Africa Open Educational Resources Forum ended in Pretoria
The Africa Open Educational Resources Forum provided specific African inputs to the Draft Paris Declaration to be submitted to the World OER Congress, which will take place in June 2012 in Paris (France). The Forum was organised by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and UNESCO, and hosted by the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Pretoria from 21 to 22 February 2012.
The organizers were delighted at the richness, outputs and high standards of the discussions from 50 participants nominated by their governments, representing both practitioners familiar with OER and government policy makers. Fifteen countries participated in the Forum: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda.
Professor Makhanya, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of UNISA, opened the Forum and evoked a number of significant issues relevant to the OER movement in Africa. He alluded to the digital divide and the challenges of limited or non-existent technological infrastructure and access to the Internet, but emphasized that Africans must generate their own new knowledge. John Daniel, Director of the project “Fostering Governmental Support for OER Internationally” echoed Prof. Makhanya’s statement that OER were indeed on the map in Africa, referring to several initiatives on the continent.
Firoz Patel, from the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) also welcomed participants and delivered an eloquent keynote address entitled “OER – a matter of public policy?”. In the follow-up discussions in plenary participants called for new publishing models and awareness raising among different stakeholders.
Practitioners presented several ongoing OER initiatives in Africa and highlighted the importance of developing adequate policies, practices and infrastructure that assure funding and partnerships at different level and with a variety of stakeholders. The panel discussion on policy issues and recommendations from governments also continued the elaboration of the previous panel discussions and added the importance of OER to expand access to education and make it more equitable, systemic integration of OER as good resource utilization and research on the use of OER.
On the second day of the Forum participants provided input to the draft Declaration that will be submitted to the UNESCO World OER Congress in June 2012. The Forum was also a good opportunity to engage Member States OERs, raise awareness about the transformative potential of OER for education and enrich the information that Member States provided in response to the COL/UNESCO questionnaire survey on OER policy.
The African Regional Policy Forum was the second in a series of regional consultations and the next one will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 28 and 29 March 2012 for the Latin America region.