ADMI - (does) Africa Deserve Mediocre Institutes?
I must admit that the title is a bit caustic. And this post should be taken as my personal answer to that question. Africa does not deserve mediocre educational instituions. By exercising my freedom of speech, I would like to present a review of the Africa Digital Media Institute, as an insider. Generally I am not the kind of person who speaks negatively and publicly of his previous work experiences, yet here there is so many wrong things going on, that I’ve decided to at least inform people of my truth. I hope that the message is clear, no hatred or disparaging speech, just a presentation of factual happenings, hoping for things to become better.
Nevertheless, there was a final nail to the proverbial coffin that motivated me to make everything public: in the past months my inbox was besieged with solidarity messages from my Kenyan friends. All this commotion was caused by a Facebook post which I published, to highlight some of the racial discrimination I’ve experienced in the institution in which I was teaching: ADMI, also know as Africa Digital Media Institute. It was so unfortunate and has hit me so hard that I preferred to not renew any form of collaboration with them. Before going into details, let me explain, in my opinion, why you should not waste your money and time on this place, and why as a professional I think it offers a substandard quality education, at least in the department I was teaching.
The Africa Digital Media Institute was founded in 2011 as JFTA and rebranded in 2015 in ADMI and is basically a College which offers technical education in subjects like Sound Engineering and Music Production amongst others.
It could have been an institute that showcased African excellence, in terms of technical/vocational education. Why not?
My experience as an Adjunct Faculty member
In 15 months of teaching there, I’ve cumulated so many stories and anecdotes that I would need 3 blogs to tell you all of them. So, let me just give you my opinion on what is factual.
As far as I’m concerned, the main problem of ADMI is that, in most of the cases, they do not care about the quality of the teaching, content and lecturers. In my departments I’ve seen people with very few years of experience (countable with the fingers of one hand) covering important roles. In addition to this, very few people had an interview or an alternative way to prove their teaching skills. And is not because of the lack of experienced workers in Kenya (which is still very few), but because a real professional will hardly accept to be paid less than 1000 KShs per hour of teaching, as well as taking care of other teaching responsibilities for free (as it is not covered in the contract) i.e. all the other duties that a teacher should attend to: creating customized homeworks, correcting them, personalizing the contents based on the students of that semester. In addition, a person should also double check his invoices and the related salary: in more than one occasion I found that my invoice was forged, changed and corrected without any form of notification. And also, teaching is not an impromptu thing, it requires passion,strong communication skills and detailed preparation. You can be an excellent technician but a bad teacher, and viceversa. It is important to look through the CV of the Adjunct Faculty Members, to have a personal idea of who can teach and who cannot.
With the amount of money every student is paying to study at ADMI, I believe that the institute can afford to source for more professionals, people with the right experience to teach, people that basically know what happens on the field and the skills needed. Also, one semester at ADMI costs much more even than the more blazoned SAE. The programmes are muddled: for example there is no clear distinction between a Music Producer and a Sound Engineer, so they end up studying the wrong things, wasting their time. Or worse, studying the same subject 3 or 4 times.
I am not saying that there should not be a profit: Education is a business, and it is a legitimate right to ask for the correct amount of money. But the situation here is that after an investment by the family or the student of almost 5m KShs (almost 1500$ per semester), the student is still not nearly ready to work in this industry. According to how I work, being at this level would not even warrant an interview to intern with me.
It is not a surprise that amongst the institution I’ve worked with globally, ADMI has an alarming dropout rate: during the first semester one can have a class of 40+ people, just to reach the last semester with 5 or 6 students, who keep on with the program just because they’ve almost finished their Certificate. If you get a chance to speak with current or former students, they are very demoralized by the school, addressing it as a “waste of time and money”.
Is ADMI realistic?
Even the introduction of a Quality Assurance Team did not remedy the situation. In fact, considering their numbers it made it worse. I cannot blame such a team: teaching technical subjects is not like teaching accounting, it requires a different approach in planning, organizing and creating an educational framework that only a professional could understand. I really embrace the fact that a school needs a tight series of systems and platform, where the contents can be propagated, but these platforms and systems should be tailored to a specific way of teaching, and not compromise the teaching/learning experience to necessarily fit in that given system.
To further illustrate how disconnected, as far as I’m concerned, the ADMI’s decision makers are from the reality of the field, let me give you an encounter: at the very start of my experience at ADMI it was proposed to me that I teach Mastering. Now, for the less technical of you, Mastering is a subject you can begin learning after years of experience in audio production, as it requires a very deep understanding of sound and music. I voiced my concerns to the Head of Education, that my students weren’t ready for such a subject. In a whole class, only few of them passed that specific exams (while they brilliantly performed in other subjects I was teaching). The importance of marketing, sometimes!
