African Virtual University to open more centres

The African Virtual University or AVU, in partnership with the African Development Bank, has launched phase two of its multinational project aimed at expanding its network of centres of open, distance and e-learning and which will see 27 facilities opened in 21 countries.

Two of the centres have already been set up in Rwanda and Burundi with more set to be established in nine Francophone countries, nine in Anglophone countries, and three in Portuguese-speaking countries in the coming months.

The latest centre was launched at the University of Rwanda on 14 October and will be followed with the opening of more centres in 15 countries across the continent, a statement by AVU said.

A similar centre was opened at the privately owned Université Lumière de Bujumbura in Burundi on the same day, which the university legal officer Paul Ntukamazina said was in response to a shortage of both physical facilities and teaching staff.

“The expansion will strengthen the capacity of more universities to mainstream open, distance and e-learning into their existing curricula, create a community of peers that will generate original research on e-learning methodologies and will also help universities generate a long-term and sustainable revenue base,” a statement said.

French-speaking countries set to benefit include the West and Central African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, while those in Portuguese-speaking Africa include Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.

Those from Francophone Africa are drawn from all regions of Sub-Saharan Africa apart from the Southern African region. The Anglophone countries are Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania.

“This initiative is driven by our desire to prepare the African learners and professionals to better contribute to the socio-economic development of the continent. AVU’s role is to ensure that people have access to the 21st century skills that they will need to advance themselves and the continent,” said AVU Rector Dr Bakary Diallo in the statement.

Conceived in 2011 with financial support from the African Development Bank, the second phase of the multinational project has as its overall objective to strengthen the capacity of the AVU and build a network of 27 institutions to “develop, deliver and manage quality ICT integrated programmes in 21 African countries”.

Activities to be undertaken under the phase include the establishment and upgrading of distance and e-learning infrastructure, development and improvement of programmes for e-learning in teacher education with a focus on “mathematics and sciences, computer science, and peace and conflict resolution”.

Other goals include gender mainstreaming through the award of scholarships to female students in mathematics and science disciplines, research and development with a focus on mobile learning, as well as provision of technical assistance to countries on distance and e-learning policies and strategies.

Established in 1997 and with Nairobi, Kenya, as its base, the AVU is a pan-African intergovernmental organisation that aims to increase access to education through the use of information and communication technologies.

The open, distance and e-learning centres serve as physical hubs where staff conduct research and participate in collaborative work in distance learning, as well in the creation and sharing of knowledge.