PBL-BioAfrica, being a collaborative project, points towards strengthening bioeconomy education through promoting PBL (Problem-Based Learning), entrepreneurship, innovation, and digital learning methods in Sub-Saharan Africa. This a plausible solution to the Kenya’s 21st century challenges.
Text Victor Kilui Photos Egerton University
Egerton’s university management acknowledges the relevance and goodness of fit of the project to the institution, as it promotes the same competencies that the university works to instil in its students. These competencies include excellent written and spoken communication, subject matter specialty, entrepreneurial behaviour and ethical responsibility.
“The project’s arrival at Egerton is suitable for both the university and the project, as it actively campaigns for increased student engagement in entrepreneurship”, notes Professor Alexander Kahi, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and member of the Project Board. “The project comes a time where the university start-up bill is at the stage of public participation. Once assented, there will be increased youth entrepreneurship and the public participation stage of the bill is being overseen by Egerton University in the greater Nakuru region.”
Through PBL methods, graduates will transform from job seekers to job creators.
“Promoting PBL methods are timely in that this comes at a time when Kenya has incorporated Competency Based Curriculum at the primary level of education”, says Professor Patience Mshenga, Local Coordinator of the project and Member of Committee at RUFORUM.
The Kenyan Competency Based Curriculum is a new system of education designed by the Kenyan Government through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) team and launched by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in 2017. The CBC is designed to emphasise the significance of developing skills and knowledge and also applying those competencies to solve real-life problems.
Youth unemployment rate increased to 7.47 % in December 2020 from the previously reported number of 7.17 % in Dec 2019. According to Quarter 2 Labour Force Report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the level of unemployment rose sharply amongst young people aged 20 to 29 years, as employers rushed to cut operational costs and these was also contributed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
PBL-BioAfrica actively campaigns for increased student engagement in entrepreneurship.
PBL-BioAfrica seeks to offer a solution to this through promoting entrepreneurial innovations along agricultural value chains, addressing the ongoing job creation crisis by improving economic productivity. This contributes to the HEI ICI programme’s long-term impact by strengthening the capacity of bioeconomy HEIs to provide pedagogically innovative, work-life relevant and accessible higher education for large student numbers in sub-Saharan Africa.
The late Dean of Agriculture at Egerton University Professor Abdul Faraj described the project as “an avenue for jobs for the students; through PBL methods, graduates will transform from job seekers to job creators”. He highlighted that the project will work well since all students at the faculty take an entrepreneurship course and this is an advantage.
"The problem-based learning approach in teaching entrepreneurship will be a stepping stone that graduates will use to get into entrepreneurship and avoid unemployment", Mr Dickson Okello, member of the Project Management, reiterates.
“PBL-BioAfrica is for reforming bioeconomy curricula and improving graduates’ work-life relevant competence. We aim at strengthening the students’ ability to tackle global sustainability issues”, says Project Manager, Dr Eija Laitinen, Principal Research Scientist at the Bioeconomy Research Unit at Häme University of Applied Sciences.
It is predicted that Africa will be the continent hardest hit by climate change.
The project also seeks to extensively address climate change risks and mitigation in the agricultural sector. It is predicted that Africa will be the continent hardest hit by climate change with broad agricultural consequences, including low agricultural yields and increased vulnerability to droughts and pests. To counter this, implementing climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is critical. Climate change in Kenya is increasingly impacting the lives of Kenya's citizens and the environment. Climate change has led to more frequent extreme weather events, such as droughts that last longer than usual, irregular and unpredictable rainfall, flooding and increasing temperatures. Kenya already recognises this challenge and has already started engaging the communities through the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy.
The problem-based learning approach is consistent with the views of the giants in the field of education, such as Albert Einstein who stated that “Education is not the learning of fact, but the training of the mind”. This view also complements Plutarch who said that “the mind is not a vessel that needs filling but a wood that needs igniting”. Egerton University hence seeks to ignite and train the minds of its students with relevant knowledge and skills to make graduates capable of solving complex problems of agriculture, agribusinesses, and society.