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Hon. Beti Kamya Opens First Open Impact Conference

Hon. Beti Kamya (3rd Left) gives her address as L-R: Prof. Devendra Kodwani, Dr. Charles Mbalyohere, DVCAA-Dr. Umar Kakumba, Prof. Fred Masagazi Masaazi and Dr. Kaviraj Sharma Sukon listen during the 1st Open Impact Conference, 13th December 2019, Hotel Africana, Kampala Uganda.

On Friday 13th December 2019, the Minister for Kampala Capital City Authority and Metropolitan Affairs, Hon. Beti Kamya, opened the First Open Impact Conference organized by the Open University (OU), UK in partnership with Makerere University College of Education and External Studies (CEES). The two-day Conference held under the theme Extending the Frontiers of Access to Higher Education in Africa: Strategies for Leveraging Online and Distance Learning Programmes was supported by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).

Hon. Beti Kamya who represented the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Museveni could not hide her joy at presiding over the Conference, especially as the Makerere University Anthem sung by the Department of Performing Arts and Film rekindled memories of what she fondly referred to as “the best years of my life.” She graduated in 1978 with the Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing of Makerere University.

Delivering the First Lady’s remarks, Hon. Kamya noted that the first Open Impact Conference was a timely reminder to reflect on the modes of delivery of education in our respective countries especially if Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4); Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, was to be achieved.

The First Lady shared that the First Open Impact Conference came at a time when the world was experiencing emerging trends in ICT and congratulated the institutions upon successfully organizing the event. She nevertheless requested the institutions to take keen interest in the employability and entrepreneurship of graduates, noting that they should emerge as job creators not seekers.

She said that Government programmes such as Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) had led to increasing demand for Higher Education, which can only be optimally delivered through the use of ICTs. The First Lady therefore pledged the Government’s readiness to provide an enabling environment for the promotion of Open, Distance and eLearning (ODeL).

In his remarks, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Dr. Umar Kakumba, who represented the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe thanked Hon. Beti Kamya for presiding over the Conference where Mak was partnering with OU to facilitate the dialogue on ODeL.

Hon. Beti Kamya (2nd Left) is escorted by DVCAA-Dr. Umar Kakumba (Left), Prof. Fred Masagazi Masaazi (2nd Right) and Dr. Jessica Aguti (Right) after officially opening the 1st Open Impact Conference, 13th December 2019, Hotel Africana, Kampala Uganda.

“The introduction of External Programmes for the Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Education in 1991 was in response to increasing demand for Higher Education without compromising quality and affordability” remarked Dr. Kakumba as he delved into Makerere’s ODeL history.

He thanked partners such as Commonwealth of Learning, UNESCO, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, NORAD, OU, Indira Gandhi National Open University, UNISA, University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town, University of Agder, the Open University of Tanzania, University of Nairobi, University of Dar-es-Salaam, Kyambogo University, Busitema University and Nkumba university for supporting Makerere University’s rollout of ODeL.

Dr. Kakumba added that by passing the ODeL Policy in 2015, the University Council had paved way for the creation of an Institute of Open, Distance and eLearning. “Through this Institute, we shall be able to rollout ODeL programmes at Makerere University on a large scale without compromising quality.”

The Deputy Vice Chancellor noted that whereas the External Programmes had increased access to quality higher education, Uganda’s graduate enrollment still remained low compared to the region’s, hence the need to leverage ICT to boost access. “In this regard, we appreciate the enormous support we continue to enjoy from the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Education and Sports as support to infrastructure development under projects such as the African Development Bank V Project.”

Representing OU, the Executive Dean, Faculty of Business and Law and Member of the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive, Prof. Devendra Kodwani remarked that his institution was founded in 1969 to create access to quality education without limits. “Our vision is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas… as such, more than 2million graduates have gone through The Open University.”

Prof. Kodwani shared that Africa was chosen to host the concluding event of OU’s 50year celebrations due to important partnerships with leading institutions such as Makerere University and the ACU. He added that only 12.1% of African youth as compared to 68% of their European counterparts are being educated at university level and this needs to change if Africa is to prosper.

Prof. Fred Masagazi Masaazi (Right) makes his remarks at the 1st Open Impact Conference as L-R: Prof. Uduma Oji Uduma, Prof. Devendra Kodwani, Dr. Charles Mbalyohere and Hon. Beti Kamya listen.

“The growing young population of Africa will need access to quality Higher Education and the OU will be happy to work with partners in Uganda to increase this. I therefore look forward to these two days of conversations and exploring opportunities for us to collaborate and co-create an ambitious vision for learning for the next 50 years and beyond” added Prof. Kodwani.

The Director General of the Open University of Mauritius, Dr. Kaviraj Sharma Sukon shared that his institution had managed to achieve financial independence after seven years of operation. This, he added, was thanks to measures such as designing programmes in partnership with the industry, which guarantees marketability of courses and employability of graduates.

Dr. Sukon nevertheless noted that a lot of work still remains in changing the mindset of the greater population that still views ODeL as a second choice rather than the alternative mode of learning that it is. He also decried the slowdown in adaptation and exploration of emerging technologies such as augmented reality and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to evaluate how distance learners progress, especially with regard to ease of learning.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), National Open University of Nigeria, Prof. Uduma Oji Uduma shared that whereas the institution was present in all 36 Federal States, unless the ODeL system is further scaled up, it will be hard to satisfy the demands of the over 560,000 students in Nigeria’s Higher Education. “Access to Higher Education is very paramount and only ODeL can sustain the growing demand. We believe that ODeL is the way to go if we are to meet targets of the SDGs especially SDG 4.”

The Principal CEES, Prof. Fred Masagazi Masaazi in his remarks commended the Government of Uganda for the pledge to support ODeL as a means of increasing access to quality Higher Education. He thanked the teams at CEES and OU for the organizing the First Open Impact Conference and pledged his College’s readiness to host the 2020 edition of the same.

The Opening Ceremony was moderated by Dr. Charles Mbalyohere, Organising Chair, First Open Impact Conference 2019. He congratulated the organisers upon turning the initially modest idea into a successful event and wished OU 50 more years of fruitful, groundbreaking projects in the ODeL space.

Article by Public Relations Office.

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