From the inception of African Leadership Academy, the founders and inaugural faculty recognized the significance of an African Studies curriculum forming an integral part of the ALA experience. Indeed, much thought, research and creativity went into designing courses that would allow for multi-layered exploration of the continent through various lenses. Through the years, African Studies teachers have collaborated to design a first-year curriculum that sets the stage for a shared understanding of Africa as a geographical as well as conceptual entity. Moreover, the study of historical events that had lasting implications for the continent at large establishes the broader context of ALA’s mission: to develop the future generation of African leaders who can bring about lasting peace and prosperity. The flexibility of the second year curriculum enables faculty to draw on their interests, expertise, and experiences. Over the years, there have been modules on healthcare and other challenging issues, including the environment, politics, gender and poverty, all rooted in the African context.
The spirit of innovative, out-of-the-box thinking, which is characteristic of the learning and teaching at ALA, motivates the African Studies department to continually seek ways to improve the delivery of the curriculum. For example, collaboration with other disciplines has been a more deliberate process in recent times. Moreover, the feedback system from students as well as staffulty is an effective component of the department’s overall BUILD process. Alumni also remain engaged with the African Studies discourse. Some, such as Timoni Akindolie and Bethlehem Seifu, send pertinent articles and videos, and others, such as Sophie Umazi and former faculty member, Mr. Eltayeb, share links on Facebook (and tag department members). There can never be a shortage of content for the department to engage with.
Reading and writing have always been vital components of the African Studies course. However, there is now greater emphasis on building these skills such that they are not seen as separate from the pillar of communicating for impact. Other skills, including critical and analytical thinking, research, and collaboration, are developed through individual work, experiential activities and group exercises. The African Studies department has sought other ways of engaging with the ALA community – not just with students in the classrooms. Through events such as the annual Africa Day festivities and Africa: Land of Opportunities Day, we bring the community together to showcase and celebrate the tremendous passion, talent and opportunities for transformative change that abound across Africa.
We look forward to launching a website in the coming weeks, which will help us keep the community posted on exciting developments within the department!
By Nolizwe Mhlaba