UEMOA pledges help for member country universities

The Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, known by its French acronym UEMOA, is offering support for higher education to its member countries so they can achieve international standards.

Meanwhile, a partnership between UNESCO and the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie will develop educational information and communications technologies in eight universities in UEMOA countries.

Members of UEMOA, which are working towards greater regional integration, are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

Fatima Sawado, UEMOA commission representative, said the union would implement its ‘PAES’, or project to support members’ higher education, to contribute to development and improve the quality of education, reported Le Soleil of Dakar.

She said the PAES should enable universities to respond to international demands. “We want to make higher education a privileged sector. It needs better treatment.

"Our universities must respond to international standards with the introduction of ‘LMD’ [licence-master-doctorat – the higher education structure based on the Bologna process of three, five and eight years’ higher studies]. We must do everything to meet the challenge of this complex new system,” Le Soleil reported her as saying.

The UEMOA commission must contribute and give its support to the sector in all member countries, and promote the quality of higher education, she stressed. It would carry out awareness campaigns in public and private institutions to encourage young people to know more and spread the word about its projects.

A recent PAES action was the donation in April of 11,219 educational books and other materials to Burkina Faso’s seven public universities and polytechnic university centres, at a cost of 44 million CFA francs (US$ 91,350).

Burkina Faso

According to the Burkina Faso Higher Education and Research Ministry, UEMOA was also going to digitise the universities’ libraries and set up a virtual library in each member country with online subscriptions to other university libraries throughout the world.

All UEMOA higher education institutions would be interconnected through the PAES.

The donation was “a symbol of good conditions for acquisitions and research by students and researchers”, according to the ministry statement.

“Unfortunately, in Africa, statistics show that many universities suffer from a blatant lack of books and educational documents,” said the statement.

In Burkina Faso’s universities, with the introduction of the LMD system and creation of new courses, the problem of documentation, both of quality and in quantity, was intense, it said.

Digital capacity project

Meanwhile, UNESCO has asked the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, or AUF, to take charge of a project to develop digital capacity in eight UEMOA universities, to improve the quality of higher education and facilitate students’ access to educational resources.

The eight universities are: Abomey-Calavi in Benin; Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso; Félix Houphouët-Boigny d’Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire; Amilcar Cabral in Guinea-Bissau; Bamako in Mali; Abdou Moumouni de Niamey in Niger, Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar in Senegal; and Lomé in Togo.

Under the agreement the AUF will assess the current ICT resources in the universities such as the numbers of teachers already trained, available engineers and technicians, existing online courses and degrees, and existing facilities.

It will then draw up an educational plan to be supervised by each university.

It will also organise online ICT training workshops for lecturers, taking account of the institutions’ priorities. These could cover putting a course online, designing a distance education plan, distance mentoring and introduction to MOOCs.

While training teachers in ICTs, the AUF will also contribute to introducing the ‘LMD’ higher education system to the UEMOA countries.