On Friday, 20th December, the African Union Commission launched PAVEU, the Pan African Virtual and e-University, making education more accessible on the continent than ever before. The event took place in Cameroon, with Professor Sarah Agbor, the Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, delivering an impassioned keynote speech on the relevance of this development and its impact on education in Africa.
In order for African youth to compete today, we cannot conduct education in the way that we previously have. Learning by rote, with no access to modern development or the application of emerging technologies in providing workable solutions in every aspect of daily life, is stymieing our competitive edge. We have an exploding youth population of more than 226million and this number is predicted to more than double by 2050. Without adequate tools for survival, this will have significant and wide spread social and economic implications for youth unemployment, inter-generational poverty and political unrest.
PAVEU is looking to counter this critical challenge with Open, Distance and e-Learning. This will capitalise on the digital revolution and global knowledge to multiply access to higher education, reach large numbers of students and professionals in multiple sites simultaneously, any time at any place. All of the courses available are online and will be accessible through the e-learning platform. The courses are self-paced, available at the students’ convenience, and tutors and facilitators are available to provide academic guidance. The built-in social infrastructure promotes peer learning, giving the students the opportunity to get together and learn through online conferencing, study networks and course forums. This is what 21st century learning looks like and it’s a great thing to see Africa being a part of it.
In her keynote speech, the Commissioner stated, “It is clear that educational institutions in Africa are not expanding enough to accommodate the increasing numbers of students seeking access to higher education. Knowing that Africa urgently needs qualified and skilled professionals to fuel development and address the challenges confronting the continent, there is a need to provide a more flexible educational system for students.
“To reverse these conditions and thereby realise our vision of the ‘Africa We Want’ under Agenda 2063, which is: “An integrated, peaceful, prosperous Africa, driven by its own citizens to take up its rightful place in the global arena”, unhindered access to quality education, training and support for youth entrepreneurship is vital.
“As architects of their own future, it is important to recognise that young African’s have aspirations far broader in scope and ambition than mere education certificates. Thus, their ideas and future employment priorities must be valued, nurtured and supported at all times through a new vision to Higher Education provision. This entails supporting Africa’s vibrant youth population based on collaboration, knowledge exchange and partnership, particularly in the areas of education, vocational training and skills development for self-employment. We need to look at the future of work.”
This momentous development was extensively supported by VMware, the virtualization and Cloud Computing company that has been making its presence and vision for Africa felt on the continent for some time now, supporting upskilling, re-skilling and education through its Virtualize Africa programme as well as other worthy endeavours.
A few of the key VMware players – notably Deji Akomolafe and Everline Kamau-Migwi – were present at the event, with the latter being recognised for her efforts in facilitating with the AUC in this and many other projects.
We can get the Africa we want, the Africa we deserve, but it will happen through spouting endless rhetoric and lengthy narratives. It’s going to required committed action, rapid scaling, training one child at a time, and creating an economically viable and equipped population. Only then can we sit at the table – a table that we helped build – as equal partners.
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