The Radio Contact popular programme ‘cross fire’ drew my attention to new development in our education sector.
Top education administrators had been invited to the the studio to showcase developments in higher education in the country. When Dr. James Vuningoma from Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) mentioned Tel-education hosted by his institute, I was intrigued, so I decided to visit the facility which I found a great innovation in distance education.
To answer my curiosity, the coordinator for Tele-education invited me to join Bachelor of Science ( IT) students attending a lecture on 1st June. A well prepared lesson was presented through VSAT satellite on a big screen, which is also projected on white board in power point format.
As the lesson progressed students posed questions to the teacher thus creating an interactive situation similar to face to face teaching. Each course is allocated `one afternoon every week where students gather in well equipped classroom to attend the lessons telecast around the continent.
Students follow the same syllabus used in the universities offering the courses and learners are provided with username and password to access reading materials and video classes when necessary from the project website.
Regular assignments which contribute 30% of the total mark are sent to the host university of marking in hard copy and so are semester the exams.
According to Muhammed Irishad, a VSAT engineer and coordinator of Pan-African e-network project in Rwanda, the tele-education is part of a wider Pan-African e-Network Project which among other things includes Tele-medicine, Video conferencing, VVIP nodes ( where very Important people hold private conferences).
The idea of Pan-African e-network was initiated by Indian President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam during the inaugural session of the Pan African Parliament in Johannesburg on 16th September 2004. He proposed the programme to connect all the 53 countries by satellite and fiber-optic network to “share India’s expertise in the fields of Education and healthcare”.
The idea was adopted by African Union and Tele-education will be conducted by Indian Universities in the 53 countries of Africa when the project is fully fledged.
Kigali Institute of Education was selected to host the project in Rwanda and the learning centre has been operational since last year.It is one of the two in the East African region. The other centre is at Makerere University in Uganda.
Students enroled in this programme at KIE are offered; Masters degrees in Finance and Control, MBA in international Business, Postgraduate Diploma in Information Technology, BSC in Information Technology, offered by Amity University.
Indira Gandhi National Open University, offers Rwandans courses leading to MBA in Human Resource and Marketing, Diploma in Child Care & Education, Masters in Tourism Management, Bachelor of Tourism and a Diploma in HIV/AIDS. So far 192 students are currently are enrolled in the courses mentioned above.
These are courses offered by selected Indian University to ensure quality education, and the programmes are fully financed by the Government of India with an approved budgeted cost of INR 5.429 Billion i.e. about US$ 117 Million. .
Beneficiaries pay administrative costs to host institutions of 100,000 frw for undergraduate courses and 150,000 frw for postgraduate per semester.
A public company TCIL has been designated as the turnkey Implementing Agency. TCIL’s role is to design the network, procure & install the equipment, provide O&M support for 5 years after commissioning the network in respective countries and provide consultancy to the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India on all matters related to the project.
The basic objective of the Pan-African e-Network project is to help Africa in capacity building by way of imparting quality education to students, through the best Indian Universities/ Educational Institutions and to provide tele-medicine services by way of on-line medical consultations to the medical practitioners in the patient-end locations from Indian medical specialists in various disciplines/ specialties/ sub-specialties, such as general/internal medicine, cardiology, neurology, pathology, dermatology, Urology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, oncology, gynecology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology etc.
According to Eng. Irishad, the Pan-African e-Network project will be handed over to host governments after five years.
After five years Rwanda as country will have benefited a lot from the generosity of the Indian government in several ways.
Patients are being treated by experts through the programme without having to travel and our medical personnel who participate in tele-medicine gain knowledge and experience from their counterparts in leading hospitals in India.
The education sector will have contributed to national manpower requirements, but in my opinion the infrastructure left behind is of great importance.
The education sector will have a basis for open learning; with experienced staff now understudying TCIL experts, appropriate equipment and technology. The Indian government aid can be equated to providing both the fish and the fishing rod, let’s rise to the occasion.