The challenges for chemistry education in Africa

  • ZM Lerman


The continent of Africa is made up by many country borderlines, but as we know, borders are only lines on a map. Nature and the environment don’t recognize these borders, and therefore, issues of climate change, air  pollution, water quality and diseases require collaborations among nations for their solutions. A new way of thinking, teaching and learning chemistry is also required. Chemistry will play a major role in solving the challenges that face our planet and the development of the continent of Africa. We must have chemists who will be able to solve these problems. In order to have these types of chemists, we must have, in the pipeline, students who will become the future chemists able to offer solutions to existing and new problems. This means developing a new curriculum and new methods of teaching chemistry so that chemistry can be accessible to all students in Africa. Sadly enough, many students shy away from chemistry. In order to attract students to chemistry, creative methods for teaching and learning were developed for all levels, from primary school to university, and from the formal to the informal settings. These methods utilize the students’ talents, hobbies, interests and cultural backgrounds. Equal access to  science education is a human right that belongs to all [1-2]. If we do not guarantee science education to all, we will form a two-class society divided not by royalty and status, but by knowledge of science. The centerpiece for this method is the development of student projects, which help them to remember and understand abstract scientific concepts. An old Chinese proverb says: “I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.” These students’ projects take advantage of seeing and remembering, doing and understanding. Through this process, students are active learners, instead of being passive observers. To demonstrate their understanding of scientific concepts through their projects, the  students use a media of their choice, from drawing, dance and drama (no tech) to computer animation (high tech). Projects can also take the form of paintings, sculptures, songs, films, and scripts for theater. These projects are used as alternative assessment methods where the whole class is involved in the assessment process. In order for this method to be  successful, workshops for teachers as well as parents must be conducted. This way, the students will be taught in a creative way in school and  through the joint involvement of teachers and parents, students will be encouraged to pursue chemistry. After all, “it takes a village to raise a child,” as the African proverb states. [AJCE 4(2), Special Issue, May 2014]

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print ISSN: 2227-5835