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How Huawei Is Driving Equity & Quality In Education Using Technology

Huawei’s Deputy Chairman Ken Hu outlined its vision and action plan for education under its digital inclusion initiative TECH4ALL at the Global Education Webinar entitled "Driving Equity and Quality with Technology", emphasizing that "connecting schools and skills development are two key ways for Huawei to improve equitable and quality education."

The webinar was joined by leaders and experts from UNESCO, GSMA, the Ministry of National Education of Senegal, universities and educational institutions, as well as the private sector.

Improving Equitable and Quality in Education through Technology

 Digital technology plays an important role in education. However, 50% of the world’s population still does not have Internet access, and many people lack the skills needed to use digital devices. As a result, the digital divide in education continues to widen.

Ken Hu said: "We believe that everyone, everywhere has the right to education and the equality of opportunity it brings. As a technology company, Huawei wants to help with connectivity, applications and skills by focusing on two important areas of connecting schools and developing digital skills respectively.

In terms of connecting schools, Huawei will help to provide access to high-quality educational resources such as digital curriculums and e-learning applications, and teacher and student training by connecting school to the Internet with partners.

In South Africa, Huawei recently launched the DigiSchool project in partnership with operator Rain and educational non-profit organization Click Foundation, aiming to connect 100 urban and rural primary schools over the next year, in addition to the 12 already connected through 5G technology.

"Through digital education, we not only address the literacy crisis in the country, but also provide young children with the digital skills needed for future success," Nicola Harris, CEO, Click Foundation added at the webinar.

In terms of digital skills development, Huawei plans to provide digital skills training for vulnerable groups in remote areas, especially female students, through projects such as DigiTruck in a program called ‘Skills on Wheels.’

Since the launch of DigiTruck in Kenya at the end of last year, it has provided training for more than 1,500 young adults and teachers in rural areas. Huawei hopes to replicate the program in France, the Philippines and other countries in the next two years.

"These all solar-powered, mobile classrooms with wireless broadband access can reach even the most remote communities." Olivier Vanden Eynde, CEO of Close the Gap, key partner of DigiTruck, said.

Stepping up efforts in response to Covid-19

Huawei has stepped up its efforts through its TECH4ALL initiative in support of UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition, set up to tackle the global challenges impacting education due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

For instance, the company has joined forces with the UNESCO Coalition and the Ministry of National Education of Senegal to support the country to carry out distance learning during the outbreak. Local teachers are provided with connectivity, digital devices and skills training which will benefit more than 100,000 students.

“This crisis has changed the face and future of education. It has demonstrated how fast change can happen through partnership, when expertise and resources are matched up with local needs to ensure learning continuity, especially for the most marginalized students,” said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education.    

At the same time, the Huawei ICT Academy launched its "Learn ON" program in early April, aiming to address the educational needs of University-based ICT talent affected by the epidemic. The program brings together global university partners and offers college cooperation incentive funds, which can be used for online courses and examinations, online experiments, etc., and provides more than 130 Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) resources, covering cutting-edge technology fields such as artificial intelligence, big data, 5G, and the Internet of Things.

Public-private cooperation accelerating the resolution of education issues

The Global Education Webinar focused on the two topics of "Distance Learning for Better Education Continuity" and "ICT Innovation for Inclusive Learning".

The best practices and experience of China, France, Luxembourg, Senegal, South Africa and other countries were shared and discussed and Borhene Chakroun, Director of UNESCO’s Policy and Lifelong Learning Systems, reiterated that “with at least 63 million primary and secondary teachers affected, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for developing teachers' capacity to effectively engage in distance learning, which will become part of the education and training provision in the future”.

 In addition, participants reached a consensus that public-private cooperation is the key to promoting inclusive education by digital technology. “Many lessons have been learnt this year in low- and middle-income countries, adapting services to address the needs of users and responding to the impact of the global pandemic by evolving business and critical partnerships.

The GSMA and the mobile industry are supporting the current situation, and committed to long-term support of the SDGs (the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal) in the era of ethical leadership.” added by Stephanie Lynch-Habib, Chief Marketing Officer, GSMA.

