Home | News    Wednesday 3 November 2010

Ethiopia: Lifting of ban on off-campus education welcomed

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

November 2, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) - Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Education has lifted a controversial ban it imposed against distance education – learning remotely over the internet, post or telephone – which is mainly provided by privately owned higher institutions of the country.

Sudan Tribune has learnt that the ban was lifted after agreement was reached on Friday following weeks of intense negotiations between some 64 private owned higher institutions and government bodies.

In August 26, 2010, state Ministry Education issued a directive which ordered private institutions including public universities across the nation to indefinitely close degree programs and stop receiving new applicants.

At the time the ministry argued that the decision was aimed at tackling the decreasing standards in processes for distance education.

Authorities at the ministry said ‘several private institutions were more interested in profit making than offering standard education’

Based on the agreement, the private institutions can now continue providing the programs (excluding health-related courses) provided that they fully implement the new curriculum or face consequences.

The ban on distance education had drawn wide criticism from scholars, politicians and private colleges. It also angered tens of thousands of students.

The ruling EPRDF party won a land slide victory in the country’s May 23 election sweeping over 99% of total votes. Among others the ruling party pledged to aggressively work to curb unemployment and improve education at all levels.

Saba Nega, 24, a high school-graduate is currently working as a shop-keeper at her uncle’s cosmetics shop supporting her small family from just 600 Birr (around $35) a month. She says she was disappointed by the government decision as she had plans to enroll in distance education program this year.

“My friends and I were angered when we first heard the news” she said adding.

“It made me ask myself why I had to elect the EPRDF party on the recent election.”

However she later went on to saying that “I am very happy now I can work and in parallel do my higher studies to realize my future plans”

Lifting the ban has been welcomed by the public.

“No question, lifting the ban is the right decision provided that high learning institutions devote to provide quality education,” Tsgabu Haile, a lawyer and once a distance education student told Sudan Tribune.

‘‘The distance education will allow citizens, who are tied of daily duty and unable to join the regular study, to continue their high learning’’ he said adding “we should also consider that there are many others living in distant areas, where there are no nearby colleges.”

The horn of Africa’s country has recently launched a 5-year Development and transformation Plan (DTP), which the country hopes to boost its economy grow by 15%.

An opposition official on a condition of anonymity told Sudan tribune that the ban was a total mistake from the beginning.

“How can a government that bluffs to boost an ambitious economic growth and promises to change lives of citizens shrinks the backbone of development (education),” they said.

“Imposing the ban contradicts its own policies and it is not a surprise now it lifts the ban realizing contradicts own plans and promises.”

“It was shameful to see such a mistake from the new government. Easy as it is should have enforced quality control mechanisms instead.”

Ethiopia has 23 public universities and some 64 private institutions. There are an estimated 75,000 students currently enrolled in distance education programs.

Rather than online in Ethiopia distance education takes place through agents with offices in different places across nation to provide modules, books and hold classes and exams.

(ST)