African countries have to balance their spending on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for education better. Skills development among teachers, which accounts for only 10% of most countries’ ICT budgets, has to be strengthened. Spending on costly hardware, which covers 90% of most countries budgets, should rather be reduced. This is one of the key recommendations of a communiqué released by participants in the Third African Ministerial Round Table on ICT for Education, Training and Development.
At the fifth eLearning Africa Conference in Lusaka, Zambia (May 26th – 28th), ministers, diplomats and government officials from Angola, Finland, Kenya, Liberia, The Netherlands, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe gathered to explore ways of promoting the integration of ICT into educational systems across Africa.
The meeting focused on leadership strategies for enhancing inclusion and equality. The key issue centred around how eLearning can help to reduce the exclusion of – according to recent UNESCO figures – 56 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who run the risk of still being outside the school system in 2015.
The discussion also benefited from the participation of leading figures from private companies, such as Microsoft and NComputing, as well as development and intergovernmental organisations such as UNESCO, UNECA, USAID, SPIDER, GESCI, IICD and VVOB.
Benefit of forerunner’s experiences
International collaboration ranked high on the agenda. “Our vision is translated into policies but development cannot be widespread until Africa unites,” said Professor Mamadou Gaye from Senegal’s Ministry of Education.
It was acknowledged that whilst approximately 17 African countries already have an ICT policy for education, only ten have developed an implementation plan and have actually started implementation.
To improve the situation, a number of best e-learning practices was proposed. Those countries which are lagging behind should be allowed to benefit from advanced countries, such as Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland, the Gambia and Namibia, which have set up successful models of ICT-driven education.
Leveraging organisational knowledge
The participants said that it was vital for ministries, non-governmental and civil society organizations, as well as private-sector partners, to work closely. Organisations, such as the Ministerial Round Table’s co-hosts the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) and the Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI), help ministries to formulate and develop an ICT policy development plan and implementation strategy.
A further key area for consideration concerns providing support for appropriate e-learning content development. Local content for Africans by Africans and in local languages should be provided and should fit into the fixed curricula of most African schools.
This was also seen as the key to overcoming apparent cultural resistance to the use of ICT in the classroom amongst African teachers and to promoting e-skills among school staff. The Third African Ministerial Round Table was sponsored by Microsoft and co-hosted by the GeSCI, International Conferences, Workshops and Exhibitions (ICWE GmbH) and the IICD. Next year, the event will be hosted at the 6th eLearning Africa conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.