To achieve greater digital inclusion in the education field, it requires cross-sector efforts by governments, industry organizations, educational institutions, and technology companies to contribute their respective experiences and resources. This will ultimately accelerate the achievement of SDG 4 (“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”) by 2030.

How Cost Of Higher Education Is Expected To Affect Learning Post COVID-19

By Fred Kasirye & Bill Nkeeto

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Higher education is any postsecondary education form of learning that normally results into degrees, diplomas or certificates.

Higher educational institutions include not only universities and colleges but also various professional schools that provide preparation in fields as law, theology, medicine, business, music, accountancy and art.

Higher education also includes teacher-training schools, junior colleges, and institutes of technology. Normally the basic entrance requirement for most higher-educational institutions is the completion of secondary education.

Stakeholders in this sector are individuals or groups who have interest or concern for the institutions offering higher education.

These include administrators, lecturers, students, parents, families, community members, local business leaders, and elected officials such as school board members, council members while on the other side is the regulatory bodies like; NCHE, BTVET, Allied Health Council, to mention but a few.

These bodies perform their roles on behalf of the Government of Uganda, to ensure that quality education, that will eventually nurture professionals fit to take the country to the next level is delivered.

However, the circumstances under which these regulatory bodies and all other stakeholders have been operating, have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes by any standards, have come at a huge cost for all the players involved, something which requires to be discussed now, during the pandemic, than any other time; since no such an occurrence was envisaged previously to mitigate the current situation, which the entire education industry finds itself in.

Discussing the cost of higher education on stakeholder needs during Covid-19 times - specifically identifying how this is expected to affect learning Post Covid-19, has a bearing on all the above-stated stakeholders alike.

Available facts show that as of March 25th 2020, over 184 countries closed doors to schools globally. According to the African Population and Health Research Centre; 1.576 billion learners worldwide at all levels of education, could no longer access their learning institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of all the learners affected, 297 million were from Africa, a number so significant for any country to ignore taking any action. Until this current Covid-19 pandemic, institutions have been running structured annual academic calendars in the form of terms and semesters.

Institutions now have to cope with huge losses owing to the lockdown. At the beginning of every term/ semester institutions of higher learning normally make adequate preparations as they await the term/ semester opening. These include but are not limited to: - purchasing of supplies to go through the period, -paid or on credit, which is another discussion. Contracts for staff have already been signed off to guarantee effective teaching and learning.

Lecturers in public Institutions will most likely still be paid despite closures, implying that these expenses, for the most part, do not translate into learning or other Institution related services, however long a period the institutions may be closed.

If for instance the 2020 exam cycle cannot be completed, then the full year’s spending will be impacted yet cash flows are grossly affected. The effect on private Institutions is even more drastic since for them to stay afloat, they have to cut expenses largely baiting on essentials and none essentials. Cancelling contracts, renegotiating repayment of Institutional bank loans, laying off staff and counting losses from students who left mid-semester without completing their fees/ tuition along with the fear of semester/term overlaps becoming evident every day that passes.

For as long as the vaccine to curb the COVID-19 pandemic is not discovered, the risks related causing all forms of the losses in all sectors will keep mounting globally.

Away from disrupting the teaching and learning calendar, is the need to manage the costs of mitigating the consequences of Institutions closing. A prominent model has been the jump to distance learning alternative. The costs of which differ based on the available infrastructure.

There are enormous lessons to pick from this none the less. Just all of a sudden, the need to ensure that learning continues, has seen institutions invest in unprecedented online study options thus making many mistakes as is the case with learning on the job since at this point in time there is need to walk as well as run at the same time.

Staff are largely not well tooled with the skills to manage online studies and have to learn at the same speed or even slower than their millennial students. A glaring large oversight in 21st-century learning, when digitisation has swept through other sectors like a wildfire, education largely stayed conservative in defence of a need to maintain quality and efficiency. However, the need to address the problem beforehand, to ensure business continuity, invites additional costs that could be marginal in one end of the world and very high in another.

