The government has urged Universities in Kenya to leverage on the exponential growth in ICT sector as part of enhancing Open Distant and E-Learning (ODEL) programs to give learners maximum online resources and help mitigate against disruptions brought in the education sector by Covid-19 pandemic.
Principal Secretary University Education and Research Ambassador Simon Nabukwesi said that local Universities had to adapt to the Covid-19 disruptions through innovation. He pointed out that strategic partnership with players in the ICT sector would be crucial in tapping the massive potential that would allow institutions of higher learning to expand the frontiers of Open Distance and Online Learning.
The PS was speaking on Thursday at Taita-Taveta University in Mwatate during the 4th Graduation Ceremony of the institution. “The challenges posed by Covid-19 implies that universities should be the front-runners in exploiting technology to enhance online learning for varsity students,” he said.
He stated that private actors like Huawei were eager to collaborate with institutions of higher learning to increase internet accessibility and bolster other aspects like bandwidth to help varsities offer seamless online courses with minimum ease.
He further urged the institutions to boost the capacities of their staff to enhance the ease of teaching.
After the suspension of physical learning last year during the initial outbreak of Covid-19, many institutions invested in online learning and other virtual lessons to continue teaching their learners. However, several challenges including weak bandwidth, poor resources and lack of capacity has dogged this initiative. The PS stated that solid investment technology and strategic partnerships would address these challenges and see Universities continue imparting knowledge to learners.
The PS also called for more collaborations that would enrich the programs at the institution. He pointed out emerging trends in nanotechnology, biotechnology and dry land farming from countries like Israel. The courses would further enhance the capacity of the institution.
The graduation ceremony was also attended by Prof. Hamadi Boga, Principal Secretary for Crop and Research. Prof Boga was the pioneering Vice Chancellor of the university before his current appointment. Others officials present included Dr. Jeremiah Koshal, chair of the University Council and Prof. Fred Barasa, the Vice Chancellor. Wundanyi MP Danson Mwashako was also present.
As part of strict observance of Covid-19 protocol, only a handful 680 graduands were present.
Prof. Boga said his department would collaborate with the university to reap the benefits of Smart Climate Agricultural. He noted that Taita-Taveta County was already engaged in various projects under the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project and the same would be extended towards the University.
“These are areas we can partner to help introduce programs that can enrich the institution and elevate it to higher levels,” said the PS.
In her address, the Chancellor Dr. Sally Kosgey noted the progress made by the University in promoting investment and research in mining of gemstones, oil and gas.
The Vice Chancellor Prof. Barasa noted that the University was keen on entrenching quality in the programs offered at the institution. He stated that such an approach did not place a lot of premium on economic gains by packing the varsity with large numbers.
He further noted that the University was plagued by perennial water shortages that the government should address. “Water and transport challenges remain an issue that the ministry can intervene and resolve,” he said.
By Wagema Mwangi