National Open and Distance Learning policy validation underway
By Cherno Omar Bobb
The Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MOHERST) in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning (CoL) on Monday began a three-day high-level meeting on the development and validation of the National Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Policy for The Gambia.
The validation currently underway at NAQAA Conference Hall, is designed to provide the operational instrument that will guide the management and coordination of ODL programs and activities in The Gambia. It will further serve as reference material for those interested in participating in the delivery of ODL as practitioners, learners, policy makers or regulators.
Welcoming the gathering, Anthony G. Mendy, Director of Tertiary and Higher Education at the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MOHERST), described the initiative as a welcome one and thanked the Commonwealth of Learning (CoL) for supporting them in this worthwhile endeavour.
The Ministry, he added, has been working towards increasing the access rate of higher education and has always been confronted with the high investment in constructing learning centers.
“The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic took the educational system by surprise and most of the institutions of learning were not prepared for such an emergency,” said Mr. Mendy, who added that almost all institutions and policy makers developed initiatives in ensuring that learning continued through the use of technology-enabled learning.
Prof. Jane-Frances Agbu, adviser, Higher Education at Commonwealth of Learning (CoL) in Canada stated: “…lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that utilisation of digital technologies for teaching and learning is here to stay; that growing inequalities need urgent attention; pandemic triggered a phenomenal growth in self-directed learning; and that we need sustainable systems.”
She added that they have seen that education for the future should be affordable, accessible, blended, sustainable and inclusive, noting that we need to start with the last person on the queue, so no one is left behind.
She highlighted that an ODL policy provides pathways towards achieving the above empathic ideas, saying for an informed policy document, a comprehensive analysis of status of ODL in The Gambia which will be presented by the COL appointed Consultant in the course of the meeting will provide the much-needed data and insight towards this.
Prof. Momodou Mustapha Fanneh, Dean for School of Business and Public Administration at the University of The Gambia, who is the lead consultant, said ODL provides another dimension compared to conventional learning, noting that during the Covid-19 pandemic, we realised that open and distance learning needs to be embraced.
Prof. Fanneh pointed out that we need to embrace ODL more as a country, saying ODL is cost saving and has other benefits.