Use tech to address Africa’s inequality

Tech can address Africa’s inequality

Telkom exec belives tech can bridge digital divide.

Sunday, Nov 19th

OER critical to sustain Africa's higher learning

OER critical to sustain Africa's higher learning

According to Professor Johannes Cronje, Dean of Informatics and Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the sustainability of higher education in Africa is inextricably linked to freely accessible and education-focused online resources or open educational resources (OER).

Cronje presented a keynote at the 10th annual eLearning Update, an event he organised, and said, "OER would be something similar to Wikipedia, or classes that Harvard, Yale or the Khan Academy make available for free. Typically, any resource that people make available for educational purposes."

In a post-event interview with ITWeb Africa, Cronje said there needs to be more OER available throughout Africa, which continues to face a shortage of teachers and classroom space.

"With OER at the moment in South Africa, what we see is that there's a strong move towards using them, but we have a problem with producing them. And that often has to do with universities and even the government's general policies around intellectual property.

"So if you produce them (OER), people could say that you are giving away intellectual property, and we're saying, 'actually you're not, but simply contributing to a growing selection of OER'," he continues.

Cronje also believes that there is not enough financial investment in Africa's higher education and compares the education system in Finland to that of Africa to emphasise his point.

"Look at the amount of money the education system in Finland spends on a child, where you have 15 students in a class, with a teacher who has a master's degree and a teacher's assistant, as opposed to 40 students with one teacher in the South African classroom ... where does the teacher get time to change their ways if they need to do all that preparation and so on?"

Other ICT leaders have also expressed the need for Africa to rapidly adopt technology in education.

At the Responsible Business Forum, which took place recently in Johannesburg, ICT leaders underlined the significance of digital, innovative and remote education.

Huawei South Africa's deputy CEO Jacky Zhang said ICT can create new learning platforms and make radical improvements in the quality and availability of education, while Shane Wall, HP's CTO and global head of HP Labs, warned the continent will experience a shortage of six million primary school teachers by 2030.

The message to accelerate adoption has filtered through to businesses and NGOs, many of whom are participating in eLearning conferences to help address challenges and identify opportunities – including the eLearning Africa conference taking place in Mauritius from 27 to 29 September.

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