM bootcamp program and we kept hearing from parents that the children were more engaged in our program than they were in school. Children who had behavioral problems during school were too involved in their projects to think of acting up.

Children are given ownership over their own learning, working their way through tasks and hacking the engineering design process. I would like to enjoin teachers and parents to break out of the norm and adopt what we do during holidays for children.

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It is good to prioritise making students learning experiences engaging, teaching students how to collect and analyze data, identify patterns, break down complex problems into their more controllable parts, deduce solutions, construct models and develop algorithms. Projects, more than lecturing, give students opportunities to enhance these skills, and summer, as it turns out, is the perfect time to practice this.

Experimenting with our curriculum by testing hands-on lessons that, among other things, had students understand how drones work.

Studying about climate change or discussing the application of maths to the real world created major improvement in comprehension for our students.

Let’s have children go beyond assignments and get students to become creators. The 21st century belongs to creators as we can see by the superstars in almost every field of endeavours lately.

What actually led you into this kind of advocacy?

I returned   to Nigeria from the United States eight years ago to make a difference and, three years ago, I   made deliberate moves to utilize my skills towards solving the burgeoning problem in education in Africa by setting up a non-profit organization called Carisma4U Educational Foundation, which is a social innovation enterprise with a focus on breaking the poverty cycle in Nigeria and Africa at large by equipping African children with highly competitive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills essential for the fourth industrial revolution job market. The overall vision is to create a future for 2,000,000 African students by 2030 in alignment with the UN’s millennium goals for education.

The mission of Carisma4U is to transform African children’s learning with STEM for future readiness and eradicating poverty.

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My main inspiration was to get our students from disadvantaged backgrounds given the opportunity to have education that is relevant and lifts them from the trap of poverty. It has personal meaning for me because my parents were from poor backgrounds and it was quality education that made a difference in their lives. This led them to be able to provide opportunities for their children.

We work with poor children who haven’t been exposed to the pedagogy of STEM and how it does transform how they learn. We include them through creating a scholarship scheme by individuals who donate private funds to promote our work.

The creation of this is all that drives me. I am determined to see this vision through.

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