Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ranting about anything for eLearning in Africa

I have been missing in action, rather my participation for the last few months in the blog has been low. Not that nothing eLearning has been happening with me, but just that too much was written about it and not posted here. Not also that whatever wasn’t posted here wasn’t important.
I have been thinking about what eLearning can be in Africa, if all the obstacles and barriers are removed it can prosper. But wait a minute, we are always reminded and reminding ourselves of our weaknesses, our inadequacies, our insufficiencies, and more often of our past failures that we become pessimistic of the future, we become procrastinators or non-starters, and people who will always see and hear the negative side of things. There is the usual rhetoric of seeing the opportunities, in every situation and context, where its said that a pessimist will see a glass as half-empty while an optimist will see it as half-full.
How often have we heard and read news of how Africa as a whole is not ready for the digital revolution and eLearning specifically? How often have we talked of the lack of access to digital resources in Africa, the bandwidth, the human capacity, the prohibitive and restrictive policies and regulations, the lack of ‘African’ content on the Internet, the poor electricity and related infrastructure; the lack of policy makers support; the limited or lack of financial resources; and of how our socio-cultural issues are very incompatible with what eLearning espouses? How often have we looked at closing debate on the questions of our weaknesses, inadequacies, insufficiencies, and past failures? Have we let these questions to blind us to the extent of seen an opportunity just because it is canvassed between illusional barriers? Have we attempted to turn this barriers (or identified Threats and Weakness in the SWOT analysis to Strengths and Opportunities)? I guess we are still seeing the glass as half full.
A story is told of how two shoes manufacturing companies in Europe sent there marketing gurus to an ancient country in the tropics to look for prospects of diversifying and extending their brands' market. On reaching this country, where as it were, the natives did not wear shoes, the two gurus returned to their companies with two different verdicts. Representative of one of the companies (say Company A) reported: People in that country is so primitive that they do not, as it were, nor do they need shoes. Investing our brands in that country would be the worst thing (since the sinking of the Titanic). The marketer from the rival company (Company B) reports: The country has an unexplored market that is just waiting for us to venture into it. A market that we will have no competitors, and the only thing we need to do is to show the natives of the country the benefits of wearing shoes, and off we have the market for our shoes!
Incidentally, some of those doing the marketing for Africa, are seeing a market (which some would say is digitally unexplored) that has no potential or opportunity for eLearning as the case was with Company A’s representative. They fail to see how the simple possibilities, benefits, advantages, opportunities, potential and the future that come along with the use of eLearning are. It is sad, to know that most of these crusaders of inadequacies are Africans themselves. This is not to say that we do not have our shortcomings, or there aren’t any barriers or hindrances to the use of eLearning in Africa. Rather, we should first look at what we pose to benefit from in the use of eLearning, and the work on the barriers. We should not try and paint a gloomy picture of our wonderful continent just because we are looking for a collaborator or donor or development partner (or any such entity) without putting ourselves first, and knowing what we are seeking to achieve at the end. Unfortunately, this can only be achieved for the good of all if we, as a continent are devoid of the mentality of weakness, inadequacy, our insufficiency, and of fear of past failures. To this end, I salute those of us who have soldiered in educating and advocating for the use of eLearning based on what we have, and what we can do – and we can reach heights only if we could use 10% of our current resources.
For one, we can achieve this by educating the masses and more importantly the policy makers of the benefits of eLearning: of the need of creating a workforce that is knowledge-economy ready that has special information- and knowledge-handling skills brought about by the use of ICTs; of the need create regional, continental and international networks that can deliver education and facilitate learning using ICTs; of the need to provide flexibility in content, delivery, pace, place and time of learning afforded to us by the use of eLearning; of the need to provide easy learning and learning process management using digital technologies like learning management systems; of the need to create repositories of intellectual and human capital that can be accessed and queried using ICTs anytime, anywhere; of the need to extend learning from the confines of a formal classroom; of the need to allow academic partnerships strengthened by the use of ICTs, and also of the need to encourage life-long learning.
Perhaps, when we do this (by showing first, then talking) all those who see a half-empty glass will start seeing the potential of the half content of the glass, or even something that could fill the glass. Maybe this is possible, if when you all have read this; you don’t start questioning your weaknesses, our inadequacies, our insufficiencies, and your past failures BUT YOU SHOW AND TELL. You walk the talk, or simply put your money where your mouth is.


vanessa paradis said...

Wonderful blog!

I have just read a book by Howard Zinn (2007), in which he concludes with an inspirational message, "if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory" (p.270).

There is much work to be done to meet the mandate of "Education for All," but each little step is another step forward.

I am looking forward to reading your future blogs.

Vanessa (another eLearning advocate)

Zinn, H. (2007).A power governments cannot suppress. San Francisco: City Lights.

Daniel Makini Getuno said...

Hello James,

Just seen your blog and I think it's great.

Am in the process of implementing eLearning at KIA and would like to ask you a number of questions through email.

You may also reach me through: