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Livelihoods & Health 

Livelihoods & Health is one of COL's two programme sectors. Improving the livelihoods and health of millions of people is a central challenge of development. The three initiatives in this sector – Technical and Vocational Skills Development, Lifelong Learning for Farmers and Healthy Communities – are supported by open and distance learning, which can scale up quality learning in a cost-effective manner and help make remote and resource-poor communities more productive.

Technical and Vocational Skills Development (TVSD)

We have learned that it is possible to teach skills training courses through distance and flexible learning and this excites us! We will be able to reach many more students — especially those in the informal sector who never had the opportunity to take technical courses.

Abdi Ali Aden, Principal, Masai Technical Training Institute, Kenya

Youth unemployment is a global challenge. About 45% of the world’s young people, many of them girls and young women, are without work. Africa alone needs to find productive employment for 7 million to 10 million new entrants to the labour market annually. COL has demonstrated that using ODL and learning technologies can increase access to quality technical and vocational skills development equitably. The role of TVSD in creating a skilled workforce of lifelong learners for the informal and formal economies is constantly challenged by urban-rural and gender divides that exclude large numbers of learners from skills training systems.

In order to address this challenge, COL will, during this Three-Year Plan 2012–2015:

  • work with institutional partners to create contextualised, high-quality models for using educational media and technology in TVSD;
  • provide training for policy makers, managers, teaching and administrative staff;
  • assist in national and institutional policy development and strategic planning;
  • support the development of new curriculum components and new courses as OER;
  • develop capacity in quality assurance for TVSD; and
  • develop innovative strategies for scaling up.


Lifelong Learning for Farmers (L3F) 

Through … the Lifelong Learning for Farmers initiative, we started learning from mobile phones in our languages and dialects. Through such a learning process … we were able to repay 80% of the loan amount to the bank within two years in a five- year repayment schedule.

Memorandum signed by 25,000 women and men from Self-Help Groups, Tamil Nadu, to Reserve Bank of India

More than 500 million members of the rural workforce in agriculture have limited access to training opportunities. The L3F approach strengthens livelihoods and empowers the poorer sections of rural societies. So far, COL has promoted networking and capacity development in livestock, horticulture and agriculture, leading to higher incomes. It will continue to facilitate self-replication and scaling-up so that L3F can reach marginalised communities in many more countries. Under the L3F model, COL is a catalyst in bringing together governments, institutions, civil society and the private sector to build the capacity of the communities through gender-sensitive ODL.

During this Three-Year Plan 2012–2015, COL will:

  • scale up and facilitate the self-replication of the model from small communities to larger geographical regions such as districts and provinces;
  • strengthen policy advocacy strategies with governments, industries and financial institutions;
  • promote dialogue with international development and national agencies for replicating the L3F approach; and
  • pay specific attention to smaller nations in the Caribbean and Pacific.


Healthy Communities

The women feel the [community learning] programme belongs to them; it is their own initiative. That is why they are eager to participate and bring more ideas.… In their communities they came up with this idea: Can we have a media programme to share with more communities, to share outside of our specific communities? They made it happen. They make it work.

Florida Malamba Banda, Senior Facilitation and Training Officer, MaiMwana Project, Malawi

Health is a major challenge in the developing Commonwealth, which accounts for 60% of maternal and 40% of infant deaths in the world. Globally, non-communicable diseases, principally cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases account for 60% of deaths, rising to 80% in low-and middle-income countries. The rate of HIV infection in Commonwealth countries is more than twice the world average rate. Communities have urgent needs for health education, but conventional top-down approaches cannot cope with the sheer scale of learning needs.

COL’s Healthy Communities initiative addresses this issue. By emphasising collaboration, participation and blended and multichannel approaches, the initiative’s community learning model has enabled better individual and collective responses to maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases, and other health and development challenges, particularly those faced by women and youth in resource- poor areas.

During this Three-Year Plan 2012–2015, COL will engage strategic partners at all levels to:

  • ensure co-ordination among development stakeholders as well as relevance, sustainability and appropriate scale of proposed learning programmes;
  • focus on women and youth as learners, highlighting their particular health concerns;
  • validate, refine and diversify the community learning model through applied research, analysis and advocacy;
  • develop capacities among key national and regional partners to apply the community learning model; and
  • build capacities at the local level to design and deliver non-formal ODL programmes using media, particularly community radio and mobile devices, for large numbers of citizens.