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Government must expand investment in data for online learning – Experts

Africa’s education experts have asked governments across the continent to make an investment to expand data reach to their various universities to accommodate the new normal, which is online learning.

They observe that with the cases of coronavirus rising on the African continent and several other countries in lockdown, universities are faced with uncertainty and plenty of open questions.

The challenges faced by universities across the continent occasioned by pandemic have shown that relying on brick and mortar format of learning could constitute a setback to leaning to millions of students.

Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice-chancellor, University of Cape Town, South Africa, says governments across Africa need to extend the reach of data coverage so as to ensure all students have access to online education facility.

Speaking during a virtual panel discussion Tuesday on the challenges faced by tertiary institutions in Africa amid the Covid-19 organised by CNBC Africa, Phakeng says the University of Cape Town is focusing on exposing students to international educational experiences through virtual online platforms.

She says on-campus residencies foster educational environments. A report by The Economist indicated that in 2019, 9 percent of young people in sub-Saharan Africa attended tertiary education. This figure is 23 percent less than the global average.

Matthew Opoku Prempeh, education minister of Ghana, says in order to grow the economies of various countries around the world, higher education must be prioritised.

Prempeh says there are programmes the government of Ghana have put in place to ensure students receive the necessary technological equipment and software, including laptops and internet access, so they may take part in online learning programme.

According to Prempeh, “The government is working with universities to prepare them for the future.” He discusses how Ghana is embracing virtual online lectures to assist students amid the #COVID crisis.

Jon Foster-Pedley, dean, Henley Business School Africa, says virtual education is an effective approach to teaching students as the personal face-to-face approach begins to fade away due to global shutdowns of educational institutions due to the Covid-19.

Foster-Pedley further says virtual online education programmes allow students to interact on a global basis, adding that Covid-19 lockdowns will however not alter the marking system at their institution.

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