Benin first to host African Virtual Campus

Student Germain Noudéhouénou Loko trying out the standard keyboard and Braille Screen Terminal. © UNESCO Antenna in Cotonou

Benin became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to host the African Virtual Campus for Science and Technology on 7 July 2008, with the official opening of an e-learning centre at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Cotonou, in the presence of Christine Ouinsavi and Vicentia Boco, respectively Minister of Primary Education and Minister of Higher Education and Research of Benin, as well as senior management from UNESCO.

Among the computers installed in the virtual campus is one equipped with a Braille Screen Terminal and sound system for visually impaired students. First-year students Germain Noudéhouénou Loko and Joseph Moussa tried out this equipment the day the e-learning centre was launched. ‘Three days ago,’ Germain told project coordinator Mohamed Miloudi from UNESCO, ‘we could never have imagined ourselves working on a Braille and sound computer. From now on, thanks to you, we shall be able to move forward with the world like our brothers and even, to a certain extent, without them.’ Miloudi stayed on at the centre for a week to show the teaching staff how to use the new equipment.

Approved by UNESCO’s General Conference in October last year, the African Virtual Campus is contributing to implementation of the Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action adopted by the African Union in January 2007. The UNESCO project is developing a network of fully operational e-learning national centres across Africa – one per country – by 2012, with initial financial support from the Government of Spain. This Internet-based network will be used for large-scale student and teacher training.

The African Virtual Campus will work closely with universities around the Mediterranean basin belonging to the first network founded by UNESCO and the European Commission in 2002, the Avicenna Virtual Campus. From day one, the participating university in each African country will be able to use the modules developed by the Avicenna network over the past five years. Ultimately, each African centre will produce modules of its own which will then be pooled among institutions participating in both the Avicenna and African Virtual Campuses.

UNESCO is launching a national Campus at the University of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire in October then a sub-regional network for 15 West African countries in Senegal in the first week of November.

For details: m.miloudi(at)unesco.org; on the Avicenna Virtual Campus, see A World of Science, October 2006

Source: A World of Science, volume 7, number 3, July-September 2009

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