Speech - LAUNCHING OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF LEARNING REGIONAL FOCAL POINTS MEETING FOR AFRICA AND THE MEDITERRANEAN.
· Dr the Honourable Bunwaree, Minister of Education and Human Resources,
· Prof Asha Kanwar, President and Chief Executive Officer of COL
· Mr Vis Naidoo, Vice Chancellor of COL
· Dr Kodhandaraman Balasubramanian, Education Specialist- Agriculture and Livelihoods
· Dr Godson Gatsha, Education Specialist- Higher Education
· Focal Points of COL from Africa and Mediterranean
· Chairpersons and heads of tertiary education institutions,
· Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a pleasure for me to be here this morning for the opening ceremony of this Regional Focal Points meeting which is being organised for the second time in Mauritius.
Between the first meeting held in 2011 and the present one, within a lapse of two years, there has been a major development in the field of open and distance learning in Mauritius. We have now a full-fledged Open University.
This development highlights the special importance given by Government to widening opportunities in education and making use of the latest technologies to bring education within the reach of the people, especially women and vulnerable groups.
The Mauritian Government has outlined a vision to develop the country into a knowledge based economy by 2025 and we are striving to achieve this goal by creating new campuses in the country, encouraging partnerships with international universities, and attracting international students to Mauritius. Right now, three new buildings are under construction in three different places of the island. These campuses will provide modern facilities for higher education. Partnerships have been established with renowned universities such as University of Aberdeen, University of Oxford, University of Geneva, ESSEC, ESCP, Science PO, Universite de Bordeaux, Universite de Limoges, Central st Martins, UK just to name a few. We are discussing with George Washinton University, University of Delaware and Virgina Tech of USA.
The Open University has already started building its reputation as a prime open education provider, with more than 70% female enrolment in its programmes. It has been provided with two additional campus buildings to run its programmes. The Prime Minister personally performed the inauguration ceremony of one of the buildings, showing his clear determination to make higher education accessible to all.
The Open University has also benefited from the collaboration of the Commonwealth of Learning for the “Commonwealth Executive Master of Business Administration” and “Commonwealth Executive Master of Public Administration” programmes. These two courses have been contributing to the professional growth and career advancement of the learners.
Within our efforts to promote open learning and access to educational materials, we have introduced WI FI throughout the campus of two public universities and are in the process of developing an e-library platform to enable students to access academic publications and journals online. The Open University is also participating in the Pan African E-Network launched by the Government of India and plans to set up study centres in African countries
We intend to pursue such efforts to consider mobile technology for learning. As such we support the creation of an Open Education Resources platform with the collaboration of all the tertiary education institutions and will develop an Open Learning Policy for the higher education sector.
Before I conclude, as we have in our midst the senior staffs of the Commonwealth of Learning, I wish to inform you that the Government of Mauritius is offering 50 scholarships to African students for undergraduate studies in our public tertiary education institutions in Mauritius. I invite you to ensure that the nominations for these scholarships are sent from your country. The detailed guidelines have been included in your files.
I cannot end my speech without expressing our sincere appreciation to Prof Kanwar and her team for their continued support and for proposing Mauritius as a venue for this meeting. The Commonwealth of Learning has been instrumental in the development of open and distance learning in Mauritius and in the setting up of the Open University.
I welcome all the delegates and recommend that you find some time to visit and enjoy the Mauritian scenery and environment.
Let me end by wishing you a fruitful deliberation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your kind attention.