“Most people do not utilise their abilities to the full”, says Dr Enala Tembo-Mwase, Associate Professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zambia, a specialist in eLearning. “But you can achieve anything. Only the sky is the limit.“ Enala Tembo-Mwase has been appointed a coordinator for the eLearning Africa 2010 conference to be held in her home country at the end of May.
by Andrea Marshall
As her students dissected parasitic flies in the university laboratory, Dr Enala Tembo-Mwase talked about her lifelong campaign against Myiasis, the disease that is spread through the tropics by botflies burrowing into the flesh of cattle, horses and even humans.
The professor is a mother of five who has lectured on Veterinary Parasitology-Entomology in Lusaka for 21 years. After her PhD and an MSc at London University she came back to Africa to work for the Zambian ministry of agriculture, researching ticks and tick-borne diseases and supported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
As a pioneering member of the Zambian National eLearning Committee she is coordinating the eLearning Africa conference, a big date in her crowded calendar of university work, online technology and her campaign to encourage African women to choose an education in science, mathematics or technology.
“It has not always been easy. But you can achieve anything. Most people do not utilise their abilities to the full.”
Her initial eLearning speciality centred on Zambia’s huge copper mining industry. In 2007 and 2008, she helped to set up two national conferences and developed training materials for a mining sector eLearning programme that was funded by the World Bank.
Protecting insects and snails by eLearning
“I was working on environmental projects with colleagues from the mining industry. Lots of organisms like insects and snails were affected by pollution in the river Kafue, which connects the north Zambian Copperbelt Province with the south. In addition, the proliferation of the notorious Kafue weed had clogged up the river, threatening its infrastructure.
Her eLearning spark happened after she joined SANTREN, the South African Network for Training and Research on the Environment. Not only did she take part in SANTREN’s workshops and training via eLearning, but within two years she had revised their course modules for online delivery and acted as teletutor on the environmental impact of copper mining in southern Africa.
As a member of the Zambian National eLearning Committee, Dr Tembo-Mwase spearheads the adoption of online technologies for education and training. For the international eLearning Africa 2010 conference she put a planning roadmap into action, ensuring collaboration between the various Zambian ministries and other players and taking on the organisation of publicity.
“There is a lot of bureaucracy in the Government system. But we have set up an inter-ministerial organising committee.”
Enala believes that online technologies have a great future ahead of them on the African continent: Training can be delivered to participants in different countries, saving the costs and hassle of travelling.
“It’s good for international co-operation. Environmental problems do not stop at national borders.”
She says that eLearning modules on environmental problems do require a few periods in which the tutor needs to be present, to give participants hands-on-experience but she says enthusiastic participants tend to keep in touch with their tutor later.
She warned of the problems of energy supply in Africa: “Access to electricity is a major challenge, especially in rural areas. But the potential for eLearning is there. It just depends on the will of our authorities to assist.”
Empowering girls and women in education
As a mother of four daughters and one son, Dr Tembo-Mwase acted as a team leader in a case study of the performance of girls in science, mathematics and technical subjects. She helped with a television documentary about career possibilities for girls and women in science and worked on a national television quiz on science, maths and technology for secondary schools in Zambia.
Asked how she finds time for her full-time university job, her eLearning activities, her involvement in promoting gender equality and caring for her five children, she said. “It has not always been easy. But I have had my family ties to rely on. Only the sky is the limit.”