Reported by Dr. Nicholas Muthama
The Digital Initiative for African Centres of Excellence (DIGI-FACE) is a cooperation project between a network of German and African Universities under the leadership of the University of Kehl in Germany. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) funds this initiative with support from the German Federal Foreign Office (AA). The kick-off-meeting of the DIGI-FACE project was hosted by the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth in cooperation with University of Kehl from 2nd -7th of March 2020. CEMEREM was represented by Prof. Jan C. Bongaerts (CEMEREM Project Leader, TUBAF), Prof. Kiptanui Arap Too (CEMEREM Project Coordinator, TTU), Dr. Nicholas Muthama (CEMEREM Project Manager, TTU) and Mr. Kibwana Zamani (ICT Manager, TTU).
At the onset of the kick-off, the delegates were taken through the overall aims of the initiative by the lead persons notably, Prof Ewald Eisenberg, representing project lead partner Kehl University in Germany; Prof Bernd Siebenhuener, German academic from Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg and Prof Paul Webb, Project Leader of the East and South African German Centre of Excellence for Educational Research Methodologies and Management (CERM-ESA). Professor Michael Samuel from the University of KwaZulu Natal, the moderator of the event, took on the collaborative approaches to capacity development and digitalization was brought into perspective. The Deputy Vice-chancellor, learning and Teaching, Prof Cheryl Foxcroft from Nelson Mandela University officially opened the meeting and emphasized the need for CoEs to make provisions for students to learn in digital spaces.
Other sessions that followed after the aforementioned preamble included the delegate’s reflections on their motivations; on-line learning experts presentations that shed more light into the digital classrooms; practical sessions of designing an interactive online session; Centres action steps, collaborations and partnerships; business plan; delegates visions and recommendations. The sessions were not only in-depth but quite mind-boggling in terms of reflections on the core challenges such as geographical complications, equipment deficiencies alongside proposed methodologies for accomplishing the DIGI-FACE project.
DIGI-FACE will have interesting and new impacts on CEMEREM in the future. CEMEREM delegates were satisfied that they could bring this issue as their contribution to the attention of the DIGI-FACE project leaders. As such, DIFI-FACE means new developments for CEMEREM, such as new possibilities for online teaching, online study and learning documents for students, online coaching, online supervision of student projects, capacity building for teachers, etc.
CEMEREM will study these new developments and as the DIFI FACE project moves on, CEMEREM will implement them for the benefit of TTU, the German partners, CEMEREM itself, the CEMEREM staff and, least but not last, the CEMEREM students and the outreach communities.
CEMEREM is grateful to DAAD for the invitation, the opportunity to learn about DIGI-FACE and very committed as we are looking forward for the next steps.