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The African Development Bank Group’s board of directors has approved a USD15.6 million grant from its concessionary lending arm, the African Development Fund (ADF) to help strengthen the capacity of African Virtual University (AVU).
Agnes Soucat, the bank’s director for human development, said: “One of our human development goals is to increase access to higher education through information communications technology (ICT) and help African institutions benefit from and contribute to the global production and distribution of knowledge.
“By helping to build the capacity of the African Virtual University, we are doing just that. The AfDB Group’s financial support, through this ADF grant, is consistent with the bank’s new model for education in Africa.”
Transforming African economies into knowledge economies will require increased investments in higher education. Most African countries do not have the capacity to build traditional university campuses needed to absorb the large and increasing demand for higher education.
Awarded the top prize for best emerging initiative by the US based education-portal.com, AVU has graduated more than 40,000 students across Africa and established the largest distance and e-Learning network in over 27 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2004, the African Development Bank provided USD7.3 million to AVU to create open, distance and e-Learning centers, establish connectivity in AVU partner institutions and develop teacher training programmes.
Today, AVU is a regional public good, comprised of 10 open distance and e-learning centres and an online interactive portal consisting of 219 course modules in math and science, teacher education, basic ICT skills and ICT classroom integration. Students are able to avail themselves of materials free of charge, and these are available in English, French and Portuguese. The portal is currently used by students in 142 countries.
The ADF grant will finance the establishment of 12 new open distance and e-Learning centres. It will also upgrade 15 e-learning centres at the 27 AVU partner institutions across Africa, develop ICT capacity, enhance science and technology programmes, and train staff to develop various distance and e-learning courses. A key outcome of the project will be to increase the number of qualified female scientists in AVU partner institutions.
AVU is an online tertiary education network that uses blended open distance and e-learning programmes to provide quality undergraduate and graduate education through established African universities. Part of its objective is to increase access for a wider array of learners. AVU was created in 1997 by the World Bank to increase African students' access to quality education through the use of ICT. Based in Kenya, it is today a pan African intergovernmental organisation with campuses or partner institutions in nine Anglophone, nine Francophone and four Lusophone African countries.