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THE DISRUPTOR IN EDUCATION

The following article was featured in our recent special edition on “Higher Education in the UAE”.

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Dubai, one of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates, has positioned itself as an elite tourism destination, and has also amassed enough educational accolades over the years.

For the first time ever this year, Dubai’s universities were evaluated and published by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority. In the first phase, 17 out of 25 institutions were evaluated; covering 282 programs studied by 16,517 students (51.5% of students enrolled in international branch campuses in Dubai). According to the ratings, three institutions achieved 5-star rating, eight institutions achieved 4-star rating, three institutions received 3-star rating, two achieved 2-star rating and one received a star-rating.

As Dubai continues to innovate and reinvent itself, these trends have been observed in the education sector too. Namely, formative schooling, in the form of Coded Minds, a global iSTEAM & Leadership education platform, that provides alternative learning and ventures into educational possibilities that have so far seen limited support.

Omar Farooqui, the founder and Chief Innovation Officer: who is one of the city’s most formidable figures in the education sector, offers his perspective on transforming the education environment for all children, including those who don’t fit conventional expectations.

A quick search online and the messages from this founder are both inspiring and informative about the subject of alternative education.

“Alternative education is more appropriately places for special needs and gifted children today. I think that a lot more can be done and a lot more should be done by us, and by institutions around the world, and they should play a significant role in terms of funding to provide a stronger basis for these wonderful children to be able to have a more immersive learning experience.

“And one that lends itself to be able to cater to their strengths. I feel that a lot more can be done. If we see a little aspect of a child that is not able to grasp the theory of any subject matter in a regular classroom environment, we always feel that that child is lacking or is not up to par with standards. Whereas, if they are put in an alternative way of learning, I’m certain that that child will accelerate. Every child is unique and every child is so special, so I think we should be able to cater to that,” Farooqui says.

Coded Minds is of the view that many schools still appeared reluctant to accept coding, which is commonplace in most industries and has been said to be the language of the future.

“Both coding and robotics are still taken as vocational rather than mainstream subjects. This needs to change dramatically and quickly. They should become part of the national curriculum,” Farooqui says.

“Even the premium schools in the UAE – despite the fees they are charging – do not meet the international standards these subjects should be taught at.”

Coded Minds integrates project-based and technology-driven learning into any school curriculum. Regardless of the academic board, or the courses being taught in a school, they make the teaching method more interactive and hands-on. Students are able to learn through experiments and technology, instead of memorizing.

The curriculum, which considers global trends, takes students to various corners of the world for real-life experiences. Whether in a faraway forest village in Mozambique, among Aboriginal tribes in Australia or at an orphanage in Nepal, the Global Camp gives students a reality check and prepares them to be the world leaders of tomorrow.

It is this unrivalled pursuit of excellence and innovation that many consider when choosing an ideal school. Farooqui tells us more from Dubai in this interview with FORBES AFRICA:

What gives Coded Minds a competitive edge?

The education sector is globally competitive. There are traditional schools and some, indeed, are outstanding in their traditions of academic excellence; not to mention campuses and some of the newer alternate platforms that are sprouting up everywhere for online learning. No doubt that it is very competitive out there.

However, not many, if any, are doing what Coded Minds is doing. Technology is only a quarter of our offering whether it is learning about it, or even using it. Coded Minds is reinventing education altogether and making it purely and truly 100% project-based and to ensure true delivery of this approach, Coded Minds is also training teachers through our professional development program which is a way of upskilling them to the standards of 21st century pedagogy.

What is on offer for African students at your institution in Dubai?

Coded Minds has been set up globally, as we expand into various geographies around world.  We cater to the local cultures and traditions and, by that, I mean that the overall curriculum and projects that we develop all have a 20% local flavor/aspect infused into them.

This is done by an on-the-ground based curriculum developer who works with the overall global team playing a very crucial role.

African students will be able to experience this through the localized projects that we bring to the core.  It is also up to the empowered teachers, post the professional development program, who assist us to localize the curriculum, and are our eyes and ears as they innovate on their feet. We give them that flexibility in the lessons that are taught.

Many African countries grapple with stagnant national economies, limited job openings for graduates and poor prospects for self-employment. Which Coded Minds programs/projects are offered that can remedy this challenge?

The fact that we hire and train teachers locally to upskill them means in itself that we are creating jobs. Secondly, once they are upskilled, they have the necessary modern day skills to seek other jobs and, better yet, still be entrepreneurs in their own respective rights.

Thirdly, Coded Minds endeavors to play its role in society by offering global opportunities to teachers across our platform as we grow bigger and expand in various geographies to work in other countries as well.