It is these business continuity dynamics that require to be properly assessed and analysed at country level to inform a business continuity plan if inequalities are to be avoided, but at such short notice, multiple huddles for all sector players tend to unfold with regards to accessibility,  affordability and in some cases competence ability with regards to the staff expected to roll out the learning on these new platforms.

These present as short term costs, yet the long term presents more costs relating to stakeholder losses ranging from a dip in government revenues, failure of parents to pay for the immediate semesters/ terms as many have their incomes greatly dented, and even the service industry affected due to low demand given the challenged balance sheet of many of the Higher Education Institutions threatening the collapse of some, and others settling for acquisition or mergers for others.

Even with dipping revenue governments are squarely focused on containing the spread as other sectors wait, which in itself is a wise approach Health First. Economy next but surely not education for now with limited resources.

This national formula will not in any way spare the nationals/citizens who will have a trickledown effect of the severity caused by the pandemic. In homes across countries, families will bare the unfortunate pain of cancelling school for the year, to concentrate on soliciting for resources to enable them to start with the next year. The trickledown effect will without a doubt affect all stakeholders in ways rather drastic post-Covid 19. This will have a sustained effect on each of the various stakeholders. Ultimately the quality and quantity of education, especially in Low developed countries, is at a risk.

In conclusion, looking at the unforeseeable future, Institutions of higher learning have an early opportunity to find their feet towards survival and continue to serve, the already negatively affected stakeholders as a result of Covid-19.

The Covid-19 uncertainty could be the door to greater success for institutions of higher learning, if among many things; distance learning is embraced through the usage of online technology (webinars), creating parameters required for making quality module packs for learners, and mechanisms for online assessment, module packs moderated and qualified for academic delivery, facilitators empowered, and state of the art infrastructure put in place to support the new status quo.

This way the cost of education will not only become more affordable but also, institutions will have the capacity to ensure mass enrolment and make more people ready to receive it through the various Distance learning channels especially on the various online platforms.

This will also require the government and where possible the private sector to massively invest in high-speed internet and making it cheaply accessible to almost everyone in every corner of the country.

However, this decision is not limited to private Institutions, it requires the blessing of the regulators and Government by providing an enabling environment as well as guidelines to ensure there is no compromise to quality, a concern that can have far-reaching implications.

The telecoms should leverage this to build partnerships that will ensure data is available to the vulnerable and the internet can be across geographies. Countries that shall be able to take advantage of this will prepare themselves well for the future of education in the 21st century, suffer a short impact and reap a long-term reward in the provision of education services.

While a lot seems to be washed away, this is the time to redesign the model of education delivery to fit the current needs, especially those brought to light by the current global pandemic.

About the authors:

Fred Kasirye is development management specialist &Dean Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Victoria University

E-mails: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bill Nkeeto is Business Management expert & Dean Faculty of Business and Management at Victoria University

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Institutional Focus On Family Could Be Solution To Global Problems

By Fred Kasirye

The family is seemingly easy to understand a concept, it is, however, an overstated term by both laypeople and professionals in the day to day life. It could basically be referred to as a group of individuals who share a legal or genetic bond, but for many people, family means much more, and even the simple idea of genetic bonds can be more complicated than it seems.

In this unit of society, the husband and wife are bound legally together in a relationship often time born out of love compassion and commitment. Such a relationship is often time registered and known by the state. It is also true that the nature of families in a given society by any measure and standard dictates the nature /state of society - calm, rowdy, disorganised or civil.

Family is the first source of hope when the future is unknown and yet also is the last safety net when all hope is gone. COVID 19 presents the latest proof to this. International Agencies and Governments have made the vital call to families to stay home and results show that where this call has been heeded to the infections have been low and are being better managed. Social distancing in homes has been followed to the later. Further evidence that family is a solution to many global challenges.

For probably most couples in this generation, except for the very elderly (over 90+ years), this season of the pandemic marks the longest period they have had to spend mandatorily together considering the stay home directives given by governments across the world.

The family principals (Husband and Wife) have therefore been put to the longest test of each other's patience and tolerance. But better still accountability and basic governance matters relating to a home from resource planning, identification, and allocation. Many are failing at this test and realise they just cannot subsist.

