By Bernard Buteera
Makerere University has launched a two million dollar E-learning Project, dubbed The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program E-learning initiative.
The launch was held on Tuesday 20th September 2022 at Makerere University, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium. It attracted over 200 participants, who included members of University Management, College Principals, School Deans, Academic and Administrative staff, students and the general university community.
While addressing the gathering, the Chief Guest, Prof. Mary Okwakol, the Executive Director of National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), congratulated Makerere University for winning such a huge grant, which will go a long way in transforming the eLearning infrastructure at Makerere University.
“I am happy to be joining you in launching a project that is at the heart of National Council for Higher Education. Online learning is at the heart of the Council, not only because of the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, but also the world is now a digital world.” Prof. Okwakol remarked.
Prof. Okwakol thanked Mastercard Foundation and other development partners who have continued to support initiatives that help transform higher institutions of learning in Uganda.
“I sincerely thank the Mastercard Foundation and other partners who have continued to support higher education in Uganda, especially in the area of research and online learning. Globally, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, greatly disrupted education systems forcing learners and some schools to shift to virtual learning to curb the spread of the pandemic.” Prof. Okwakol pointed out.
On his part, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe urged the university community, especially the academic staff to take advantage of the Mastercard Foundation E-learning initiative to develop e-content across all Colleges of the University, to enhance capacity for eLearning at Makerere University.
”I appeal to the Colleges to embrace this project and have as many courses adopt this pedagogy development system, even though students will continue with face-to face and phyisical learning, they should be allowed the option of online learning. The platforms that are going to be built, will give our students an opportunity to interact with international students, scholars, teachers and with each other.” Prof. Nawangwe applealed.
The Vice Chancellor, further called upon all other development partners to emulate Mastercard Foundation in supporting Makerere University and other universities on the entire African continent in strengthening digital literacy, so that Africa is not left behind.
”In 2018 I attended a conference on E-learning in Beijing China, where a critical question was asked; Will Africa be left behind again? This was in reference to many advancements that were taking place in the western world, in which Africa had been left behind.” The Vice Chancellor reminded the audience.
Prof. Nawangwe further emphaised the importance of e-learning as one of the critical modes of teaching and learning in the 21st first century.
”Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot over emphasise the importance we attach to e-learning the 21st Century, that is why we took a decision to elevate the Department of Open and Distance Learning into an Institute of Open and Distance E-learning with an intention of having e-learning extended to other Colleges of the university.” Prof. Nawangwe pointed out.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs, and Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the E-learning Initiative, Prof. Umar Kakumba, rallied the University community to support the implementation of the project in the University.
“The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program E-learning initiative could not have come in at a better time than post COVID19 era. A pandemic, which exposed our systems and methods of teaching and learning. You all recall, when were hit by the pandemic, with lockdowns and closures of institutions of learning, we all went into a panicky mode on how were going to cope with online learning. I therefore call upon every member of the university to give this project the support it deserves.
Prof. Kakumba reminded the audience the importance and relevancy of online learning at Makerere University and other universities in Uganda.
“The online method of learning is best suited for everyone. This digital revolution has led to remarkable changes in how the content is accessed, consumed, discussed, and shared. Office goers and stay home mothers can take up online educational courses too, at the time that suits them. Depending on their availability and comfort, many people choose to learn at weekends or evenings.” Prof. Kakumba remarked.
Prof. Paul Birevu Muyinda, the Coordinator of the Mastercard Foundation E-learning Initiative, informed the audience the importance of the project and the expected outcomes for the University.
“The Mastercard Foundation e- Learning Initiative is a Project funded by Mastercard Foundation aimed at addressing the negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic that constrained access and continuity of teaching, learning, research and community engagement activities at Makerere University” Prof. Muyinda pointed out.
Prof. Muyinda further thanked the team that he worked with in putting up the proposal in a very short time that yielded such an important grant for the University.
“I thank the team that spent sleepless nights putting together the proposal that resulted into this project. I must report that Makerere University is privileged to be having the most highly qualified persons in online instruction design and online pedagogy at the IODeL and beyond. It is now up to Makerere University in particular and the Country in general to make use of these persons to transform the terrain of online, blended distance and e-learning education.” Prof. Muyinda remarked.
Prof. Justine Namaalwa, the Program Coordinator for Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere University, informed the audience, that the E-learning initiative was one of the many partnerships between Mastercard Foundation and Makerere University geared at supporting the young people to succeed on the African continent.
“The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program continues to recognize that in order to enable young people across Africa to succeed, there is need to; Address systemic barriers in Higher education, Strengthen the capacity of Institutions that serve the Young People, and Support innovative solutions across critical sectors.” Prof. Namaalwa remarked.
The colourful launch ended with a panel discussion in which panelists digested the importance and opportunities for open distance and eLearning in higher institutions of learning.
Bernard Buteera is the Communications Officer of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere University.