Monday, June 28, 2004

Higher Education Opportunities for Caroline

Caroline is very concerned about continuing her education. She has recently graduated from high school in Jinja (a big accomplishment in itself for young women in Uganda) and she is very eager to pursue a higher education in one of the technology professions. Caroline and I communicate about this a lot in our emails over the past months, and she and I are working together to help prepare her for that next big step in life.

Today I was browsing Yvette's Inside Somaliland weblog and spotted Yvette's June 26th posting re: The University of Hargeisa (Somaliland) and their new online courses offered in conjunction with the African Virtual University. I mean these people have been able to put together 3 undergraduate certificate programs in technology using modern "e-learning & blended learning" technology platforms and education methodologies in a country that the U.N. and G8 nations say does not even exist! Check out their AVU Online Learning Center and see what USD $360.00 can get you in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

The African Virtual University (AVU)is an outstanding "e-learning" initiative based out of Nairobi, Kenya and works closely together with leading universities around the world i.e. Georgetown University and Harvard University (U.S.A.), Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology - RMIT (Australia), Kenyatta University (Kenya), Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT (U.S.A.), and top education institutions worldwide. Here is their link to the AVU Computer Science Program, which should be of special interest to Caroline and other aspiring IT professionals in Jinja and throughout Uganda.

I've been following news about The African Virtual University for the past year or so, but they started out back in 1997 as a special project of The World Bank Group. Since 2003 the AVU has been really "coming up to speed" with their distance-education technology infrastructure, degree and certificate curriculum and programs, physical learning centers (35 centers in Africa), professional educational staff and leading university partner roster.

I think it would be smart for Caroline and her friends who wish to continue their education beyond high school to research the African Virtual University carefully as a viable alternative to attending college "on campus" in Uganda or abroad. The AVU could also be a good introductory experience for the first couple of semesters or years, and then one could transfer on to their partner institutions to finish their degree program.

Uganda does have good universities such as Makarere University in the capitol city Kampala and Uganda Martyrs University at Nkozi. There is also Kyambogo University (formerly Uganda Polytechnic) located just outside the capitol on the Kampala-Jinja main road. The latter has formed a cooperation with the USAID DOTCOM, DOT-EDU Alliance which you can read about here at Connect-ED. It should be noted here that all of the above institutions offer some kind of distance education programs. It would be interesting to hear from students or graduates of those online-learning programs.

However, getting a seat to study at one of these institutions and being able to pay the fees and costs-of-living expenses is problematic if not downright impossible for Caroline and many other aspiring college students in Uganda. These problems of course are relevant to students throughout Africa and the rest of the developing world. I read an article today that the Republic of South Africa has recently setup a free "virtual university" for its citizens to help alleviate severe shortages of college educated and trained young people.

I hope to get more information soon from the young people in Jinja about what kinds of problems they face in continuing their education in their home country. I have tried to encourage them to create their own weblogs on for example, so that we may hear from them in their own voices. It would also be interesting to hear from teachers in and around Jinja District, or parents, via a weblog. What do you think about that idea, Caroline?

You have to respect those determined people up in Somaliland though, 'cause they are not waiting around for anybody, they are building a viable nation as best they can without any multi-billion dollar support programs from the "International Community". I wonder how that will all turn out in the next few years, and whether they get the recognition and support they deserve from powerful nations and international organizations which can make it happen for them. In the meantime, we can keep following developments there via Yvette's Inside Somaliland weblog.

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