AFRICA- SENEGAL: Virtual University successes

Set up to bridge the digital North-South divide, the African Virtual University has also proved a success in the education of women and of students living in areas of conflict, said university Rector Dr Bakary Diallo.

Speaking at the inauguration of a new distance learning centre at UCAD, the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Diallo gave Somalia as an example of such progress, reported Wal Fadjri of Dakar.

The African Virtual University had educated 4,000 students in seven Somali universities, of whom nearly a third were women, he said.

Throughout the continent 40,000 people had benefited from the university's distance education since it was set up in 1997 - making the university the biggest network of open and distance education and e-learning institutions in more than 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, claimed Diallo.

He said the university's greatest advantage was "its capacity to work beyond linguistic and cultural boundaries in English, French and Portuguese-speaking Africa". This was an asset for achieving the original objectives of the inter-governmental pan-African university, to "increase significantly access to quality higher education and train African managers and students through innovatory use of information and communication technologies".

Referring to UCAD's new distance learning centre, Aled, Diallo said its creation was motivated by the wish to see Africa develop to a level where its citizens could compete with the rest of the world.

The African Virtual University had a "role to ensure that Africans had access to the education they needed to advance themselves and the continent". It had helped set up Aled which constituted the foundation of the institutional strategy of integration and development of ICTs and distance education at UCAD.

The centre was equipped for adapting teaching material for the screen, and to develop and supervise online courses, he said.

Diallo said that lecturers and students no longer needed to move to the lecture halls for courses; teachers now had the opportunity to produce their courses in video or audio formats, and put them on line for students, reported Le Soleil of Dakar.