Feb 25, 2021

Update from Ashinaga HQ

Thank you all for your ongoing support. 

 

Ashinaga Africa Initiative staff is working hard from home to ensure that Scholars can successfully continue their studies through the challenges that 2020 has presented. Currently, our week-long International Tsudoi leadership camp is taking place for Scholars who are studying in Japan. 

 

The Student Relations Team, Professional Development Team, Graduates and Alumni Team, as well as many other staff at HQ, have spent the last few months planning a completely remote one-week-long program. This online event has been careful tailored to the needs of the Scholars, specifically second and third-year students. Together, they will meet online to hear from experts in various industries, share thoughts, as well as develop their professional, personal, and academic skills.

 

On another note, our Recruitment team has closed applications for the incoming 2021-22 cohort. The team will now begin the review process and hold interviews online due to current travel restrictions. Though it will be challenging, lessons learned in 2020 helped Ashinaga staff to prepare for this continued shift online. 

 

Thank you again for your support, and for the most up-to-date information on the Ashinaga Africa Initiative, please check out our regularly updated website. 

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Feb 22, 2021

Internship Update from Ashinaga

Walter and Patience on-sight at their internship
Walter and Patience on-sight at their internship
A core component of the AAI program is the mandatory internship (8 weeks or longer), that scholars must complete in sub-Saharan Africa while in the program.

For the past couple of years, we have partnered with many companies and offered scholars a chance to gain working experience in Africa. This year, however, their opportunities were affected by the global pandemic, like the rest of the World. 

There was one opportunity was born out of the shared interest for business in Africa among Ashinaga Foundation, Big Wave Kawasaki, an automobile recycling and spare parts business based in Oita Japan, and looking to expand their activities in Africa, and Qunie, a leading consulting firm of NTT DATA Group with a wide range of activities in Africa.  

The two Scholars who were invited to complete the internship, Patience and Walter, are from Uganda and both pursuing undergraduate studies in Japan. This offered them a unique insight into the car parts import/export industry that ties Japan to several African countries, including Cameroon where Big Wave Kawasaki currently has operations.


The internship provider took a great approach with the scholars, allowing them access to many of their business operations, including their dedicated strategy to developing an environmentally-sound business, with emphasis on building a recycling-oriented society. To conclude their internship, the scholars presented their learning to an audience of members from Ashinaga, AFRECO, Mainichi Newspaper, Mainichi Advertisement, and Qunie, all partners who contributed to creating this opportunity. 

Patience, as a business major, enjoyed the insights in business modeling and mentioned her interest in exploring the possibility to establish a similar business model to that being conducted in Cameroon in Uganda.  

As a mechanical engineering major, Walter appreciated the opportunity for a concrete application of his theoretical knowledge. Having an early understanding of the power of a powerful network, they also shared their excitement to have now expanded theirs and met potential mentors, future employers, and business partners.

The synergy highlighted by this unique collaboration between three actors is one in which Ashinaga strongly believes in. Both Big Wave Kawasaki and Qunie recognized the value in the fresh perspective from the future African Leaders that are the AAI Scholars.  

While Ashinaga will now explore ways to make this opportunity a consistent one, we also strive to develop similar ones with new partners. We are particularly eager to develop such opportunities with companies with operations in Africa interested in interns/employees with an international outlook.  

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Feb 22, 2021

Ashinaga Uganda Completes Online Preparation Camp

The students and staff during Preparation Camp
The students and staff during Preparation Camp

The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the way education is delivered, and this has also been the case at Ashinaga Uganda. In October, Ashinaga Uganda launched the Study Camp, the first leg of the Ashinaga Africa Initiative’s Preparation Year. What used to be an in-person camp held at the Ashinaga Kokorojuku, this year completely moved to the cloud. 16 students from 16 different Anglo- and Lusophone countries, as well as Ashinaga staff working from Japan, Europe, Brazil, and various African countries, met daily on Zoom. The Camp was scheduled to start at the beginning of July in Nansana, Uganda, but to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 7th Cohort of AAI Candidates attended all the classes online.

 

For the last seven years, this six-month intensive program has been an opportunity for students to strengthen their ability to perform well at standardized tests such as IELTS or SAT, to work on their university applications, and to develop leadership skills. On top of this formal development, there are several extracurricular activities and events aimed at fostering Candidates’ pan-African identity and develop their kokorozashi. This would be a challenging aspect to recreate online Zoom calls. However, we place Scholars’ safety over every other thing. The risk of infection in our facility in Nansana, together with the restrictions of air travel across the world, let us adapt our safety measures and deliver a brand-new curriculum online.

 

Among the challenges that Ashinaga faces by running the Study Camp remotely is the reliance on fast internet and stable electricity, which are not broadly available to the 16 students enrolled in the camp. The World Bank estimates that less than a third of the African population has access to broadband. Even Ashinaga’s facilities in Uganda struggle to maintain stable and reliable access to the internet. To overcome this issue, we surveyed all students and estimated the cost of providing the hardware and internet connection required to attend the camp. Then we delivered over 500 USD to each student to purchase a laptop, a mobile router, and data bundles. While some students are able to charge their laptops from home, others need to rely on their neighbours or schools to recharge their equipment. Students demonstrated leadership and a spirit of initiative in overcoming these issues. Mustapha, from Sierra Leone, decided to relocate to the capital, Freetown, to attend the camp. He says, “The only challenge I face is my movement. I completely abandoned my village to join the remote camp and access faster internet services in Freetown.” Debora from Zambia also identified the instability of her internet connection as the biggest challenge she was facing.

 

A significant alteration to this year’s Study Camp has to do with how we deliver classes. This year we were not able to have interns, who previously came to Nansana from across the world to tutor students on standardized exams and offer university application guidance. The intercultural exchange between students and interns was another component that enriched the camps and provided a diverse learning experience. In order to maintain the quality of learning, Ashinaga Uganda partnered with Berkeley House for IELTS preparation and The Profs for SAT lessons. These professional tutors are training the students to familiarize themselves with the content of the exams and strengthen their scores gradually. Reflecting on the Camp so far, a student from Zimbabwe, Bheki, says shared that “Though it’s a little bit stressful and overwhelming, l have been trying to keep up with the pace and manage my time wisely. I’m really enjoying my IELTS classes and am grateful to the Ashinaga team for arranging different activities to complement the work on the personal statements and research project.”

Due to the limited capacities of an online Study Camp, the focus has shifted to support student’s university applications which involve strengthening students’ academic aspirations and plans for the future. On top of this, there are a series of classes that are run to develop their academic preparation. This includes learning about citations, referencing, and plagiarism, as well as learning about Ashinaga’s values, philosophy and leadership. Plans are currently underway to run a Preparation Camp in person, in which we hope to focus on the preparation of students to live and study abroad. After three weeks of Study Camp, the feedback has been positive: Bohang from Lesotho says, “If I were to say one word to explain these three weeks of the remote study camp, I would say no word other than, “FANTASTIC”. The camp is run superbly well; I am totally satisfied with the support that the staff members give to us during this camp.”

 

The Study Camp ran until mid-December. We will continue to monitor the risks and limitations related to COVID-19. Ashinaga hopes students and staff will be able to run the second part of the Preparation Year safely in person, starting from April 2021. The students will carry on with their academic and professional training, then during the summer, they will apply for visas for their universities abroad. If everything goes according to plan, Scholars will travel to Japan, the UK, the USA later next year.

 

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