Max Freund wrote:
> > `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 equipment and out-of-date and looted libraries, African universities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 instructors and outdated academic programs that fail to meet local
> > needs.
> > 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.
The initiative of the Worldbank to help African Universities by helping
them have internet access and linking them to Western universities seems
attractive. But will this help to resolve the main problems the
universities are facing? Has there been proper consultation with the
universities and their needs indentified and prioritised. Is this type
of initiative sustainable? What happens when the 1.2 million is gone?
I am afraid that when Western Universities are facing huge budget cuts
this is probably a means of increasing their incomes in the name of
Menghestab Haile (PhD)