On Feb. 1, the Concordia Science Academy prepared its outreach science program at the Reinertsen elementary school in Moorhead. The main aim of Science Academy is “providing elementary students with engaging science activities that focus on scientific discovery.” It was an awesome program. There were many scientific demonstrations taking place and it was fun to see all those little kids getting excited about science.
I was there to assist with the physics demonstrations. There, I realized the work that has been done by Concordia and colleges in the United States as a whole. The excited facial expressions of those kids are clear in my mind.
This work with kids brightens the future, but what is seen instead in the United States is that the interest of American students towards STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is decreasing. Therefore, the government and many institutions are working on this problem with kids at the grassroots level. This made me think about Africa and my homeland, Ethiopia.
This is not a common thing in Africa. Most of the universities and colleges are not accustomed to the habit of working with the society. Curriculums are not designed in a way that enhances students’ creativity.
Here it should be noted that Africa is a huge continent with 54 countries; I cannot generalize too broadly. I am writing on the basis of some of my experiences.
As I contemplate the main solutions for the problems in Africa, there are many possibilities that come to my mind. Of all the solutions, there are two prominent ones.
The first is that work should be done with African kids. If we are not able to provide education for them, who will take over to replace the elders? We should teach the kids to search for their talents and make the best out of it.
The second solution that came to my mind is that there should be ‘mind freedom.’ I once read an article by professor Mesfin Woldemariam, a renowned Ethiopian scholar, peace activist and philosopher, who was quoted saying, “Nowadays the significant and main difference between developed and developing countries is Mind Freedom (a close translation from the Ethiopian language Amharic).”
By mind freedom, he means people should be allowed to think freely, write freely, speak freely and as a whole, people should be free of any unnecessary influence. Those mentioned freedoms are still in their infancy in Africa. I know democracy or basic freedoms won’t come overnight but we cannot wait so long for such small steps.
Students should be taught how to be creative and should be inspired by their elders to work hard. People should be allowed to think freely. Africans were able to demonstrate their outstanding potential when they got the chance to do so. There are lots of untapped intellects in Africa that wait for facilitated situations which are crippled due to unnecessary governmental oppressions and useless curriculums.
Where shall we start, Africa? Let us start from the kids—let’s work with them. They are the future policy makers and scientists. Let us work with our intellect, both abroad and in the continent, we can bring a significant change if we are allowed to think and work freely. It is my firm belief that Africa will show a substantial change if extensive work is done for African kids and minds because, in the end, education is the ultimate source of basic change.
This letter was written by Kalkidan Molla, class of 2015.