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The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has received the Global Intelligent Community Visionary of the Year 2005 award for its NEPAD e-schools initiative from the Intelligent Community Forum in New York.

The 10-year NEPAD flagship e-schools initiative involves the establishment of an Africa-wide satellite network that will connect schools to the internet as well as to points within each country from which educational content will be fed to the schools on a continuous basis. It also involves ICT training of teachers and students, content and curriculum development, community involvement and participation, and establishment of ‘health points’.

August 2005

The Mozambique Government has signed the NEPAD e-schools Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to become the eighth African signatory.  This was closely followed by Mauritius and Egypt, with the latter becoming the tenth country to sign the MOU.The co-signatories to the MOU include the NEPAD e-Africa Commission, Microsoft and HP.

ImageThe NEPAD e-schools project is aimed at equipping young Africans with ICT skills and knowledge to enable them to compete in the information society and global economy.  Six schools have been selected by the Mozambique Government to participate in the NEPAD e-schools Demonstration Project and the launch of the first NEPAD e-school in Mozambique is expected to take place soon.

Mr. Aires Bonifacio Ali, Mozambique’s Minister of Education and Culture, stressed his Government’s commitment to supporting the NEPAD e-Schools Initiative to ensure that Mozambique was at the same development pace with other countries on the continent.

Developing the National ICT Strategy

The e-schools programme is a NEPAD initiative that is being carried out together with partners HP and Microsoft and will contribute significantly to the country’s ICT strategy for the educational sector and support the Government’s efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty.

Professor Peter Kinyanjui, who signed on behalf of NEPAD, highlighted how the NEPAD e-Africa Commission illustrated an innovative public-private partnership.

“Microsoft and HP will provide, deploy and operate appropriate technology solutions to the schools allocated to them,” he stated. “The partners will expedite the deployment of equipment in the schools, train the teachers and provide technical support in preparation for the official launch in Mozambique in the near future”.

Connecting Schools across Africa

The NEPAD e-Schools Project was first announced at the Africa Summit of the World Economic Forum in South Africa in 2003 and focuses on providing ICT solutions that will connect schools across Africa to the NEPAD e-Schools network and the Internet.

To date, Senegal, Uganda, Ghana, Lesotho, Kenya, South Africa and Rwanda have signed up for the programme and, in each country, the programme aims to transform all African secondary schools into NEPAD e-Schools within five years of the implementation start date and all African primary schools within 10 years of implementation.

It is anticipated that more than 600 000 schools across the continent will benefit from ICT and connectivity to the NEPAD e-Schools network once the project is completed.

Microsoft, HP and a number of other private companies are sponsoring the demonstration project which covers six schools in each of the participating countries for 12 months.

Mauritius takes the lead with National Implementation Agency

At the signing of the MOU in Port Louis, Mauritius, the Minister for Education and Human Resources, Mr. D. Gokhool announced that a National Implementation Agency had been set up to ensure the successful implementation of the e-Schools project. Mauritius’s lead in forming an NIA will now be replicated by the other signatories.

At the signing ceremony in Egypt, Dr. Salah Alewa, Director of the Technological Development Decision Support Centre in the Ministry of Education expressed the desire to have the official launch of e-Schools in Egypt as soon as possible.

To date, the countries participating in the programme are: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.

Source: Nepad Dialogue:Focus on Africa
For more information contact: Samuel Mikenga, Manager,
Public Communications, NEPAD e-Africa Commission
Email: SMikenga@eafricacommission.org
Tel: +27 12 841 4523

The Open University is building Capacity for Distance Learning in Africa

ImageThe Open University is the only British University dedicated to delivering learning inside Africa and has developed partnerships to deliver its innovative strategy to build capacity in higher education across the African continent. The UK’s largest university is now involved in a wide range of projects across 14 African countries, working in partnership with over three times that number of institutions.

Africa’s position in the global knowledge-based world of the 21st century will be largely determined by the quality of the educational systems and institutions in place across the continent. In order for these institutions to develop graduates equipped to deal with the challenges of Africa’s developing economies, a sharply increased focus is needed on developing the capacity of Africa’s higher education sector.

