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Opinions of Saturday, 28 August 2021

Columnist: Michael Ampong

Fixing the master cog in the wheel of Ghana’s virtual education delivery

Managing Editor, Academic Diary, Michael Ampong Managing Editor, Academic Diary, Michael Ampong

The cliché that the world is now a global village by virtue of the explosion of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) holds true across almost all aspects of our individual and national lives. It is even truer in terms of Education delivery because Education is the fulcrum point around which revolves lasting development.

Today, ICT has eliminated age-old barriers to Education. It has presented us with hitherto undreamed-of opportunities, possibilities and capabilities for knowledge and skills acquisition and for building constructive synergies across the world.

It is therefore reassuring to observe that the Centre for National Distance Learning and Open Schooling (CENDLOS), the agency under the Ministry of Education responsible for the development and integration of Virtual Education in Ghana, is rapidly emerging from the proverbial silent hard worker status, to take a position of brand prominence and forefront action within the Virtual Education delivery space.

This renewed spirit of vibrancy, proactivity and practical action now being shown by CENDLOS has been fueled partly by the Covid 19 pandemic, which resulted in the widespread disruption in education delivery. Together with other collaborators, CENDLOS ensured that students continued to receive lessons in their homes during the lockdown. Against that backdrop, the pandemic, as dark a cloud as it has been, could also be viewed as having a silver lining for Virtual Education development in Ghana.

But it is even more important to state that the heightened impetus to progressively develop and seamlessly incorporate Virtual Learning into the face-to-face model, is in line with the vision of government. Government’s commitment to the development of Education has been demonstrated since it assumed the reins of power. Education expenditure as a percentage of total government expenditure was 28.9 percent in 2017, signaling government’s commitment to the development of Education.

But, while acknowledging the substantial investments made in Education in general, we must as a country, begin to seriously zoom in the lenses on Virtual Education as a critical ingredient for today and an indispensable route to education delivery in the future. Virtual Education has ceased to be complementary; it constitutes a part of the basic structure for modern-day education delivery.

The sector Minister, Hon. Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum has on many occasions reiterated government’s conviction that a futureproof way to ensure the delivery of quality, equitable, sustainable and responsive education across all levels is to invest in Virtual Learning. Beyond the expression of conviction, government is also seen to be taking concrete steps to actualise its vision for Virtual Education. The iBox and iCampus E-Learning platforms are among the major interventions made by government and key stakeholders so far, spearheaded by CENDLOS.

But the enormity of the task of building an education delivery model that effectively blends traditional and virtual learning, and the urgency associated with it, demand that government and all other stakeholders in Education, including the general public, work even more closely together to empower CENDLOS. An ‘all hands on deck’ approach is needed to firmly position the agency as the pulsating nexus of Virtual Education delivery. Figuratively speaking, CENDLOS must become like the engine of a 600km/h bullet train, providing the propulsive power for the Virtual Education coaches.
The bill to clothe CENDLOS with the full powers of a state-owned agency is expected to be laid before parliament in the next few months. It is the ardent hope of all stakeholders in Education, as well as all forward-looking Ghanaians that the bill will be passed timeously, in order to enable CENDLOS execute its crucial mandate more fully and thus place Ghana on the map of countries that are conscientiously securing their citizens’ future through the development of responsive Virtual Education delivery systems.
In concluding, the point needs to be re-emphasised that no country that is future-minded and conscious of the irreversible Educational trends being carried on the wings of ICT, can afford to play lethargic, or turn a blind eye to this sweeping wind of change. If a nation did so, that oblivion or lethargy would amount to gambling with the very future of its people. Technological stagnation in Education, in these times of fast-paced technological change is not stagnation; it is backward suicidal motion - a self-imposed existential threat to nationhood. Ghana cannot afford to slip down that path. We must consolidate the modest successes chalked in Virtual Education delivery and focus on making the bigger vision a reality.