Friday, April 19, 2024

Ethiopia embraces digital higher education

As COVID-19 forces Ethiopia to consider digitizing much of its services, the latest to catch the wave are local universities and colleges being forced to take their classes online. In line with this growing demand, the Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA) has prepared a draft directive to govern the burgeoning tertiary-level online education system in Ethiopia, The Reporter has learnt.

The directive, which was issued in April, states that the content of an online education should be secular, and free from any influence of political and religious views. 

Regarding the requirements to apply for a license, the draft states that the institution should have a mission and a vision centered on national and public interests. Apart from this, if the institution is established on a Share Company or Private Limited Company (PLC) basis, it should provide bylaws and article of association.

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If it is a private company, it should provide the evidence that proofs the legal ownership of the institution.

Institution’s that want to engage on online courses are also expected to provide the relevant registration license from government offices demonstrating their eligibility to engage in activities of higher education. Similarly, if the institution is a private public partnership, it is expected to provide evidence acquired from relevant government bodies. 

Finally, the institution is also expected to provide a strategic plan that shows the future plans of the institution regarding online courses. It is also expected to deposit a 500,000 birr guarantee or equivalent bank guarantee to process the licensing.

To this effect, Lunar International College has become one of the few high learning institutions in Ethiopia to fully divert to the online education system, shifting from the traditional way of in-person learning. 

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According to its founder, Anteneh Ewnetu, this shift is an internationally adopted new system of teaching that has been adopted in many parts of the world and now being embraced by Ethiopian institutions.

“Selected application of learning platforms will be uploaded onto students and instructors laptops and/or smartphones. Currently, LIC has chosen two platforms namely, Zoom (for virtual classrooms) and melimu-learning management system,” he told The Reporter, adding, “The component of these platforms (are to include), conducting virtual classes, reviewing video and audio tapes recorded during the virtual class session together with lecture slides.”

This new method is also being attempted by others, including private and public higher institutions, to help ease the burden felt of thousands of students that have been forced to suspend their studies.

A growing many have entirely adopted virtual interactions, which was rare sight before the pandemic started, just a few months ago. It has also given to growing adult students’ responsibilities at home and the flexibility to learn at their own pace, which is a growing phenomenal in many nations, but a belated one in Ethiopia.

“It is clear to the educational community that crises knows no boundaries and crisis planning must now be an integral part of effective educational learning and that will allow students to excel and maximize their effectiveness and should not be seen as a replacement for traditional learning rather as a viable option,” Anteneh said.

While online learning is new locally, there are believed to be thousands of students who are taking classes from online schools from abroad, mostly from China and India in Ethiopia. 

According to Anteneh, so far Lunar and others are free to experiment with online system due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis. However, one the pandemic is through, these institutions would be required to fulfil the requirements and have their programs approved by the Authority.  

Contributed by Neamin Ashenafi and Samuel Getachew

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