ADEA seeks to encourage reflection on digital education and on how it can help to improve education access and quality in Africa
Tunis, August 29, 2008: The digital summer school organized by the Global Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) in collaboration with ADEA, held in Hammamet, Tunisia, came to an end yesterday after three days of discussions on the use of tools such as interactive whiteboards (IWBs) and their deployment in African contexts.
Delegations from 16 Francophone countries (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Tunisia) explored the IWB, both as a teaching tool and as a means of meeting the challenges faced by education in Africa, in formal primary, non-formal and secondary education as well as in the different subjects taught (languages, history and geography, mathematics and science).
The delegations assessed the potential of this tool for improving teaching methods, facilitating access to educational resources and fostering content production by teachers.
The meeting also covered a number of issues relating to the tool and the factors that determine whether it is used successfully: physical and technical constraints (electric power and connectivity) to the use of the IWB; financing the costs of deployment and maintenance; compatibility between systems and development of common standards; supply of "turnkey" tools; software interface and ergonomics; adaptation of tools to facilitate content production by teachers; adaptation of content to local contexts an to African languages; setting up a francophone portal for the sharing of resources; validation of the digital resources posted online; development of teacher communities; establishing tools for sharing and improving resources (forums, blogs, wikis); the importance of supporting measures such as training for teachers.
Mr. Sadok Korbi, Tunisia’s Minister of Education and Training, regarded the summer school as contributing to the reflection on education for all. In his closing address, he spoke of the digital divide between North and South: "Such a gap has an immediate and grave impact on education", he declared, "especially since we are now seeing the emergence of new educational modes such as digital education, distance education, the interactive whiteboard, digitization of lessons and content and virtual libraries." "Reducing this divide", he continued, "amounts to fighting against marginalization and exclusion, and controlling under-development, insecurity and war".
The minister stressed the fact that Tunisia has given priority to education and training – which are allocated one-third of its total budget, or 7.5% of its GDP – and noted some important advances: achievement of universal schooling; 70% of 5-year-olds enrolled in pre-primary school; school life expectancy of 12 years; low pupil/teacher ratios in both primary and secondary education; low dropout rates; a primary school completion rate of 75% in 2007; one-third of young Tunisians accessing universities. He informed the participants of Tunisia’s plans concerning education and new technologies. These plans arise from a political and strategic choice made by Tunisia and are in keeping with a vision of modernity and ethical progress. Tunisia, he declared, "intends to draw on its own experience in order to assist its brother countries".
Mr. Alain Madelin, President of the Global Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF), announced the plan to declare 2010 International Year of Digital Education in Africa. Launching will be prepared in conjunction with the Africa Cup.
ADEA Executive Secretary Ahlin Byll-Cataria expressed his satisfaction with the results of the meeting, which brought together Francophone African countries, the AfDB and NEPAD, various bodies that support education in Africa, universities, academics and private manufacturers. He encouraged Tunisia to serve as a bridge between sub-Saharan and North African countries, and invited countries to consider how to implement projects in such a way as not to widen the disparities between rich and poor, between urban and rural areas, between nomads and sedentary peoples. He declared that ADEA would continue to facilitate dialogue and sharing of experience on digital education and that it would support local processes in partnership with other organizations such as the DSF and the Education for All Network in Africa (REPTA).
The summer school concluded with the presentation of an interactive whiteboard as a gift to each Francophone country delegation present in Hammamet.
ADEA is currently based in Tunis, and is hosted by the African Development Bank since August 1, 2008. Its activities, originally focused on the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, were extended in 2008 to include North Africa, pursuant to a decision ratified in January 2008 by the Tenth Summit of the Heads of State of the African Union.