Strengthening open schooling provision in sub-Saharan Africa

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The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has been supporting open schooling initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa for many years. Recently, the focus has shifted from print-based and contact-supported models to blended and online learning models.

Botswana Open University’s (BOU’s) inaugural open and distance learning (ODL) conference provided an opportunity for a regional reflection on open schooling provision as a pre-conference workshop. Subsequent participation in the conference offered not only an opportunity for open schooling providers to engage with the latest ODL practice but also a time to form bi- and multi-lateral partnerships.

In addition, it provided an ideal opportunity for COL to engage with BOU in preparation for the Eleventh Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF11) in 2025.

The regional workshop was a testament to the collaborative spirit of open schooling initiatives, with active participation from delegates representing eleven countries. This diverse group of stakeholders brought a wealth of perspectives and experiences to the table, enriching the discussions and shaping the workshop’s outcomes.

BOU’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kgomotso H. Moahi, welcomed delegates, noting that the workshop involved a “meeting of minds” to engage and shape the plan for the period 2024-2027. She welcomed COL’s President and the delegates from many countries in the region. She noted the longstanding partnership between COL and BOU, observing that it was necessary to talk about either “in the same breath” and that COL has always “kept the flame of education burning” and confirmed the critical role of open schooling in BOU’s identity, stating it is “part of our DNA.”

COL’s President and CEO, Professor Peter Scott, thanked BOU for co-hosting the workshop. He emphasised the importance of creating a space where “policy meets practice”, a crucial step in addressing the pressing issue of out-of-school youths. The President highlighted the upcoming PCF11, co-hosted by COL and the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Botswana, with BOU as its implementing agency, as a significant event. He acknowledged that while most countries had made strides at the primary level, the lack of secondary schools and teachers posed a challenge. Therefore, Professor Scott underscored the imperative to reduce the growing number of out-of-school youths through some form of open schooling.

COL’s Director Tony Mays presented on open schooling in the Commonwealth. He noted that the distinction between national and institutional levels in open schooling provision is blurred because open schools in sub-Saharan Africa are dependent on government subsidy and report directly to their relevant Ministry. Dr Mays also explained the current focus on girls’ education, noting that the measures to do this were in no way detrimental to boys’ education.

BOU’s Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Services, Professor Gbolagade Adekanmbi, closed the workshop.

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