The Zambia Knowledge Centre: an insaka for teaching and learning in the digital age

25/07/2011

On the 9th of June 2011, the Zambia Knowledge Centre (ZKC) in Lusaka was officially opened by the Ministry of Education (MoE). The Knowledge Centre is an insaka for teaching and learning in the digital age. ZKC is to become a vibrant place within the MoE that is giving access to global online resources and is building local online content for teachers, lecturers and students. It is also a place for techies to work on technologies that can leapfrog development in Zambia.

Naming it 'Insaka'

In 2010 the Zambia Knowledge Centre (ZKC) was identified as a new strategy within the VVOB-MoE programme. In January 2011 research has been undertaken on the concept of a Knowledge Centre and it was adapted to the Zambian context via inputs on a blog called grmbler. After a month of research the official name was chosen via an online questionnaire: The Zambia Knowledge Centre, a digital insaka for teaching and learning was born. Insaka is a Bemba word for "place to gather". An insaka is a structure which is similar in western thought as a gazebo. In Zambia these structures have significant roles in social life in traditional village life (see: www.zambiaarchitecture.com/Types/insakas/type1.htm).

Learning at its own pace

In fact, grassroots participants found a link between the traditional African education and learning in the digital age. Patrick C. Kayawe, a lecturer at David Livingstone College of Education, says that learning in the African villages was mainly informal without any structured curriculum. Instead, much of the learning took place unconsciously, as most what the learner learned was from his family, friends, and hands-on experience within ones environment. Education was more haphazardly executed and pursued in its own way, at its own pace, through its own means and throughout the learner’s entire life. There is even a Bemba saying, Amano Mambulwa, meaning that one can access knowledge from a variety of sources. According to Lemmy Kangwa, lecturer at NISTCOL, this implies that a child in the village had access to knowledge from a wide range of sources. “With facilities like the Internet a student in Zambia now can access knowledge and information anywhere, anytime. Even where there is no Internet access, some content and pedagogy can be put on CDs and DVDs or can be accessed offline.”

It takes a global village to raise a child today

That is exactly what ZKC aims to do: We will collect thousands of educational websites and resources and make them available both online and offline. We want to tap into the local knowledge by using the local structures (Zambia Library Service, Colleges of Education, Teacher Resource Centres) and the establishment of a think tank with all stakeholders. This will ensure the resources are relevant to the Zambian curriculum. It is hoped for that the VVOB capacity building programme will help establish a community of practise in Zambia and beyond on the effective use of these educational resources, applications and services.

‘Internet in a Box’

Kasama, Malcolm Moffat and Kitwe College of Education and Teacher Resource Centres were selected to pilot projects in 2011- this aligns with the VVOB intervention on distance education, community schools and Action Research. A first think tank/workgroup meeting on the Knowledge Centre was held with all stakeholders involved, including the Zambia Library Service and community school teachers. Via group discussions the needs were identified. It was decided to start building the portal on the eGranary. This so-called ‘Internet in a Box’ comes with a portal, search function and a Moodle environment. This eGranary with an educational portal will later on be distributed to the Colleges and Resource Centre (see: www.widernet.org/egranary).

Incubation lab

To help establish ZKC, a group of IT graduates and students were attracted to assist the VVOB ICT advisors. We want to set up an open space (part of ZKC) for the tech community with great ideas that will leapfrog (sustainable) development in Zambia. The incubation lab should be freely available to any tech person in Lusaka to use once they become a member. The concept of this lab would be the first of its kind in Zambia and was inspired by hubs in Kenya, Uganda, Senegal and Cameroon. There are great expectations that it will spur a revolution in the technology products and services. An incubation lab in Lusaka will be a space with a core focus on giving the tech community a community facility where they can bring their ideas to life.

All this to say, the Zambia Knowledge Centre has big aspirations...