Participants in last week’s (28 – 30 May) eLearning Africa Conference in Kampala, Uganda, were in no doubt, however, that it is the combination of education and IT that is critical to Africa’s future. Stanley Simataa, Namibia’s Minister of ICT, told a special meeting of ministers of education and ICT at the event that “a 10 percent increase in investment in broadband infrastructure will guarantee a 1.3 percent increase in economic growth.” And the influential eLearning Africa Report, which was published last week, stresses that “if education is the key to everything, the key to the education of the future is infrastructure.”
The network of distance learning centres, built up across Africa, are local and regional communication hubs, which facilitate knowledge-sharing, education and training for leaders and professionals in the private, public, civil society and NGO sectors.
“Under the leadership of Dr Mor Seck, the Director of the Senegal Distance Learning Centre, the Association of African Distance Learning Centres (AADLC) has played a crucial role in building the capacity of its members using the distance learning model,” says Charles Senkondo, Director of the Tanzanian Distance Learning Centre.
By facilitating the sharing of expertise and offering a forum for pan-African strategising between key stakeholders, the centres have helped African countries both to take advantage of new trends and to mitigate the effects of numerous recent crises, including the global financial collapse, mango fruit fly, management of mega disasters and the outbreak of bird flu.
“The DLCs have played an important role in combatting HIV Aids across Africa,” says Senkondo. “They have been actively involved in educating, synthesizing experiences and strategizing across the continent. It has definitely resulted in a reduction of HIV Aids across the continent.”
The DLCs are autonomous (an important factor for the World Bank when it originally decided to support their establishment) and even more important to Africa’s burgeoning private sector than to governments.
“This autonomy has been a vital factor in their success and sustainability,” says Charles Senkondo. “DLCs have been of great service to the private sector in providing diverse services that would not have been available without DLC technology. ”
Senkondo attributes much of the AADLC’s success to the determination of the organization President.
Seck has masterminded AADLC’s expansion across Africa, in the process creating an organization that is playing an important role in enabling Africa to seize the opportunity that the combination of ICT and education brings.
“We started with about six countries,” he says, “and, in ten years, we’ve expanded to more than 15 countries, which are actively involved and engaged in the network. We’ve made expertise in distance learning management and education really available in a short period of time in Africa. We’ve helped to overcome the language barriers and got people to communicate, share their expertise and work together to overcome problems and make the most of new opportunities. This is Africa as one and it’s something I’m really proud of.”
He added that he intends to increase the number of countries participating in the network to enable more people outside the capital cities to have access to the sharing of knowledge and experience.