DreamOval Foundation: Preparing Ghana for the Digital Century

The DreamOval Foundation manages all corporate social responsibility initiatives by DreamOval Ltd, a 45-person IT company founded in 2007. DreamOval Foundation was set up in 2013 with the aim of improving education in Ghana through training programs focused on youth, entrepreneurship, and business professionals. The organization’s core program, iTeach, uses the power of a pay-it-forward philosophy. Information and communication technologies (ICT) teachers graduate from iTeach with the skills needed to prepare their students for the digital economy while passing on their knowledge to their peers.

Challenge

There are more than 170,000 teachers working throughout Ghana. To help ensure the next generation of graduates leave school with a solid understanding of ICT, it is critical that these educators are equipped with the know-how to pass along this knowledge to their students. The DreamOval iTeach program attempts to solve this by offering school teachers a multi-day course covering various ICT topics including Microsoft Office productivity software and hardware fundamentals.

Impact

In April 2016, the iTeach program was already operational and garnering many positive reviews from those who took part. However, it needed a plan to help it scale and broaden its impact country wide. As part of the SAP Social Sabbatical for executive engagement, three executives from SAP spent two weeks on the ground in Ghana getting briefed on the program and its national aspirations, and were tasked with developing a game plan that would help iTeach reach new heights.

Spending time with the staff at DreamOval Foundation, meeting teachers across districts, and receiving briefs from the Ministry of Education helped the SAP executives gain an understanding of the challenges and opportunities for iTeach. As Angelique De Vries-Shipperjin says, “Visiting the schools and seeing how they were teaching students was really eye opening. In Europe, we teach content…but in Ghana, they also include the bigger meaning of life, the community feeling, and the drive for innovation.”

In only two weeks, a plan was created including a recommendation on restructuring the iTeach program to increase its effectiveness, heat maps highlighting which areas in Ghana should be prioritized, and an incentive program to help scale the initiative without the burden of increased costs. Wolfgang Fassnacht, an executive at SAP, commented on his experience, “Never underestimate the impact you can make. Everyone has something to give.”

Following up on the work of the executive team, DreamOval Foundation was chosen as a partner for the Africa Code Week initiative, which is led by SAP and aims to empower future generations with the coding tools and skills they need to thrive in the 21st century workforce and become key actors of Africa’s economic development. In addition, a second team with the SAP Social Sabbatical for global engagement joined DreamOval Foundation in October 2016, and was given four weeks to carry forward the work initiated by the executive team in April. With a little more time, the team composed a detailed plan that would help iTeach move closer to its ambition of bringing ICT training to all teachers in Ghana. Recommendations included expanding the program using freely accessible massive open online courses, measuring impact and success, and finding partners DreamOval Foundation could work with to extend its mission further.

To accelerate the size and scope of the iTeach program, the SAP team restructured DreamOval’s program to become a two-day basics course followed by a three-day advanced course. Teachers who complete the basics program and pass their knowledge on to three additional teachers receive a special certificate and enrollment into the advanced program. This small change makes it possible to reach far more educators without requiring additional resources.

“The impact of our engagement with SAP team has been transformational and an eye opener for the team. It’s given us an opportunity to relook at our training strategy from a different perspectives and to help us scale…in the long term we will expand the program to reach more teachers and pupils to transform Ghana for good.”

Francis Ahene-Affoh,
DreamOval Foundation, Accra, Ghana

Complementing the work around the training program, the team with SAP Social Sabbatical also supported DreamOval in implementing Africa Code Week, resulting in training 500 teachers and teaching 51,700 young people in Ghana basic coding skills.

“My favorite time in Ghana was our field visits where we met teachers and students,” says Francois Planckart, SAP Social Sabbatical for global engagement team member. “Field visits were very important so we could better understand their challenges. When we left the classroom, the children started singing in front of us, which was extremely emotional.”

Conclusion

Africa has the highest concentration of young people of any continent. Ghana’s youth, at 57% of the total population, is slightly ahead of the curve compared to its neighbors. As Ghana looks to benefit from digitization to solve issues in the public domain and gain competitive advantage in the private sector, it will be able to rely on the many students who will graduate from school with more ICT knowledge thanks to the iTeach program. With aspirations of building an ICT training center to train more teachers year round and bringing the iTeach program to other African nations, the foundation is dreaming big and SAP is happy to help.

