Automated Generation of Metadata for Studying and Teaching about Africa from an Africancentric Perspective: Opportunities, Barriers and Signs of Hope
Bangura, Abdul Karim
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As ironical as it may seem, most of what I know today about African history I learned in the West, and the opportunities availed to me to travel back and forth to conduct research in Africa were made possible by living in the United States. Yet, as I have demonstrated in a relatively recent work (Bangura, 2005), after almost three centuries of employing Western educational approaches, many African societies are still characterized by low Western literacy rates, civil conflicts and underdevelopment. It is obvious that these Western educational paradigms, which are not indigenous to Africans, have done relatively little good for Africans. Thus, I argued in that work that the salvation for Africans hinges upon employing indigenous African educational paradigms which can be subsumed under the rubric of ubuntugogy, which I defined as the art and science of teaching and learning undergirded by humanity towards others. Therefore, ubuntugogy transcends pedagogy (the art and science of teaching), andragogy (the art and science of helping adults learn), ergonagy (the art and science of helping people learn to work), and heutagogy (the study of self-determined learning). As I also noted, many great African minds, realizing the debilitating effects of the Western educational systems that have been forced upon Africans, have called for different approaches. One of the biggest challenges for studying and teaching about Africa in Africa at the higher education level, however, is the paucity of published material. Automated generation of metadata is one way of mining massive datasets to compensate for this shortcoming. Thus, this essay raises and addresses the following three major research questions: (1) What is automated generation of metadata and how can the technique be employed from an Africancentric perspective? (2) What are the barriers for employing this approach? (3) What signs are on the horizon that point to possibilities of overcoming these barriers? After addressing these questions, conclusions and recommendations are offered.