The E-learning Africa conference took place in Lusaka, Zambia, from the 25-28th May 2010, at the Mulungushi Conference Centre.
There were over 1700 delegates from around the world, being the UK in 5th place for participation with most delegates. The conference was opened by the vice -president of Zambia, Mr George Kunda. The conference gathered people to discuss different strands of e-learning in Africa, amongst which: continuous teacher professional development, health, intellectual property rights in education, capacity development and open content and open educational resources. Most delegates showcased their projects and discussed their development and implications.
The Open University UK was represented by three projects: TESSA (Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa), HEAT in Africa (Health Education and Training), and OLnet (Open Learning Network). Andreia Inamorato dos Santos (OLnet Research Associate) talked about some of the experiences of the OU UK with use, reuse and sharing of OER across cultures through OpenLearn. She discussed these experiences by focusing on the ‘licensing’ perspective, explaining how educational materials can be more easily shared if made available under an appropriate license such as Creative Commons, and reused with compatible licenses. Andreia’s presentation can be found below:
Andreia paid a visit to a local Zambian School (Aisha Project School) and noticed the huge lack of teaching and learning resources at the school, as seems to be true in most schools in Africa. The school is community-supported, and the teachers are volunteers, being paid occasionally with a symbolic fee towards their work. The most common technology at Aisha is ‘talk and chalk’. Each student at Aisha has to pay to study as education is not supported by the State. They pay $ 250.000 Kwacha per term (approximately £33.50 – British Pounds). Considering that 40% of the population in Zambia is HIV positive, and that there is an enormous lack of jobs in the country, meeting the commitment to pay for the children’s education every month is usually a challenge for most Zambian families. Nevertheless, the work at Aisha is exemplar of what can be done through good will and willingness to learn how to use computers in education.
Mr Brighton Lubasi (left) is a volunteer teacher at Aisha Project School, and is head of ICT too. His role involves training the teachers to use computers in their classes, as well as to tap into open educational resources from various sources (such as TESSA, OpenLearn, etc) to enrich their classes. Brighton is involved with an OER project supported by Cambridge University, OER4Schools. The project aims to explore the feasibility of introducing the use of OER in basic and secondary education schools in Zambia. Brighton reports that the challenge is to train the teachers and build their confidence in using ICT to support their teaching. OER4Schools provided them with some netbooks and training not only on how to use the computers but mostly on ‘what to do’ with the resources that the computer and their slow but working Internet connection provide access to. The project introduced them to an enquiry-based approach to the use of OER and other web resources. Here’s an interview with Brighton about how they use an enquiry-based pedagogy with OER:
The conference closed with a heated plenary session aiming to discuss the pros and cons of enabling access to computers to all children in Africa (e.g. One Laptop per Child initiative, or individual access to any sort of computer by every child). Some think it is too expensive and that the money would be better spent by tackling other priorities. Others, however, believe that providing individual access to computers is essential to decrease the digital divide, and to allow the Africans to catch up with their computer skills and technology development in general.