Prior to the SAP Social Sabbatical partnership with DreamOval Foundation, approximately 60 teachers each year successfully completed the one–week ICT program. After adopting some of the proposals from the SAP Social Sabbatical for executive engagement, more than 360 teachers will receive their certificate of completion within 2017. And now DreamOval, the parent company of the DreamOval Foundation, is also a business partner with SAP as a result of the relationship developed through SAP Social Sabbatical and Africa Code Week.

“Observing the response and impact of a change to the program over the last 10 months with the collaboration with SAP has been tremendously encouraging and transformational,” says Francis Affoh of the DreamOval Foundation. “It is a sign of the progress we can expect many more teachers to benefit from the free ICT program.”

Author: Aidan Hyland.

Credit to SAP Social Sabbatical Spotlight

The Train-the-Trainer programme, dubbed Ghana TTT, was organised for 370 teachers drawn from the Greater Accra Region at the Kofi Annan ICT Centre in Accra to train the teachers, using the Scratch language developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to write basic code.

The original SAP idea was to provide customers with the ability to interact with a common corporate database for a comprehensive range of applications. SAP in German is Systeme, Anwendungen, Produkte, that is the name for “Systems Applications and Products,” which is an inter-enterprise software company.

Africa Code Week

At the opening ceremony to launch the week, the Guest of Honour and wife of the Vice President, Mrs Matilda Amissah-Arthur, urged the teachers to take the training seriously in order to make an impact when training their students during the Africa Code Week, slated for October 15–23, 2016.

She said the way to teach had transformed and it was appropriate that Ghana had been chosen to join the nations to benefit from the training.

For her part, the SAP Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Mrs Claire Gillissen-Duval, said coding was the literacy of the digital age and a whole new language for children to speak fluently and express themselves in the 21st century.

That, she said, was what brought SAP, the Cape Town Science Centre and the Galway Education Centre together to give birth to the Africa Code Week, which is an annual teacher training programme.

She added that last year, the initiative empowered 89,000 young people across 17 countries to either write their first lines of code or simply touch a computer for the first time.

Children across Africa

This year, she said the programme was targeting over 120,000 children across 31 African countries and expressed optimism that it would support efforts to transform Africa for the better.

For his part, the Business Development Manager for DreamOval, Mr Francis Ahene-Affoh, said “a monthly forum is organised by the organisation at the British Council in Accra to create a platform for the benefit of the present generation to help bridge the gap between the youth and the social culture.

The participants, who are required to teach Scratch computing during the Africa Code Week in their schools, expressed enthusiasm at the speed and new skill developed and were full of praise for the master trainers, who were drawn from Europe, Egypt and South Africa.

SAP, a global software giant based in Germany has partnered with the DreamOval Foundation to improve the quality of ICT education for teachers in Ghana.Under the partnership, SAP would assist the DreamOval Foundation to develop strategies to offer free ICT training to teachers in the country.

 This agreement was reached at a meeting between the foundation and an executive team from SAP, who were on a two-week working visit to the country.Members of the team were Mr Franz Hero, Senior Vice President, Supply Chain Management & Logistics, Dr. Wolfgang Fassnacht, Senior Vice President, Human Resource Director, Germany and Mrs. Angelique De Vries, Head of Global Pre Sales.

 Dr. Wolfgang Fassnacht, during the meeting commended the DreamOval foundation for their initiative to support ICT education in Ghana.He said the foundation’s target to train teachers from less endowed schools was the best way to spread knowledge among the whole teaching population.

 Mr Franz Hero on the other hand advised the foundation to split their training into introductory and an advance stages to make it easier for beneficiaries to impart their knowledge to other teachers. He said the visit afforded his team the opportunity to travel to Takoradi and Half Assini in the Western region, to interact with teachers who participated in the foundation’s iTeach program in ICT for 64 teachers from the Western region.

 Mr Hero noted the visit was part of SAP’s Social Sabbatical initiative to work with selected NGOs in Ghana as part of their social enterprise initiative.“It is the company’s social intervention program to support various projects in emerging economies across the globe” he added.

 The Coordinator for the foundation, Miss Mina Asabea thanked the team for their commitment to work with the foundation to improve the free ICT program for the teachers. She assured the team of the implementation of the strategic plan drawn by the team during their visit.

There are countless ways an individual or organization can add value to a person’s life and create better experiences for them. The DreamOval Foundation holds iTeach dear to its heart and has chosen to add value to the teaching and learning experience in Ghana.

