29 Oct 2021
The 6th Africa Regional Congress of ICME on Mathematical Education (AFRICA6)held online from 25th to 27th October 2021 was hosted by the University of Rwanda through the African Centre of Excellence for Innovative Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science (ACEITLMS). The valuable conference brought together around 80 mathematicians from 8 different nationalities within Africa, Europe, USA and ASIA. Presentations and deliberations evolved around theme “Teaching and Learning Mathematics in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
The AFRICME6 was hosted by the University of Rwanda through the ACEITLMS
The conference was officially opened by the Honorable Minister of Education of the Republic of Rwanda, Dr. Valentine Uwamariya. She noted that “it is a great opportunity for Rwanda to host the AFRICME6 despite the conditions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.” She added “while the presence and impact of digital technology is not debated, especially after COVID-19 disruption on society norms, the optimal ways of embedding it in the education sector remain questionable”. According to her, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is perceived as the application of an amalgam of many technologies ;therefore, its application in the teaching and learning of mathematics should be investigated further.
Looking at the technological trend like that of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics &Internet of Things and their impact on human labor, Minister Uwamariya supports that students should be well prepared to meet future skills needs. “Teachers should also possess sufficient knowledge and skills to prepare their students for the Fourth Industrial revolution (4IR).
She therefore argues that teachers’ professional development will play a key role in embracing the new pedagogy and innovative teaching practice to enhance learning. “ A particular attention should be put on Mathematics Education, since mathematics was consistently reported to be weak in African countries at all levels, which reduces the number of students who choose mathematics as professional career’’, Minister Uwamariya recommended.
Speaking on the occasion, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Rwanda, Professor Alexandre Lyambabaje, noted that mathematicians take the AFRICME6 as a great opportunity to reflect the way that could be used to improve on numeracy in our society, the way to improve on teaching & learning mathematics in Rwanda, in East Africa & in Africa as a whole. He highlighted the need to devise strategies to teach better and in an effective way mathematics at all levels from primary to university taking advantage of information and communication technologies.
The Vice Chancellor stressed the importance that the Government of Rwanda attaches to mathematics, as it indicated by heavy investment in teaching and learning as well as the use of mathematics. It is in this regard, as he said, that institutions such as the ACEITLMS, the African Centre of Excellence in Data Science, and the AIMS, among others, have been established in Rwanda.
According to him, "without mathematics it is very difficult to develop other areas of studies including law, social sciences and STEM itself.”
During the conference presentations were made on four (4) important sub-themes followed by fruitful discussions.As a result, participants were provided with insights and ideas that will enable them to shape the teaching approaches and the research areas that will make Mathematics instruction more impactful in the live of our societies.
On the side of Rwanda, the University of Rwanda’s lecturers, attending such a high profile meeting offered them an opportunity to share experiences with their peers on the best practices of teaching and learning mathematics especially during Covid-19. "We have appreciated different presentations and discussions made in groups by countries and in plenary. This allowed us to establish useful networks for future collaborations. “Through those presentations and discussions, we have realized that in Rwanda we are on the right track in mathematical education,” Dr. Jean Francois Maniraho noted.
Students who are conducting their PhD studies in Mathematics Education at ACEITLMS have also benefited a lot from the participation in the AFRICME6. "It was for me a great privilege to participate in this conference. I got the opportunity to present my research and network with other researchers. I am very happy with the feedback given by the participants.There are areas where I needed thorough understanding. It is now clear for me," Mrs. Marie Sagesse Uwurukundo said.
The Acting Principal of the University of Rwanda-College of Education, Dr. Florien Nsanganwimana also shared the same views with other speakers. “ I consider this AFRICME6 as an opportunity to share experiences, to get insights that will inform research, because research is well done when it is shared collaboratively, ’’ he said while officially closing the activities of the conference.
On the best ways to teach Mathematics and make its learning more easy and enjoyable, he emphasized the need to contextualize both the curriculum and the teaching approaches. Reflecting on the future and the collaboration among participants, Dr.Nsanganwimana articulated : “I hope this conference has been an opportunity to network though virtually, but at least we have heard each other. We thus know that this or that person is working on a similar topic or has a similar interest.”
The AFRICME6 followed the AFRICME5 which took place in Tanzania in 2018. Before the closure, the participants discussed about the future of the AFRICME.