Finally, as we develop our capabilities, as well as our partner network with colleges, universities and corporates, we envision being a supply line to these institutions for candidates who may need it. So basically, an ecosystem is being created by Coded Minds as we speak.

Increasing access to sustainable economic opportunities improves human development. How can African students gain these skills from Coded Minds?

The ecosystem being created by Coded Minds is in itself a sustainable environment of constant opportunities; be it students or be it teachers. Africa, for Coded Minds, will be no different when it comes to those who go through the platform.

Core and peripheral/ancillary skills are equally important and can be acquired through our leadership, or emotional intelligence, or innovation, or entrepreneurship programs. We teach everyone skills that are needed for the 21st century, skills that robots cannot attain.

What innovative approach has Coded Minds taken to the much-lauded Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects?

Coded Minds has gone a bold step forward and increased the breadth of STEM and called it iSTEAM (Innovation, Science, Technology, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Mathematics), and have added Leadership as our core offering; and to add to that, we are a 100% project based company. We are constantly adding to our projects and are constantly looking at the latest global trends, as well as problems faced in various countries and are finding practical solutions to those problems.  In addition, we develop projects that will aid the economy by teaching those skills to the children in Africa to help solve the issues in their respective countries at the core of any matter.

Many institutions are still prioritizing rote learning, theory over practice, and outdated curricula that do not respond to the changing needs of the job market, and few to no schools teach entrepreneurship to young people. Are students being prepared for a climate that is specific to Africa?

Majority of the schools out there around the world are still conforming to rote learning and that is simply because the end goal seems to be to studying for tests and exams filled with theories of hundreds of years gone by. As a result, they are under preparing children for modern challenges, be it Africa or any other part of the world.

Coded Minds is a 100% project-based methodology of real world projects that children get their hands on and build from scratch. It encourages children to think critically, logically, be creative, inventive and debate.

Therefore, Coded Minds gets children inquisitive, instead of traditional rote learning where free thinking is not prioritized because every child needs to study for an exam, in which short-term memory of regurgitating theory will be examined, completely detached to the real world that awaits them. At Coded Minds, the ecosystem reflects that real world.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is at the center of the current social discourse. How do Coded Minds approach this subject?

The 4IR is very much at the center of our daily thoughts when it comes to developing our curriculum/subjects/projects/professional development programs.

We have our finger on the pulse at all times, which is why our constantly evolving  projects are key to the skills being attained by students preparing them for the 21st century.

Add to that, the current crop of teachers who require an update to their own respective skills are also benefiting from our professional development programs that will help them remain relevant when it comes to the jobs post the 4IR.

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Health

[IN NUMBERS] Coronavirus Update: COVID-19 In Africa

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While most cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus have been reported in the U.S. , Europe, and China, the virus is spreading rapidly across the African continent.

The confirmed worldwide cases for the virus have surpassed 11 million with the current figure being at 12,415,672.

The increase in new reported cases around the world has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the coronavirus a global pandemic.

The death toll continues to rise globally. It is currently at 557,925.

The U.S. leads with 135,828 deaths. Brazil is second with 69,254. The U.K is third with 44,602. Italy is fourth with 34,926, and Mexico is fifth with 33,526.

China, where the virus originated from, maintains that the country’s death toll is at 4,634.

The figure of the global recoveries stands at 7,241,644.

The African continent has 545,313 cases of Covid-19, while the death toll stands at 12,503. The continent has made 266,082 recoveries.

Here are the numbers in Africa:

Country Confirmed Cases Confirmed DeathsConfirmed Recoveries
Algeria14,65792810,342
Angola140661
Benin2707228
Botswana60124
Burkina Faso89453804
Burundi85145
Cameroon12,59231310,100
Cabo Verde (Cape Verde)7506301
Central African Republic (CAR)2,2227369
Chad85073720
Comoros1762114
Congo72824221
Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)9,702684,381
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)7,1891762,317
Djibouti4,704554,550
Egypt79,2543,61722,753
Equatorial Guinea1,30612200
Eritrea9639
Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)4904249
Ethiopia5,8461032,430
Gabon5,513422,508
Gambia28124
Ghana18,13411713,550
Guinea5,404334,346
Guinea-Bissau1,46015153
Kenya6,6731492,089
Lesotho42
Liberia45832219
Libya4541063
Madagascar1,29010384
Malawi547669
Mali1,8091041,088
Mauritania4,4721291,677
Mauritius33710325
Mayotte2,298191,790
Morocco13,2152309,158
Mozambique5833151
Namibia3217
Niger98066885
Nigeria27,11061610,801
Reunion4951460
Rwanda5822332
Sao Tome and Principe66112177
Senegal7,0541214,599
Seychelles1111
Sierra Leone1,16951680
Somalia2,61888577
South Africa238,3393,720113,061
South Sudan1,6932749
Sudan9,5736024,606
Tanzania50921183
Togo53113299
Tunisia1,09649998
Uganda705299
Western Sahara918
Zambia1,358111,122
Zimbabwe383454

Note: The numbers will be updated as new information is available.

