Inmates, refugees remembered on ‘e-learning’

MEMBERS of the African Council for Distance Education (ACDE) have gathered in the city to discuss, among others, how to reach out to more disadvantaged people, including prisoners and refugees, in offering higher education. 

ACDE is the continental educational organisation comprising African universities and other higher education institutions committed to expanding access to quality education and training through open and distance learning (ODL), including e-learning.

ACDE members yesterday discussed challenges hindering prisoners and refugees from joining distance learning programmes, which are more appropriate for them to pursue tertiary education.

Presiding at a meeting, Open University of Tanzania (OUT) Vice-Chancellor, Prof Elifas Bisanda, noted that OUT had been making efforts to ensure more inmates and refugees enrolled on the programmes offered at the facility.

“We want to help disadvantaged people access higher education…in Tanzania we have some of the prisoners, who have joined our programmes and graduated,” Prof Bisanda noted.

However, he explained that the challenge was a way of lecturing to them.

“As the term distance learning tells itself, we normally apply information and communication technology (ICT), but the prisoners are not allowed to have mobile phones or computers,” he said.

He further said that OUT had opened its branch at one of the country’s refugee camps to enable them to access tertiary education.

Prof Abdalla Adamu from the National Open University of Nigeria told other participants that in his country they had an inmate education programme meant to provide free education to eligible inmates for undergraduate and post-graduate studies.

So far, there are 439 prisoners enrolled on a distance learning programme recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

“I call upon other countries to encourage inmates to benefit from this free and distance learning education programme. By doing so they will involve prisoners, who are part of the manpower, for their countries’ development. It also makes them independent because when they come out of prison most of them are not employed,” Prof Adamu noted.

For his part, Prof Rotini Ogidan, said a face-to-face method to lecture to prisons had to be strengthened.

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