Media during this COVID 19 period is awash with stories of increasing domestic violence. The scuffles often shown are life-threatening, like probably never before. This is not to suggest that there has not been domestic violence in homes before the pandemic, but rather the rate this time around is very alarming. The clergy have noted this trend of events and have often directed their summons during this period to this end. It is not yet clear why domestic violence is on a drastic rise.

Sociology as a field of study teaches us to appreciate family in reflecting on the nature, character and growth of society. These unfolding realities not only show that sociologists have a greater role to play past this pandemic to reconstruct the family as is expected to be through offering services such as counselling and guidance but also seeks the increase in relevant research relating to the challenges, influencing factors and better still what the future of the family is envisaged to look like.

Further to this, religion shall actively take up its role to strengthen the fibre that makes a family by ensuring anti-social undertones are minimised through preaching good social practices as embedded in the teachings. It is only then that Science and Business initiatives and programs for society will thrive from generation to generation.

Away from that, policymakers have a role in this, owing to the fact that the current answer to the pandemic is stay home. Therefore, the home should be a safe and enabling place and a family has a role to play in this.

We, therefore, shouldn’t take any of the unfolding events relating to the family during this COVID 19 period lightly as we could be seeing the smallest and yet most crucial unit of society being put to irrecoverable test and trial.

Healthcare, Education and Gender-responsive policy, studies as well as family level initiatives and innovations should be promoted by governments all over the world. Any effort in the opposite direction is in vain and counterproductive.

Fred Kasirye, the writer, is the Dean Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences- Victoria University, Kampala

OPINION: Pressuring Governments To Stop Supporting Fossil Fuels Not Good For Africa

By NJ Ayuk

As African oil and gas countries struggle with Covid-19's devastating impact on demand, two international groups seem to be celebrating it.

Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) described the low oil prices caused by the pandemic as a "golden opportunity" for governments to phase-out fossil fuel support and usher in an era of renewable energy sources.

"Subsidising fossil fuels is an inefficient use of public money and serves to worsen greenhouse emissions and air pollution," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said in a joint OECD-IEA statement. "While our foremost concern today must be to support economies and societies through the Covid-19 crisis, we should seize this opportunity to reform subsidies and use public funds in a way that best benefits people and the planet."

I would argue that the OECD and IEA don't necessarily know what's best for the people who live on this planet. Pressuring governments to stop supporting fossil fuels certainly would not be good for the African oil and gas companies or entrepreneurs striving to build a better future. And it could be downright harmful to communities looking at gas-to-power initiatives to bring them reliable electricity.

Too often, the discussion about climate change — and the call to leave fossil fuels in the ground— is largely a western narrative. It does not factor in the needs of low-income Africans who could reap the many benefits of a strategic approach to oil and gas operations in Africa: reduced energy poverty, job creation, and entrepreneurship opportunities, to name a few.

Ironically, a policy that would jeopardize Africans' ability to realize those benefits is being recommended at the same time protesters across America are calling for equity in some of the same areas. Although police violence against people of color is at the center of the protests — a response to the horrific death of a black man, George Floyd, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes — the protests also point to social and economic disparities between the races in America.

While I don't want to exploit the death of George Floyd, I do see parallels between the racial disparities in America and the struggles of Africans whose lives could be improved through oil and gas. I always see a common pattern of ignoring black and African voices.

Too often in America, the value of black lives was not given proper consideration until George Floyd's death forced the topic to the forefront and rightly so. And on the global stage, OECD and IEA are dismissing the voices of many Africans who want and need the continent's oil and gas industry to thrive. I would advise these organizations not to ignore the needs of poor people in African countries.

As it stands, African energy entrepreneurs, the African energy sector, and Africans who care about energy poverty are basically saying, "I can't breathe."

It's time to get the knees off their necks.

The Dangers of Energy Poverty

Consider the impact of energy poverty. Approximately 840 million Africans, mostly in sub-Saharan countries, have no access to electricity. Hundreds of millions have unreliable or limited power at best.

Even during "normal times," energy poverty is dangerous. The household air pollution created by burning biomass, including wood and animal waste, to cook and heat homes has been blamed for as many as 4 million deaths per year. How will this play out during the pandemic? For women forced to leave their homes to obtain and prepare food, sheltering in place is nearly impossible.