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Health

How To Return To The Office

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TOPLINE Many employers should adopt a “hybrid” model of office work, with some employees in the office and others working remotely. Clearly communicate phased reopening plans with employees, especially new office protocols, such as testing and wearing masks.

public-health-experts
  • Consider a staggered return. “Offices may consider starting slow by opening with fewer people at first,” says Dr. Mark Kortepeter, an epidemiology professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and author of Inside the Hot Zone. He also suggests shifting work schedules and “having liberal stay at home policies if people are ill.”
  • Antibody testing can be a helpful tool but not a panacea, Kortepeter says. The accuracy of the tests can vary, especially because there is a lag time between being infected with the virus and developing antibodies. We also don’t fully understand whether having antibodies translates to protection from infection and for how long. 
  • Build areas of protection. The virus mostly spreads via large respiratory droplets, so using plexiglass or other types of barriers can block some of the direct spread of these droplets.
  • Minimize face-to-face contact by instituting virtual meetings. For in-person meetings, make sure there is enough room to socially distance. 
  • Establish employee protocols around personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves.
Fc
  • Adopt a “hybrid” approach to reopening. “Some jobs are better performed remotely and some are better performed in the office,” says Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management. “Employers are going through that process literally by job category.”
  • There are varied ways to reopen, says Taylor. The society’s most recent survey of employers found 39 percent were planning to implement a phased reopening strategy, with critical teams returning first, while 19 percent plan to implement an alternating schedule strategy, with most employees returning on alternating days or weeks. 
  • Establish a policy around personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, because lax or conflicting guidelines will cause confusion. “We are now watching very closely what happens when you get people back into the workplace, particularly where businesses don’t mandate the wearing of a mask,” says Taylor. “You have a new area of dispute that’s going to need to be resolved by employers.”
AFGw

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced sweeping changes to its remote work policies, such as allowing employees to request the option of permanently working from home and “aggressively” increasing the hiring of remote employees to diversify its workforce. “For the last 10 or 11 weeks, we’ve had 95 percent or more of our population working remotely and what we’ve found is that we’re still able to get a lot of work done,” says Lori Goler, Facebook’s Vice President of People. The new emphasis on remote hiring will allow Facebook to expand its talent pool geographically. “It really creates a lot of opportunity across the United States. So now you don’t have to live in one of the locations [where we have offices] which means that people don’t have to get up and leave their communities,” Goler says. 

When the social media giant starts to reopen offices as permitted by state and local officials, they expect to operate at no more than 25 percent capacity in the near-term while proper safety measures are put in place.  “We decided that we would take a more conservative approach, both in terms of leaving the offices and in terms of returning to the offices,” Goler says. 

red-flags

Be alert for working conditions (or fellow employees) that are not complying with safety guidelines. Offices are full of high-touch surfaces—door handles, light switches, appliances—so check what the new cleaning and disinfection protocols are in your office. Stay away from crowded conference rooms or other commons areas where people are unable to socially distance. 

QWD

While working remotely is a big change for many people, it also allows for much greater geographic diversity in hiring and access to a whole new pipeline of talented recruits. Plus, many companies will likely take a hybrid approach of having some people work remotely and others in a physical office. “Every company will have to do what’s right for their company and situation but what we found is that it’s actually worked out really well for us,” says Goler of Facebook. “And we’re pretty excited and optimistic about the future.” 

Maneet Ahuja, Forbes Staff, Entrepreneurs

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Current Affairs

Ethiopia’s First Female President On Plans To Combat Covid-19 And Resuscitate The Economy

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Ethiopia’s first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, spoke to FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil, on the country’s plans to combat Covid-19 and resuscitate one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Zewde, listed as one of Africa’s ‘50 Most Powerful Women’ in the March issue of FORBES AFRICA, says while the virus didn’t warrant the nation going into complete lockdown, it has hit some sectors of the East African country’s economy, affecting its GDP growth.

In early May, the government announced a package to bolster healthcare spending, food distribution, rebuild SMMEs, etc to support the country’s most vulnerable. Zewde also shares her views on women in the front lines, as well as reimagining education.

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