As The Open University prepares to embark on an awareness raising road show in Africa, ReConnect Africa speaks to Daniel Nti, Head of the Open Africa office, about the British organisation’s programmes in Africa and its ongoing mission to source additional partners for development.

RCA: The Open University is widely known as a UK provider of distance learning in higher education. Why has the institution also looked overseas to developing countries as part of its mandate?

DN: The Open University’s mission is centred on being open to people, places, ideas and methods. This was the founding mission of the University and, even though it started in the UK, its mission was not limited to the UK. The whole ethos of the organisation is about addressing the social justice agenda by creating access to high quality education.

Even though the founding visionaries originated in the UK, their vision was about creating access for all. As an institution, we are really addressing the social justice agenda and wherever there is a need to address inequalities in education, The Open University feels it has a role to play. As a result, the partnerships that we look to structure internationally are bound in the conviction that in a global society riven with inequalities, education is a prerequisite to social justice.

RCA: If delivering learning and building capacity is the key mission of The Open University in Africa, what is your organisation’s strategy for achieving this?

DN: In addressing the educational needs within the region, the focus of our strategy is on understanding the needs of the region from its various stakeholders and key donors and establishing partnerships with institutions that have a stake in higher education. It is also about understanding where and how money flows can be utilised to meet the specific needs of the region. Fundamentally, it’s about understanding what a nation needs. What we offer is not a product-driven approach or an approach of simply trying to entice students to come across to us. What we are offering is assistance to the region to create access to quality education, in partnership with key stakeholders, by leveraging our know-how, experience and resources.

We recognise that even though Africa is seen so often as one country, it is a continent that is extremely diverse in terms of culture and people. With our strategy, it is essential that we adopt a country by country approach and there is no assumption that one size fits all. We understand regional diversity and its requirements and we approach our work on an individual country basis, really aiming to understand what is going on so that we develop the appropriate propositions with our partners. For example, The Open University’s partnership with the Universities of Sierra Leone, Zambia and The Tanzanian Open University, put them, as local providers, in the driving seat to select, incorporate and tailor teaching materials to meet their specific needs and to ensure they are culturally and contextually appropriate.

‘We recognise that even though Africa is seen so often as one country, it is a continent that is extremely diverse in terms of culture and people….we adopt a country by country approach..’

We have set up The Open University Fund for Education in Africa that will enable us to extend existing schemes and channel more expertise into initiatives that will help build the continent’s social and economic infrastructure through education. We are approaching not just international donor organisations, but also the private sector and individual philanthropists to explain our strategy. By carefully assessing the various categories of objectives held by donors, we are able to meet their objectives and acquire from them the resources that we need to deliver.

The Open University is funded primarily for activities for the UK and so anything that we do internationally needs to be funded differently. This makes it quite important for us to also include an element of working with our partners to assess donor funding. For that reason we set up the Fund to approach international and government donors as well as private individuals and commercial institutions, both on our own and with our partners.

’We do have some work to do in changing mindsets to accepting and incorporating the blended approach to current modes of delivery as…….in Africa, our historical approach to teaching has been face to face, with an expert delivering the learning and the student accepting the learning.’

In a recent survey, our students put us on top as being the most satisfied body of students in the UK and, according to The Sunday Times University Guide 2006, we are ranked above Oxford University in terms of the quality of our teaching. It’s not just online; our approach offers a combination of books, visual materials, computer technology, online teaching and learning activities. We also have an extensive international network of face to face teaching. This approach helps to achieve very high quality results on a very large scale.

{mosimage}In Africa, given the size and disparity of the continent, this expertise offers an advantage in delivering learning across the continent. We do have some work to do in changing mindsets to accepting and incorporating the blended approach to current modes of delivery as it is not something that we have done before and therefore accept readily.

