Transforming Education & Changing Lives: Innovation Hub Update

MATTER Innovation Hub Update

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, I arrived with my family in Zimbabwe because MATTER made the decision to invest in accelerating the Innovation Hub program- not just cheerlead the program from the sidelines 8,000 miles away in Minneapolis, but engage to push forward the idea that student-centric learning is transforming education and changing lives.

Our first high school Innovation Hub in Victoria Falls opened a year ago this month- it had an amazing one-month start…and then the Omicron variant hit, schools closed, and city-wide lockdowns restarted. The school didn’t partially reopen until the end of February of 2022, and it looked like yet another year of lost learning was in the cards.

Far from it. Students eagerly dove into the MIH material. Students excelled in coding, robotics, music, art…at one school fundraiser, $1500 was raised from selling digital student artwork made in the Innovation Hub. Students in the Hub created original music that caught the attention of international artists who brought their recording equipment into the Hub to professionally record the student’s song. Deputy Headmistress Mrs. Msimanga said the “Hub has been a gift to us all because any child succeeding in the Hub is succeeding for their community.”

A year ago, three Innovation Hubs struggled with lockdowns and curfews. Ten months later, six Innovation Hubs are thriving-both in urban and rural settings, and in schools for the disabled and schools for the privileged. Zimbabwe children are embracing student-centric learning, and they are hungry for more.

We’re confident that the coming 2023 school year will show us once again what a difference another year can make in transforming education and changing lives.

-Jeremy Newhouse, Chief of Finance Strategy & Africa Projects

Reflections on the Year

Hello. My name is Tsitsi Murohoke and I’m the lead facilitator for the MATTER Innovation Hub (MIH) at Victoria Falls Primary School. As we come to the end of our school year here in Zimbabwe, I asked several of my colleagues from different Innovation Hubs around our country to share with me their reflections on the year. What follows are our thoughts about how our students were impacted by learning in a MATTER Innovation Hub and what it means for their futures.

transforming education changing lives
Tsitsi Murohoke at the Jamf Nation User Conference in San Diego in September 2022.

One of the biggest areas of growth we saw in our students this year, besides learning technology, was in their creativity and critical thinking skills. Because the emphasis in the MIH is on self-learning, it doesn’t take long before we see our students’ self-confidence blossom. This usually stimulates their desire to learn more and create more. Many of our students who began the year rather reserved, surprised us as the year progressed with their creativity in the areas of drawing, creating music, coding, etc.

For instance, a popular app among our students is GarageBand. Working together, our students compose original songs and then add instruments. This not only requires learning new technical skills but also the willingness to share their ideas with others and work through the process together. This in turn enhances their critical thinking skills. It’s always rewarding for us as facilitators to see their excitement as they share their completed songs with the class. This year, one of their songs was actually recorded by one of Zimbabwe’s top vocal artists! Her visit to the MIH was a day those students will never forget.

We’ve also seen our students develop their leadership skills. Some of our students began the year very shy and would rather whisper their answers to those sitting next to them than say anything out loud. By the end of the year though, these same students had overcome their fears and were eagerly contributing to the class.

One of the major highlights this year for the MIH at Victoria Falls Primary School was completing the alignment of our curriculum with Zimbabwe’s ICT (Information and Communication Technology) curriculum. Though I’m still working on aligning our high school curriculum, this is a big step forward for the MATTER Innovation Hub program in Zimbabwe. In addition, we experienced many visitors interested in the program, including the Ministry of Education Officials, as well as people from different countries.

transforming education changing livesI want to close by telling you about one of our students, Leisel Hulley, who’s in grade 4 at Victoria Falls Primary School. Like most kids’ first time in the Hub, Leisel was unsure of what to do and needed help in each lesson almost every step of the way. But then she began to explore and discover things on her own. Leisel had a lot of potential, but she was rather too reserved and would not easily volunteer information. Her confidence was boosted by showing others what she discovered using AirPlay. From there, she really took off. Leisel is creative in many things like art and creating presentations, and has excelled in coding. In fact, she is the first student in grade 4 to reach Learn to Code Level 2. We are sure Leisel will grow up to be a confident, outspoken, creative, critical thinker and we are so proud of her!

Thank you to everyone who supports the MATTER Innovation Hub program. By transforming education, it is changing lives every day. Even the teachers here are being impacted. It has opened up their teaching methods to be more student-centered rather than the traditional teacher-centered approach. We are confident this new approach to learning will increase opportunities for the children of Zimbabwe to have a brighter future. 

Reaching for the Stars

transforming education changing livesEarlier this year, we told you about an amazing young man named Terence who went through the Innovation Hub at the Mosi High School in Zimbabwe in the fall of 2021. Though Terence spent only three weeks in the Hub before graduating, he set a record for the fastest student to complete Swift Playground Level 2 coding. After graduating, Terence continued in the Hub, completing Level 3, while volunteering as a coding consultant.

This year, Terence has been working hard to achieve coding certification with Jamf and Apple. In October, he completed the Apple certification requirements of App Development with Swift. This is a huge achievement and we could not be more proud of this extraordinary young man! In fact, thanks in large part to Terence’s determination and dedication, a new initiative is in the works: job creation for students coming out of the Innovation Hub classroom. A year-long professional development training course is in development to qualify students, like Terence, for internships with Jamf and other US companies, giving them the potential opportunity to be hired as remote employees.

Well done, Terence! Keep reaching for the stars!

To learn more about the MATTER Innovation Hub, please go here. To learn how you can sponsor a student, please go here for details.