The University of Newcastle, Australia

After a life-threatening childhood illness, Jean-Marc defied the odds, returned to school and embarked on a lifelong love affair with education. Today he holds four masters qualifications and is Head of Partnerships and Online Training at the Open and Distance Learning Institute at The University of Ouaga II in Burkina Faso.

Jean-Marc chats to UON about his formative years at school, his love of travel and education as well as his hopes and dreams for the next generation of students in Burkina Faso.

Can you tell us a little about your most recent roles and describe what you enjoy most about your work?

The University of Ouaga II recruited me to help set up the open and distance learning institute as Head of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) after I completed my studies at the University of Newcastle. In this role that lasted for two years, I was responsible for choosing ICT tools and learning management systems that fit the university’s mission. It was very challenging, first because there are so many learning management systems, and also because we are limited by means and connectivity.

The University Ouaga II is a young university with lots of challenges such as dealing with large numbers of students within the context of lack of infrastructure (classrooms etc.), human resources, poor Internet links and a low rate of computer literacy. How do you design ICT-based learning systems for people living in this condition? What is rewarding about my work, however, is when you see that by the magic of the web, you can build a learning system that can reach students everywhere.

I still work in a technology role as part of the open and distance learning institute but now I am in charge of partnerships and designing training packages and online tutorials for students.

Can you (briefly) describe the career path that took you to this leadership role as Head of ICT at the University of Ouaga II?

My background is in linguistics and literature. When I started working as a French teacher at a high school, I was given the opportunity to study multimedia in order to reinforce my way of teaching. I enjoyed this training so much that I decided to deepen my knowledge in the use of these new teaching tools so I completed a Masters degree in Education, with an ICT component. Following my graduation, the Distance Learning Centre of Ouagadougou, a World Bank and the Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) project, recruited me as a project training coordinator.

When the project ended, I had the opportunity to study Human Resource Management at the University of Newcastle. I was interested in strategies, tips and policies for human resources development. It was after completing this Masters that I was recruited by the University of Ouaga II to set up e-learning programs through the newly established open and distance learning institute.

Have you always been interested in ICT and if so why?

Not always! I heard about computer science in the 1990s when at school we were studying the impact of colonisation in Africa. I thought the computer was another means for European countries to colonise Africa again. Therefore, I tried to avoid all the courses organised by the university to provide students with computer literacy. When I was chosen among colleagues to attend training in the use of multimedia in education, I did not know that it was all about the use of ICT. As French people say, “appetite comes by eating”, and it really came for me with ICT. Now, I have become a champion in helping people use these ICT tools to facilitate their job, particularly in learning.

Do you have any advice for others looking to pursue a career in this industry?

I encourage those who are interested in computing to do their best to learn about how to design and use ICT tools to help facilitate work and life. Particularly for Africans and poor countries; computer science and ICT represent a chance to make change. We have no means to build heavy industries, but it is easy to design software and ICT facilities. I’m really encouraged by the emergence of many software and utility start-up organisations set up by young Africans.

Has learning played an important part in your life and if so can you tell me why?

Learning really played an important role in my life. I was born in a small village in the Cote d’Ivoire. My parents were farmers. Early in my childhood, during the first year of school, I was stricken by hemiplegia and lost the use of my right hand and leg. After months in a hospital, my parents were not expecting me to return to school, but I insisted I go back, and I performed well. Now, I have four Master’s degrees in literature, linguistics, education and human resource management, respectively, as well as a number of vocational diplomas in pedagogy, multimedia and communication. I have travelled the world sharing best practice techniques for using ICT in training and I am considered a key expert on education in my country. So yes, learning has had a huge and continued impact on my life!

What did you study at the University of Newcastle and how has your masters helped your career?

I studied Human Resource Management, which really helped me in my current role designing training materials, learning packages and online tutorials for students and workers. I am also now tutoring students in modules that relate to human resource management. More generally, my Masters qualification has helped me resolve people’s issues related to work and their relationships with family and others.

Can you tell us a little about the award you won in 2014 for ‘Best Practitioner’ organised by the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union. How did you feel?

One of our partners, the Francophone Universities Agency on behalf of the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union, organised a workshop that gathered teachers from the public universities and institutes of Ouagadougou. During this workshop, we were trained in how to design training materials. We were asked at the end of the workshop to put what we learned into practice. The materials I designed were seen by trainers and trainees to be the best and therefore I won! For me it was the result of many years of hard work and I was pleased that my efforts were recognised by experienced colleagues.

What career goals are you yet to achieve? What is next for you?

My dream now is to complete a PhD in order to become a full academic.  What is challenging is how to balance my job, family and research to achieve it! I have also just launched my own private school named “The Educative Society”. So far, we've built three classrooms with just 32 students in their fourth year of secondary school. I want to raise funds to build and equip further classrooms to help more young Africans achieve their educational dreams.

Where will NEW take you?

Jean-Marc Yameogo

Master of Human Resource Management graduate Jean-Marc Yameogo is giving back to the next generation of students in Burkina Faso.

My postgraduate Masters in Human Resource Management really helped me in my current role designing training materials, learning packages and online tutorials for students and workers.