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Training and Development

Cameroon: Kebisu Helps Get Girls Into Tech

The number of IT startups in Cameroon has been growing exponentially since 2011, and a 2013 report by iHub Research identified 10 startups incubated by ActivSpaces, a tech incubator in Buea.

This found that while most local startups in Cameroon focus on ecommerce (Pursar, Makonjoh, Sellamquick), alleviating unemployment (Njorku, Agro-hub), real estate (CamVista, Koutchoumi) and bulk SMSes (Iyam,mobi, WasaTexto), few ventured into entertainment (Djoss.tv) and education (DataZone).

This fact has created an uneven balance in an ‘ecosytem’ where education could use a lot of help from the IT sector. And this is especially true in light of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) which aim at achieving universal primary education. In response, Kebisu, a web tutoring platform, could become very relevant indeed.

Kebisu is a platform that provides the necessary tools to create and manage content. Nathalie Tekam, a Yaoundé-based techie and project leader for the platform told us: “‘Kebisu’ is derived from a Basa'a expression which can be literally translated as ‘go ahead.’”  It is her hope that Kebisu will help change young girls’ mindsets about STEM fields and careers by presenting them as accessible and attractive.

This platform is offered to schools by ITISS, a startup co-founded by Nathalie and her husband, Cyrille Tekam, an IT Engineer from Polytechnique Yaoundé, and is presented within the framework of GetReady.  This framework prioritizes primary education with the intent of building young kids’ first understanding of education, innovation and STEM fields and careers. It specifically targets girls between the ages eight and 18, who do not have access to computers or do not consider ICT tools as educational.

Although Kebisu in itself is not only for girls, GetReady offers Kebisu to schools with initial content that is tailored for girls in two ways. Firstly, the cartoon character that illustrates course outlines and evaluation results is a girl. Secondly, the content consists of two modules presenting STEM related studies and careers with as many references as possible to successful women in these careers. The idea is that all these references will progressively increase girls’ self-confidence and influence not only their own outlook about women and girls’ capacity to succeed in STEM fields, but also their boy classmates’ outlook.

According to Nathalie, “GetReady will offer Kebisu, with the content and related services, to schools that are unable to afford it or just too uncomfortable to choose affording such tools as a priority.”  

On April 24 2014, the “Bill Gates” Bilingual School Complex, a primary school in Yaoundé, hosted its first GetReady event, a “Career Day” to celebrate the International Girls in ICT Day. This incorporated presentations by professional women in STEM and ICT careers, and on May 3 2014 the school received GetReady’s technical team for the installation of Kebisu, a process which was facilitated because the school already had a well-equipped IT centre and LAN.

GetReady’s pilot school, “Bill Gates” Bilingual School Complex, is not representative of the real target, as it is a privileged one; but it needed to start somewhere, and this school already had an IT room ready to receive the platform and had been really enthusiastic about the project.

The Kebisu platform includes innovative presentations which will keep students interested; tests which are fun, interactive and automatically corrected by the software; content which is fully adapted to the institution’s objectives and archived at the end of every year. Furthermore, Kebisu supports SCORM 2004, SCORM 1.2 and AICC, thus making it possible to connect to other eLearning platforms and share content across the world.

Outside this project, Nathalie is an Assistant Manager at SERSYS, an IT consulting firm operating in the Central African region and is a Microsoft and SAGE Partner. She is passionate about getting more young girls into STEM fields, as well as encouraging girl students and women already in STEM to persevere in those fields. One of her recent projects has been selected to receive a WeTech Seed Fund grant with the support of Google. This is a program of the Institute of International Education initiated by Hillary Clinton.

 

Dzekashu MacViban is a freelance journalist and has written for the Ann Arbor Review of Books, Fashizblack, Goethe.de, and PalaPala among others

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Dzekashu MacViban

Dzekashu MacViban is a freelance journalist and has written for the Ann Arbor Review of Books, Fashizblack, Goethe.de, and PalaPala among others.

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