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26.07.2004 Business & Finance

Technical session of ICT conference opens

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From Yaa Oforiwah Acquah Abuja, July 26, GNA - Hajia Bintu Ibrahim Musa, Nigerian Minister of Education, on Monday asked African countries to work around the challenges confronting the introduction of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education to make the process a reality. She named some of the challenges as how to create the necessary institutional structure to develop and steer a vision or national policy for educational development using ICT and how to create and sustain technical expertise in ICT-related areas in education among other issues and said "we should not wait till all our problems, needs and demands are met".

Hajia Musa was addressing the opening ceremony of the technical session preceding the West Africa Sub-Regional Ministerial Conference on the Integration of ICT in Education scheduled for July 28 to July 30 in Abuja, Nigeria.

The theme for both meetings is: "Integration of ICT in Education - Issues, Challenges and Infrastructure."

The meeting being organised by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) in collaboration with the Nigerian Ministry of Education is aimed at promoting the use of ICT in education and highlighting the need to turn to alternative delivery methods using ICT and to facilitate the exchange of experiences in the use of ICT education among African countries.

It would provide the Ministers with concepts and tools for formulating viable national ICT and Distance and Open Learning (DEOL) policies.

Communication experts, the donor community and Educational Ministers from 21 African countries including Ghana, Gabon, The Gambia, Congo Brazzaville, Kenya, Mauritania and South Africa are attending.

Hajia Musa said education in Africa was facing several problems especially with the task of catching up with the new dynamics that developments in ICT have evolved to extend the frontiers of providing quality education.

"Whether we see them as challenges or problems, the issues offer a unique opportunity for Africa to narrow the yawning gaps in the standard and quality of education between the continent and the developed world", she said, and asked stakeholders to work hard for better end results. Some of the better results would be the application of ICT in distance education and open learning, which make the mode of delivery very efficient, cost effective and formidable.

The Minister said the enormous potential in fostering educational development through a universal access and enhancing quality made it attractive and compelling especially in the Sub-Saharan Region where statistics on pupils learning achievements indicated that the attainment of Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set for the 2015 were under serious threat.

She expressed regret that the present level of use of ICT in the educational sector in West Africa was well below 10 per cent and said, "this is unacceptable and must be redressed if we are to make appreciable progress towards the attainment of EFA and the MDGs".

Hajia Musa said: "We can do much better in the use of ICT in education considering the fact that the telecommunications, banking and finance sectors in the Sub-Region have reached advanced stages in their application of ICTs that are fairly at par with the rest of the world."

ADEA was created in 1988 to foster greater collaboration between development agencies in the field of education in Africa and it is aimed at strengthening institutional capacities within Africa through technical skills development, establishing networks for information exchange and encouraging the sharing of strategies, innovations and successful experiences.

At its meeting in Senegal in 2002, the ADEA bureau of African Ministers listed harnessing of ICT for educational purposes as a priority requiring Ministerial Sub-Regional Conference to discuss the widening digital divide which was a source of concern for Africa. This, according to ADEA was important because Africans could not ignore the dangers of being left behind in the global information revolution.

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