Recurring Issues Encountered by Distance Educators in Developing and Emerging Nations

Clayton R. Wright, Gajaraj Dhanarajan, Sunday A. Reju, International Review of Research in Open, Distance Learning, Mar 18, 2009
Commentary by Stephen Downes

"If students are still reading by candles and kerosene lamps, expecting them to learn online may not be realistic." We heard this sort of concern fairly often in the UNESCO open education forum. But is it a real assessment, or simply anecdote from a few loud voices? Certainly, in some places, the stories are not apocryphal. "In June 2007, Kenya's education minister, Professor George Saitoti, stated that approximately 80% of the primary schools and 35% of secondary schools were not connected to the power grid... In eastern and southern Africa, the cost of Internet access can be 20 to 40 times the cost in North America." I read frequently statements like this: "The challenge [in Africa] from a governmental and regulatory perspective is what can and should be done to create an environment to encourage investment, both domestic and foreign, by the private sector." Yeah, right. But "The average Rwandan makes US$220 a year." No profit for the private sector means no investment. What would it cost to provide electrification in Africa, and internet access? Less than the cost of wars. Less than the cost of stimulus packages. But will the politicians allow it? Will the present providers, mobile phone companies, and vendors of educational materials?
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