Over the past five years, the Carpentries have gained considerable traction in Africa. Since the first online instructor training in 2015, more than 100 African-based instructors have been trained of which more than 40 had qualified. An estimated 50 workshops have taken place on the continent in countries including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mauritius, Kenya, Ghana, Gabon, and Ethiopia. More than 15 instructors from other continents have visited the continent to join local instructors in building community and teaching workshops. These include instructors from the UK, several states in the USA, Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
After the first in-person instructor training in South Africa, an African Task Force was established to help mentor trained instructors and support them throughout the instructor checkout process. This task force consisted of volunteers from Australia (Belinda Weaver), the UK (David Perez-Suarez), and the USA (Matthew Collins, Deb Paul, and Henry Senyondo). Each task force member was assigned a group of trainees and worked with them in their own way - including online meetings, online demo sessions, and support via email. At the time, connectivity (thus communication with the African instructors) as well as isolation, and lack of local community, were some of the challenges experienced by both mentors and mentees. To date, 11 out of 23 trainees from the first in-person instructor training in Africa had qualified.
The low turnover rate from trainee to a qualified instructor, and the lack of opportunity for new instructors to teach have been a concern of the local instructor community for some time and in December 2017 the African Task Force was brought to life again to address these issues.
The new task force consists of eight African-based instructors based in South Africa and Ethiopia. The task force members represent a variety of disciplines including the libraries, digital humanities, bioinformatics, public health, ecology/engineering, life sciences, and computer science. Members include:
- Caroline Ajilogba
- Mesfin Diro
- Erika Mias
- Lactatia Motsuku
- Kayleigh Lino
- Juan Steyn
- Katrin Tirok
- Anelda van der Walt
The task force will focus on assisting trained instructors to qualify, mentoring instructors and helpers before teaching a workshop, and generally nurturing a healthy African Carpentry community of instructors. We will also provide clearer communication about the process for running workshops in Africa, and for volunteering o teach at workshops. We will work closely with the African Workshop Administrators and the Mentoring Subcommittee.
Some of the activities of the African Task Force (specifically the South African-focused activities) are funded through the Rural Campuses Connection Project II (RCCPII). Funding for activities elsewhere in Africa is currently mostly on an ad hoc basis and the task force hope to provide resources to those who would like to apply for larger grants to run Carpentry activities in their other countries on the continent. The task force will meet in person twice per year and members will serve until March 2019. The activities of the task force will be re-evaluated throughout early 2019 to make recommendations about the way forward and to recruit new members should it be viable.
In our next post, we will share more information about where to start if you want to run a local workshop. Please join the African Carpentries Google Group if you would like to be informed of local activities, opportunities, and more.
We are looking forward to working with our local and international community over the next 12 months and thank everyone for their enthusiastic suppor