What about those who need to be hospitalized? Only 28 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's health care facilities have reliable power. Physicians and nurses can't even count on the lights being on, let alone the ability to treat patients with equipment that requires electricity —  or store blood, medications, or vaccines. All of this puts African lives at risk.

That's what makes gas-to-power initiatives so critically important: It only makes sense for African countries to use their vast natural gas reserves for power generation. And we're already making progress on that front. Today, about 13 African countries use natural gas produced domestically or brought in from other African countries, and there's every reason to believe this trend will grow.

In Cameroon, for example, Victoria Oil and Gas PLC already provides domestic gas for power generation, and its subsidiary, Gaz du Cameroun (GDC), has agreed to provide the government gas for a new power station with the potential to accommodate growing demand.

And in Mozambique, the Temane power plant, also known as Mozambique Gas-to-Power, is being developed now, and plans are underway to develop a second plant. Both will rely on Mozambique's Rovuma basis for feedstock.

I have heard calls, including some from the OECD, for the development of sustainable energy solutions to meet Africa's power needs. Great — let's go for it. I'm all for renewable energy solutions, but Africans should not be forced to make either-or-decisions in this area. Energy poverty is a serious concern, and it's wrong to make it more difficult for African countries to use a readily available natural resource to address it.

Investment — Not Aid

One of the benefits of oil and gas operations in Africa is they provide opportunities for both indigenous companies and for foreign ones. And as foreign companies comply with local content laws, they invest in the communities where they work. Africa needs those investments, particularly training and education programs that empower people to make better lives for themselves.

I want to be clear: Africa does not need social programs, even educational programs, that come in the form of aid packages. What's more, offering Africa aid packages to compensate for a halt or slow-down of oil and gas operations will not do Africans any good.

I tried to make that point recently during a friendly debate with Prof. Patrick Bond, a very bright man and a distinguished professor at the University of the Western Cape School of Government. He argued that Africa should keep all of its petroleum resources in the ground to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and prevent further climate change.

Developed nations, the professor continued, should compensate Africa for that sacrifice, and Africa could use that money to develop other opportunities. No. This is not the time for Africa to be calling for more aid. Africa has been receiving aid for nearly six decades, and what good has it done? We still don't have enough jobs.

Investment creates opportunities, meaning Africans aren't receiving, they're doing. They're learning, working, building, growing, deciding. We, as Africans, must be responsible. Our young people should be empowered to build an Africa we all can be proud of. Relying on the same old policies of the past, relying on aid, simply isn't going to get us there.

The truth is, no matter how you feel about the American Shale Revolution, Africans can learn from it. One of the reasons it succeeded is because you had small businesses willing to take a chance on new technology. They worked hard, and in the end, they boosted production. America became the largest crude oil producer in the world.

Those companies made something extraordinary happen, and so can African businesses. We need more entrepreneurs willing to seize opportunities and, in some cases, make mistakes. That's how we grow and learn. We need government leaders to do their part by creating a welcoming environment for foreign investors and establishing local content policies that result in opportunities for business partnerships, quality jobs, and learning opportunities for Africans.

Africa is capable of building a better future, of ending energy poverty, strengthening our economy, and improving the lives of everyday Africans. If we're smart about it, and we work together with purpose, our oil and gas resources can help us get there.

And that's why this is a horrible time for OECD, IEA, or any other outside organizations, to interfere with our natural resources.

Don't Stand in Our Way

I understand and respect the OECD and IEA's commitment to preventing climate change. But when you describe the chance to harm a major African economic sector as a great opportunity, there's something wrong.

When you put independent African oil and gas companies at risk, you're saying your objectives are more important than African livelihoods and aspirations.

American institutions are coming under fire for failing to recognize that Black Lives Matter and to work alongside African-American communities to create positive change.

I encourage the OECD and IEA to take a different approach.

This is an opportunity for all of us to join forces, to take a team approach to growing Africa's energy sector, and to do it without dismissing Africa's right to capitalize on its own natural resources.

NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group

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