African Maths Initiative Blogs

SASMU bootcamp

In the quest to promote good statistical practices, Society of Applied Statistics of Maseno University (SASMU) organised a statistics boot camp last week. Among the invited guests was African Maths Initiative (AMI), together with Perfect Research, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Nyanza Reproductive Organization and many others. The boot camp was a three-day event covering different aspects of statistics (data analysis, data cleaning, statistical packages, data collection) that are vital in learning, understanding and practicing statistics. Other invited guests were practicing statisticians and data analysts and hence gave the students a glimpse of what happens in the real world and encouraged them to take statistics seriously. One of the key messages was that data has become the new soil of modern society. Statistics is in every field. This means statisticians will never lack opportunities to play an active role in society by practicing their art.

During the first day, AMI had two sessions. One in mid-morning and another in the afternoon. During the first session, Maxwell Fundi gave a presentation about AMI, including an overview of the initiatives AMI is carrying. John Lunalo then introduced the African Data Initiative(ADI) by showing and commenting the campaign video, and facilitating a lively questions and answers session about the project.

In the afternoon, a demonstration of R-Instat was given.  The ADI team started by illustrating the worryingly low statistical literacy of African graduates by the use of a case study conducted in the African Institute of Mathematical Science (AIMS Tz). This institution admits very bright students across Africa with backgrounds in mathematics and statistics. The data showed how many statistics courses AIMS students had taken during their undergraduate studies, if they used datasets, and if they had used a statistics package. Despite the fact most students had taken numerous statistics courses, very few had worked with data or even statistics package. The point being that an open-source software like R-Instat is aiming to fill in such gaps in the statistical empowerment of countries in Africa and worldwide.

The actual demonstration of R-Instat was then performed. Students were guided through different menus and functionalities of the software. Specific tasks such as loading data, dealing with dates and organising data using right clicks on the grid were extensively illustrated. The description capabilities of the software were showed as well, including summaries and graphics production using ggplot2 R package. A last comment about the translation was made.

On the second day, the AMI team offered a session on research methods which was led by Mike and Laetitia. During this session, the attendees were grouped and given datasets to look at. Different types of research questions, and ways to use data to drive answers were discussed. A few groups tried to use R-Instat. The whole team was supporting the students in different aspects including installing R-instat on some machines, commenting on the data analysis and providing general advice. Students showed quick understanding of how to use stats packages and achieved to produce more or less extensive analysis of their data in a rather short period of time. We also supported SPSS and Stata sessions in the afternoon.

On the final day, the groups presented their work and were provided with questions to stimulate their thinking and feedback to improve their presentations and statistical practices. After an interesting presentation of Perfect Research, consultants in Statistical analysis, the country coordinator for the new upcoming group called the Kenya Young Statisticians presented its project to the audience. She emphasized the benefits of initiatives like SAMSUS, in reflexion with the aims of her own organisation. Finally, ADI summarized the different steps in data collection, management., and treatment covered during the boot camp. The team members shared their work experience with the students and encouraged volunteering work to acquire experience and opportunities in fields of interest.

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