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Development Agencies Launch Distance Learning in Somalia

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By Josiah Obat

Nairobi, November 30, 2005 (VOA News) – The World Bank, the United Nations and the African Virtual University have teamed up to support distance learning using the Internet at six institutions in Somalia.  

Professor Stanford Mukasa speaking via satellite link to his journalism students in Hargeysa University and the University of Puntland 3,000 kilometers away in Somalia , during the launch of the Somali online distance learning initiative in Nairobi .

The African Virtual University is developing learning material and making it available through interactive teaching to Somali students using the Internet.   Additional material such as audio and videotapes are later shipped to the students by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP).     

Mr. Peter Dzvimbo is head of the African Virtual University .

"We know that human resources are not there in Somalia , because it is a post conflict society and obviously the human resources are not there.   This is why distance education and e-learning in particular lends itself to this kind of societies that are in distress," he explained.

Mr. Dzvimbo says the Somalia distance-learning program was established at the cost of $100 million, a sum he says is 10 times less than the amount required to set up conventional learning facilities in Somalia .

The initiative is a joint venture between the World Bank, the U.N. Development Program and the African Virtual University , and six learning institutions in Somalia .

These are the University of Hargeisa , Puntland State University , Mogadishu , The University of East Africa in Puntland, Amoud University in Somaliland and the Somali Institute of Management and Administration Development.

These institutions offer certificate courses in Journalism, Information Technology and Business Communications, and plan to offer full degree courses in the same fields, as well as teaching, next year.

Mr. Abdi Hayabe Elmi is president of the University of Hargeisa , the first university to start the distance-learning program.   He says the program is going well.

"Very good.   It is not smooth sailing.   You have certain problems, but it is going well," he said.   "The response is outstanding considering that their certificates are countersigned by universities in the states.   That gives them an added value to their certificates."    

Some of the foreign universities involved in this program include Indiana University of Pennsylvania and New Jersey Institute of Technology in the United States .

Somalia has been without a central government since the regime of the late Mohamed Sa'id Barre was overthrown in 1991.   Vicious fighting between various political and clan factions ensued, sending into exile most educated Somalis and disrupting most education programs in the country.

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