> `Net May Aid Africa Colleges
> By ABEBE ANDUALEM Associated Press Writer
> ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) - Plagued by slim budgets, broken down
> equipment and out-of-date and looted libraries, African universities
> may soon receive a lifeline from cyberspace.
> Under a pilot project to be launched in April by the World Bank,
> 10 universities in six nations will be connected through the African
> Virtual University - a computer link via satellite to universities
> in Europe and the United States.
> The first phase of the project was worked out at a recent
> workshop in Addis Ababa attended by academics from eight African
> countries and representatives from universities and donor agencies
> in the United States and Ireland.
> The World Bank says the project's main objective is to tap new
> information technologies to overcome the many financial and physical
> barriers that prevent students at African colleges from gaining
> access to quality higher education.
> The bank, which is contributing $1.2 million, says most African
> universities have become increasingly irrelevant in a rapidly
> changing world, graduating a disproportionate number of students in
> the humanities rather than the sciences and engineering.
> Edward Jaycox, a senior adviser to World Bank President James
> Wolfensohn, said African universities are facing enormous
> difficulties, including declining budgets, lack of qualified
> instructors and outdated academic programs that fail to meet local
> Making use of computer networks linking Africa to the West,
> participating universities in the United States and Ireland will
> provide packaged academic programs, particularly in science,
> engineering and business.
> During the pilot phase, a limited number of first-year
> undergraduate courses - calculus, differential equations, physics,
> electronic circuits, statistics, introduction to the Internet and
> introduction to computer sciences - will be offered via video
> transmissions, Internet links and other means such as e-mail.
> Etienne Baranshamaje, the World Bank's project manager, said the
> African Virtual University will be a network of Internet facilities
> and its own Web site.
> "In those countries where an Internet service provider exists, a
> formula for working with them will be sought. Where there is none,
> AVU will initiate one for the students," he said.
> More and more African countries are setting up Internet services.
> Ethiopia will go online soon through the government
> telecommunications office, while private concerns provide Internet
> links in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
> Baranshamaje said that during the first two semesters of the
> project, there will not be any specific Virtual University students.
> Rather, selected students enrolled in existing university courses
> will receive instruction and take exams via the new technology.
> During this phase of the project, tests and paper-grading will be
> the responsibility of the participating universities in Ethiopia,
> Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Ghana. The lectures will be
> delivered from universities in the United States and Ireland.
> A second phase to begin next January will offer a complete
> curriculum for full-fledged undergraduate degree programs through
> the Virtual University. If all goes well, African universities also
> will be originating their own programs in the final phase,
> Baranshamaje said.
> Other universities across Africa are expected to be included at a
> later stage, Baranshamaje said.
> The Virtual University is expected to be particularly relevant in
> African countries like Ethiopia that are emerging from prolonged
> wars and whose work forces lack vital technical skills.
> Governments and private sector organizations in need of
> continuous professional training for their employees are also
> expected to benefit.
> The University of Massachusetts and the New Jersey Institute of
> Technology in the United States and University College Galway in
> Ireland are among the American and Irish institutions participating.