The most dire third world problems of extreme poverty, violence, and disease have plagued a large part of Africa for decades. Although experts the world over have proposed countless solutions to Africa’s various problems, a consensus exists that education will be the main driving force for innovation and social change.
Africa is unique in that it has the highest percentage of people aged 15 to 24 anywhere in the world. This sector of the population comprises 30% of the continent, and an additional 20% of the continent is under 15. Considering these demographics, if Africa is to have a promising future, then education becomes doubly important in order to create an employable and productive workforce a few years down the line.
eLearning has made particular strides in Africa, and its status as a continent-wide educational tool will be presented during the eLearning Africa Conference in 2011. The conference will take place in late May of next year in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The conference, sponsored by ICWE and hosted by the Republic of Tanzania, will focus on young adults specifically, placing an emphasis on skills and employability.
While it is heartening to know that eLearning is becoming an established practice in a continent that is beset with a long history of social and political instability, there do exist specific problems in Africa that could pose a threat to the successful implementation of eLearning practices.
A recently published StarAfrica.com article delineates the potential problems that eLearning proponents must confront if future programs are to be successful. For one, there is a severe lack of qualified teachers, and there is not enough teaching material to train those teachers who have attended university to become educators. eLearning offers hope in that programs can be quickly and creatively developed and disseminated. eLearning expert John Hawker, notes, however, that it’s important for educational content to be tailored to local areas, as many Western programs being offered to Africa are developed without knowledge of the local curriculum, rending much information irrelevant.
Perhaps a greater problem for eLearning solutions in Africa is a very basic one–lack of infrastructure. With the exception of North and South African universities, most institutions of higher education on the continent have the broadband capacity of an average European household, according to the article. Some propose that more distance learning programs be developed using mobile technologies, since mobile networks are far more widespread than broadband connections. Another solution to the lack of Internet connectivity is the dissemination of information on flash drives, which can be accomplished at a relatively low cost.
Although it remains to be seen how eLearning will impact the continent as a whole, Africa has committed itself to greater efforts at educating a populace that is widely disconnected from the rest of the world. And while eLearning is making education in developed countries simply more convenient and efficient, for third world countries like those in Africa, eLearning has the potential to cause a substantive shift of the entire social fabric. For those of us who are excited about eLearning possibilities, this is certainly something to celebrate.
This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of college courses. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: angelita.williams7 @gmail.com.