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The information provided below was submitted as at 2020-05-15 13:51:57 by Association of African Universities in responding to the AU Survey of Partners Education Sector Response to COVID-19. The information is solely for experience sharing purposes and not to be used for other purposes without express permission of the African Union Commission.

 

Name of Organisation: Association of African Universities
 
Website: www.aau.org
 
Key objectives of the initiative/program?
1. To help universities and other higher education institutions transition to online teaching and learning.
2. To support African higher education institutions adapt to the current environment without major disruptions to their academic calendars.
3. To support African higher education institutions obtain affordable internet bandwidth for sustained connectivity for online teaching and learning.
 
Elements of the Initiative/Program
COVID-19 response planning, Provision of Open Online Course , Direct support to Ministries of Education, Direct support to grassroot organizations, Support to Innovators;
 
Sectors of Education targeted by the Initiative/Program
Tertiary Education, TVET;
 
Other Organisations/Institiutions involved in implementing the program/initiative
1. UNESCO.
2. UNICEF.
3. eLearnAfrica
4. Wiley Educational Services
 
Regions in Africa benefiting from Program/Initiative
Eastern Africa, Western Africa, Northern Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa
 
Challenges with the COVID-19 response
1. Lack of resources to implement key programmes for African higher education community.
 
Lessons learned from the COVID-19 response
1. It has made African higher education institutions to be innovative and creative in order to keep their doors of teaching and learning open.
2. It has revealed structural weaknesses in African educational environment especially in the areas of preparedness for natural disaster and emergencies.
 
Good practices with the COVID-19 response
1. Many higher education institutions are willing to support their colleague institutions in this difficult time by sharing information, ideas and providing support.
2. African higher education institutions are increasingly bonding together and realising that they are bound by a common destiny
 
Innovations implemented during the COVID-19 response
The Association of African Universities (AAU) has taken immediate steps to help our member institutions adjust and adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic so that their core functions are not adversely affected.

One of the initial activities of AAU as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic was to administer an online needs assessment survey to African HEIs with a view to finding out their preparedness or otherwise to face the disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the top challenges that they have reported as captured in the online survey administered by AAU on COVID-19 include (i) no preparedness for online courses; (ii) the ‘digital divide’ that is affecting students living in unconnected areas; (iii) broadband infrastructure challenges; (iv) lack of e-learning platforms; and (v) handling large numbers of students online.

Some of the interventions undertaken include:
 Issuing guidelines on adopting online and virtual education.
 Providing information on available resources for virtual education (including open and free platforms which can be used by institutions with budgetary constraints).
 Organizing virtual seminars for members to help them build capacity for virtual education.
 Collaborating with Regional Research and Education Networks to help extend affordable bandwidth to institutions.
 Providing a pool of experts to help individual institutions to transition to online education platforms (assist in areas of course design, delivery and assessments, technical support).
 Negotiation with software vendors to provide affordable software to our member institutions.
 Providing free software for members with serious budgetary constraints.

A consortium consisting of the AAU, UbuntuNet Alliance (UA), West and Central Africa Research and Education Network (WACREN), Arab States Research and Education Network (ASREN) and the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa met virtually and subsequently issued a Communique on 6th April 2020 calling for investments to support the development and strengthening of campus networks & research and education networks infrastructure and provision of online/remote teaching and learning platforms/tools for African HEIs. The Communique noted that the campus networks, supported by the NRENs, are fundamental in transforming methods of teaching, learning and research as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to the closure of a large number of African HEIs. The consortium was of the opinion that this is the opportune time for all of us to come together to support our African HEIs keep their doors of learning, teaching and research open, and therefore appealed to African Governments, Development and Funding Partners and Private Sector to support (financially & in terms of human resources) the development of strong campus networks and the strengthening of NRENs so that African HEIs can effectively provide all types of digital services for remote teaching.

Subsequently, these partners (AAU; UA; WACREN; ASREN; and NRENs) have written a Concept Paper as a result of the COVID-19 requesting for uptake in digital transformation, network infrastructures and advanced services. The Concept Paper has been submitted to various development partners for possible support.

Furthermore, the AAU entered into partnership with eLearnAfrica and Wiley companies to quickly support African universities to migrate their teaching and learning activities online. This partnership among the AAU, eLearnAfrica and Wiley aims to respond to the challenges that AAU member universities have reported in coping with COVID-19 disruptions. The partnership is a quick response to support African HEIs so that they do not lose time in terms of their current academic calendar commitments. In the arrangement brokered by the AAU, African universities would be supported beginning May 2020 to resume online classes, while universities with student population of 10,000 or less would be required to pay to the service providers an amount of US$500 per month. Similarly, institutions with student population of between 10,001 and 20,000 would pay US$1,000 per month; universities with student population of between 20,001 and 50,000 would pay US$1,500 per month; and universities with large student sizes of more than 50,000 would pay US$2,000 per month.

On Tuesday, 14th April 2020, the AAU organized a webinar for all vice chancellors, presidents and rectors of African universities dubbed Vice Chancellors Dialogue: Keeping African Universities’ Learning Doors Open. During the meeting, case studies and practical lessons on how institutions are handling the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic from Ashesi University of Ghana, Helwan University of Egypt, and International University of Grand-Bassam of Cote d’Ivoire were presented and discussed. Subsequently, the AAU has been supporting African HEIs in various ways with a view to moving their teaching, learning and research activities online.

A similar webinar is currently being planned for the CEOs of national and regional regulatory agencies of higher education in Africa on Thursday, 21 May 2020 on the theme: RESPONSE OF AFRICAN HIGHER EDUCATION REGULATORY BODIES TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES.
You are all invited to join us at this virtual meeting that begins by 11.00am GMT.
The goal is to share information on how the regulatory agencies are supporting the HEIs in coping with their teaching and learning during the virus crisis. The virtual meeting will further offer an opportunity to discuss best practices on how HEIs are offering uninterrupted educational services to their students by distance learning in order not to disrupt their academic calendars as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its related lockdowns.

A Solidarity Message in key official languages as a result of COVID-19 pandemic has been sent to all higher education stakeholders from the Office of the Secretary General, while our North Africa Regional Office (NARO) has been organizing training sessions on tools for remote teaching as a response to COVID-19 disruptions.

 

If you are interested in contacting the Organisation for further information, please contect This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please note that any secondary use of this data is not allowed without seeking express permission of the African Union Commission.