Taskeen Adam, who completed her ESD MPhil in 2015, is part of a PhD programme that’s enrolling five African students per year for five years, to help train world-class researchers for Africa.
The following words are taken from the Research Horizons article by Alex Bruton. For full article see: Research Horizons Issue 32 Special edition on Africa
"Taskeen worked as an electrical engineer for two years when she decided that she wanted to use her skills to bring about social change. “What attracted me to engineering was the challenge of solving technical problems. But my real passion is for humanitarian issues and the need to create quality education for all.”
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly declared access to the internet as a basic human right. But figures from 2014 gathered for Taskeen’s home country of South Africa showed that more than 4,000 schools had no access to electricity and 77% of schools had no computers. Many thousands of children were missing out on the chance to learn the skills needed to make a better life.
Her research is enabling her to look at the educational opportunities afforded by the internet, in particular the potential of decolonised African MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) as a means for delivering inclusive educational programmes to the most marginalised learners in South Africa. She’s keen to develop an online educational framework adapted for, and relevant to, communities in developing countries.
Taskeen completed her first degree at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. On graduating, and while working full time, she pioneered an initiative called ‘Solar Powered Learning’ to give students in rural areas access to technology that was both low cost and environmentally friendly.
The pilot project won Taskeen accolades. She was listed among South Africa’s Mail & Guardian’s top 200 Young South Africans for 2014. This gave her the confidence to embark on a career that would use her engineering skills in ways that could help to bridge inequalities.
As part of her Master’s research, she spent two weeks in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, where she visited schools benefiting from a national scheme to equip every child with a laptop. It was clear that this commendable programme was failing to enhance learning. Although resources were being provided, there was a lack of focus on maintenance skills, curriculum integration and teacher professional development. In many cases, the children were more comfortable using the laptops than were their teachers.
“My trip demonstrated the mismatch between the deliverables and the outcomes of the scheme. The focus was on technology deployment, rather than on improving educational attainment,” she says. “Many African governments seem to be following a similar path, and I hope that, by using the resources, networks and expertise here in Cambridge, I might eventually be able to influence policy changes at the intersection of education and technology back in Africa.”