Ogya ne atuduro nna faako - Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together: Teaching and learning Materials Science and Engineering with African proverbs
In 2008, on a sabbatical leave in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Ghana, I was assigned a new course, Materials and the Future. Materials science and engineering is concerned with the science and engineering of “stuff.” This paper recounts my motivation for using African proverbs as a medium of instruction in this course. I also share highlights of my experiences and those of the students. Engineering schools worldwide are struggling with how to promote cognitive learning and creativity among today’s generation of students. The technologically advanced countries have the challenge of weaning students away from overdependence on pre-existing solutions easily accessible via the Internet. In Africa it is tempting for students to assume that all technological advances come from abroad and that they should just wait passively to receive these blessings. This paper argues that the indirection characteristic of proverbial discourse can encourage students to develop a conceptual understanding of materials science and engineering rooted in the African soil.