I saw a progressive decline in the quality of the teaching team and, I will not been surprised if in a few months former students will start to become teachers.
I am unaware if they investigated on the high number of dropouts and if thet tackled the issue in a serious way. What I am sure about is that they tried to motivate us by creating a referral system, which felt like charity. We are talking about a dinner for 2 worth 100$. But only after you brought in 10 students! Even without doing the math I felt very offended: in a respectable Institution, teachers will spontaneously bring students, by advertising said school, without the need of an incentive. I think that the effort put in thinking and diffusing such an initative could have been put in something more constructive, that would have been to benefit of students as well as teachers, without vaguely resembling a Ponzi scheme.
And the gears?
At least one positive thing: the film department is well equipped. But only that department! In the department I was teaching the equipment purchased was a result of a series of bad advice, things that don’t make any sense if combined. For example, I was teaching Multitrack Recording, without any piece of equipment that would have allowed me to execute a Multitrack Recording. Other colleagues were teaching Microphones techniques without having a basic selection of microphones. And some of the requests were bluntly ignored. We were left alone to teach at our best capabilities, considering the circumstances. Another example: for the semesters I was there, I had access to a C24 (a console worth 3m KShs/30000$) but I was forced to use a 100$ soundcard, because of lack of the right software. At some point, due to desperation, I used my own original software. Pro-bono, of course.
Keep in mind that every student pays an amount of money that is expensive in any other country or continent.
Since I am talking about software, what’s the software’s situation? In my case I was very unlucky: colleagues and admin staff that were promoting software piracy, installing, distributing and encouraging the use of cracked software! What kind of morals does a teacher instill and encourage in a student if these behaviours are in place? And please, let’s stop saying that softwares are expensive. Nowadays, if you are smart enough you can get original and legit software almost for free. And if you are a professional, a real one, making money with these softwares, I don’t see why you should not buy the originals and support the developers.
I was even asked by some of my former colleagues in the admin department, to give the school digital copies of books I intended to adopt for my classes. With digital copies they intended to retrieve straight from Torrent. I find that extremely unprofessional and unethical.
Are the students safe?
Physically, if we don’t consider whiteboards falling and chairs breaking down, yes. What I found alarming was the fact that psicologically speaking these students aren’t safe or guarded. By the law, an institution should offer a counseling service, in fact I’ve only seen that service working for a short period of time, with a “Try-for-free” formula. First session for free, the rest you pay. There is no safety net for the most fragile students. The only mean is to talk in confidence with a teacher, but how many teachers can assolve the role of a “confident”? And I can assure you that when a student refers to the institution where he studied as a “bluff”, a lot of personal concerns are raised, and together with the pressures of a daily life, it might simply become too much for some individuals.
What about the discrimination?
From my point of view, it seems like discrimination, but feel free to correct me if it’s not. At some point, when I was an Adjunct Faculty at ADMI, I felt treated differently by most of my colleagues, a rudeness beyond professional courtesy – not to mention how they’ve lost several invoices of mine and I got paid late one semester – and after requesting and having a meeting with the Human Resource Officer, the guy trivialized the problem and closed the meeting with something like: “Well Marco, it’s not fair for you to feel discriminated because you are white”.At that moment, they crossed the Rubicon. As if how and what we feel is dictated by the color of our skin or how we are made. To add on this, the actual management, the Founder Wilfred Kiumi and the Managing Director Laila Macharia never formally excused on the behalf of my esteemed colleague nor rejected or condemned this behaviour. Instead, I received repressive and threatening communication from them, to delete that Facebook post (I posted about this racist incident on Facebook). Throughout all of this, they involved one of my former students that “dared” to share my post, just to express his disappointment. Coincidentally, the meeting was recorded, and I have the audio. Don’t start salivating! I am not diffusing it without the consent of the interested person, but after listening to it over and over, I am sure I was not mistaken.
How unprofessional and unethical is it to try and limit my freedom of speech, by peeping at my private profile and telling me what to not post, even with no direct reference to ADMI?
In a nutshell
It’s so sad that unfortunately ADMI turned out to be such an environment, where the student is called a “Kid” and its education is the last of the concerns. Its humble beginnings really made me hope for good things!
I really tried, on my side, to push the interests of the school, by offering unique quality content and teaching, to make it shine, but all my attemps culminated in calumnious actions, probably dictated by the jealousy and ill-will of someone. Yes, there is more I can talk about, but let me refrain from doing so for the moment.
Very disappointing ADMI, from an Institution that defines itself internationally oriented, the world is expecting a different course of actions from you!
Luckily yes. I am very active on Skillshare.com where I teach what I love the most in the way I find more appropriate. And if you follow my referral, you’ll get two months for free! Or you can even hit me up and have something tailored for your needs.
See you soon!
(And be aware of scams)