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>        `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        equipment and out-of-date and looted libraries, African universities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        instructors and outdated academic programs that fail to meet local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.
>
>