In Africa, our historical approach to teaching has been face to face, with an expert delivering the learning and the student accepting the learning. Open distance learning is less didactic and more about the student taking responsibility for their learning. The Open University material reflects intense course research by course teams to design a pedagogy that enables students to interact with the learning, leading to a more enriching way of learning for the student and creating more independent learners.

Through our International Fellowship Programme we offer international scholarships, bringing academics responsible for developing open learning to join our course teams for six months. This enables them to really understand how The Open University develops and delivers supported open distance learning. The Programme gives them the experience of how we do it, enabling them to use this knowledge to tailor their systems according to their own specific needs.

RCA: The Open University has developed an excellent programme in Ethiopia and launched an MBA programme in the country. What have been some of the outcomes of the University’s engagement with Ethiopia?

DN: We introduced our MBA programme into Ethiopia in 1992 and the first MBA graduates included the country’s President and several of his Cabinet. We are now on the sixth cohort of teaching and this is just the MBA programme. We are looking at expanding our partnership to other areas including reviewing some of their management institutions to create centres of excellence. The Open University Business School is working in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Capacity Building to look at reforming some of their key institutions across the civil service and public sector.

We are also looking at working with the Ministry of Health in areas of work-based learning, equipping and helping to meet capacity building. In addition to this, we are working in partnership with the Ministry of Education investigating the possibility of delivering Masters and PhD programmes in Science, Technology and Engineering. Their key needs are for speed, scale and quality and for that reason they see The Open University as the key partner for achieving this across the nation.

‘The Open University material reflects intense course research by course teams that enables students to interact with the learning, leading to a more enriching way of learning for the student and creating more independent learners. ’

RCA: Transforming the educational landscape of further education in Africa will rely heavily on engaging young people as part of the process. How does The Open University envisage the contribution of young people to developing and implementing learning in Africa?

DN: In May 2007, we held an Africa Conference at The Open University with the theme ‘The Role and Perspective of the Younger Generations in African Development’. We used this opportunity to examine the challenges for development in Africa from the perspective of the younger generations’ place and potential role and with a view to raising key questions towards a research agenda on youth and development in Africa.

{mosimage}We were fortunate to be joined by internationally renowned personalities and scholars such as Professor Mahmood Mamdani as well as a host of other participants from the academic, policymaking and practitioner worlds. Although the focus was on development in Africa, the conference also engaged with the links between Africa and the rest of the globe.

One of the main conference objectives was to build a research agenda on Youth and Development in Africa by scoping future research directions around African youth today, its relationship to the elders and its potential for addressing the challenges of development.

We have also developed a number of programmes and a lot of expertise in child development and we have an International Development Centre which is researching – among other things – the role of child soldiers within the region.

‘What we offer is not a product-driven approach or an approach of enticing students to come across to us. What we are offering is assistance to the region…..in partnership with key stakeholders by leveraging our know-how, experience and resources.’

RCA: As part of the team from The Open University that will shortly be visiting Ghana, what are you hoping to achieve with these meetings?

DN:The key driver for our tour is the fact that a recent white paper on educational reform in Ghana made recommendations regarding the need to set up an open university and incorporate distance learning into the mode of delivery of tertiary institutions in the country. These recommendations have been accepted by the Ghanaian government and we believe that we are the best at implementing these systems and modes of delivery and therefore have a lot to offer.

We will be looking at strengthening existing partnerships such as our TESSA (Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa) and Open Door projects. We will also be looking to build new partnerships, both in the public and private sectors, and to introduce our openLearn project which gives free access to resources from The Open University courses and enables global learning communities to form around shared educational interests.

During our trip we will be meeting the Ministers of Education and Health, the Vice Chancellors of the country’s key universities, the Association for African Universities and stakeholders in the tertiary education sector. We also hope to meet the Asantehene, who is the Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University for Science and Technology.

Following our trip to Ghana, we hope to develop workshops and train people in developing distance learning materials for the benefit of the nation. Finally, we also want to look for educational partners in the country as well as identify financial sponsors within the country.

For further information about The Open University in Africa and partnership opportunities for organisations and corporations: www.open.ac.uk/africa or contact The Open Africa Office: +44(0)1908 655313

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