Our collaboration with the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) over the past three years has opened up the minds of Teachers to the possibilities and opportunities that a basic knowledge of ICT skills can present. The ultimate goal in this is that Teachers will use their new found knowledge to enhance teaching experience inside and outside of the classroom.

This year we welcome our 4th installment of iTeach which promises to be bigger and better in many aspects. One hundred teachers from deprived schools in the Eastern Region will be gathering at Ashesi University College’s top notch facility in Berekuso for five days to receive basic ICT training from well seasoned and expert resource persons from DreamOval Ltd.  Attendees will also be inspired to become ‘Tech Savvy Teachers’ during a motivational session led by Dr. Esi Ansah (co founder/ CEO of Axis Human Captial Ltd. and Lecturer at Ashesi University College). To bring iTeach 2013 to a grand close we have the MTN Ghana Foundation providing awards to the most outstanding teachers and Ghana’s Second Lady Mrs. Matilda Amissah-Arthur to grace the occasion.

Three days before  the October edition of DOTTS, Keren (a colleague) walked to my desk and whispered “Ese we would like you to coordinate DOTTS this Friday” I startled…looked around me and came back to look at her face and asked, “why should I do it?” I startled not because I couldn’t do what she was asking me to do, but I realized I haven’t been to any DOTTS session before. Moreover, I was barely a month old with this wonderful and amazing family (we call ourselves DOers).

When Keren left my table I started to ponder, I hadn’t hosted any program in ages. Truth is I didn’t prepare until the day came. Few hours to the event, I was handed the programme outline and a BIO of the guest speaker.

At about 6:00pm my colleagues and I began to head towards the venue. When I entered the hall I could count about 6 to 10 people who were chit chatting. Before the programme began, there was time for networking while guests were served with soft drinks and some pastries to nibble on if you were hungry. That was just timely because most of us were tired and hungry. We couldn’t help but do justice.

A lot more people trooped in during the network session and before i knew it, it was time to set the ball rolling. Beginning with a prayer and a brief introduction of what DOTTS is all about, I got my audience looking and listening to me with rapt attention. The nervousness was gone and I just had to flow. I interacted with a few and smiled to the crowd which made them connect with me. Since this was my first time at DOTTS, I had the opportunity to make this my way and have a style that will make everyone comfortable. Before I could finish telling the audience about DOTTS, KSM walked in and I began to feel a bit nervous. Why do I have to feel intimidated because our guest of honour is in? I asked myself. Come on Ese….you’ve got this! And I took control once again, wowing the audience.

After the introduction, KSM took the floor. As usual, he broke the ice with a joke. There was never a dull moment through his presentation. KSM was undoubtedly compelling just holding our attention with his wise words and witty jokes.

KSM shared fond memories from his childhood and how he was always among the last in his class. In fact his teacher referred to him as “Tiwee”(in his own words meaning dumb). His father described him as a boy who did things haphazardly but accurately (what a description). He shared with us most of what he went through growing up from how he realized he had Sickle cell, which made him unable to go to Mfantsipim, his preferred choice. Instead, he went to PRESEC for a year. Thankfully, his father was the moderator of the Presbyterian church by then.

I wish I could go on and on to tell you about all that he shared with us that evening. Ahaaa….before I forget, he was in NAFTI for a year and it was there that his creativity kicked in. He played a one man show as seven distinct characters. He confessed that he hadn’t had any show of that nature ever since. Can you a imagine? ADONBILIVIT! One person playing seven characters. How did he do that? Trust me that must be a lot of work.

After that particular show, a man from the crowd met him and advised he furthers his education in the United States. In the US, KSM studied Drama and Communications. It was in the United States that he realized a drastic change in his academic performance and he became one of the best students.

I can go on and on and on…during his presentation, he will chip in jokes here and there…of course, you have to expect that from someone who has a very high sense of humor. I learnt a few things; that whether or not the system favours you, you need to question the “HOW”. In that case, you are not limiting your creativity to knowledge. No matter how knowledgeable you are, if you don’t apply it to creativity, it won’t work. We need to do more than just learning. We need to apply. It makes us better people.

My first DOTTS was just amazing. I give God the glory that I made my bosses and colleagues proud. Everybody was proud of me and I was happy I “killed” it.

Written By;

Lydia Esenam Adzimah

DO Foundation Believes in The Creation, Sharing And Utilizing Of Knowledge