As an agribusiness student, I experienced a life-changing learning event as problem-based learning advocate.
My visit to the RUFORUM meeting was part of the HAMK coordinated PBL-BioAfrica project that strengthens Kenya’s and Zambia’s higher education by promoting problem-based learning (PBL) and providing real-life based learning experiences to students. HAMK Africa projects actively cooperate with RUFORUM, a network of 129 African agricultural higher education institutions (HEIs), to upscale modern teaching and learning methods to HEIs around Africa.
This was my first time attending such a magnificent event, and so I had many expectations. I was excited to get practical experience and opportunities for networking. This differed a lot from my usual learning experience of sitting in the classroom and listening to lectures.
Great experiences at the conference
My interaction with other students began right upon arriving in Harare. During the whole conference, I attended multiple different sessions such as R-programming training, scientific and innovation sessions, young women mentorship, entrepreneurship mentorship clinic, and many more.
However, my greatest experience was working on the PBL stand in the exhibition hall, where I interact with people and distributed brochures. Although I did not have an independent stand for PBL, I was able to set my own PBL “office” (Figure 1) on the university of Zambia’s stand, where my rollers were set.
It was my first time exhibiting and interacting with so many people. I felt nervous, but as more and more people kept coming to my stand, I was able to pull myself together and attended to all my clients bravely. I happily and confidently announced the problem-based learning approach to the people visiting my stand.
From my experience of participating in the conference meeting, I understood that learning by doing is the best way to teach any student, anywhere in the world.
Participating at the conference provided me with the opportunity to meet and interact with people from different countries and various professions. This greatly improved my communication skills. I learnt how to communicate with people in a convincing way that caused them to enquire more about PBL, and about opportunities to partner with the project.
Promoting PBL approach to the clients that visited my stand, improved and developed my marketing skills more than any theory taught in my theoretical marketing classes. Since I had participated in two student projects – or student challenges – using PBL approach, I found it easy to explain the aims, mission and benefits of PBL to my clients.
I was equipped with self-confidence that has boosted my self-esteem. Moreover, I was able to make friends and create networks from the interactions I had on my PBL stand.
A motivation boost
The RUFORUM meeting provided me a huge motivation boost towards my studies, my future career and life in general.
I was motivated to see and meet the RUFORUM-sponsored graduates who are now working in the industry, applying what they were taught during their studies to produce tangible goods and services, and giving back to their communities. I also got motivation from the young female entrepreneurs, who are transforming Africa for the better through their contributions to science and innovation.
Through this experience, I have been motivated to study hard and become an agent of change in Zambia and the world at large.
My message for the students at my home university and other educational institutions here in Zambia and across Africa is that we must be the drivers of change in our communities, and fight against hunger and other challenges to attain a sustainable future.
In conclusion, I loved the experience I got from the conference meeting, as my life will never be the same. I want to thank the PBL-BioAfrica project and HAMK, for enabling me to attain amazing skills from the interaction at the conference.
Florence Chambabulele, final year student of Agribusiness Management at Mulungushi University
Satu Määttänen, Research assistant in HAMK Bio