2012 marked the launch of the e-learning programme, which saw DAFA teaming up with South West College to explore opportunities for delivering modern curriculum through online learning methods. The programme was launched to help improve the futures of young people from struggling backgrounds in Zambia.
Fatima High School in Ndola was selected as the pilot school, and the project is now gaining significant momentum. Having already delivered a Level 3 Diploma in IT, the SWC and DAFA teams, in collaboration with local facilitators are now working towards the delivery of third level programmes, beginning with a Foundation Degree in Computing.
Speaking about the project, Michael McAlister deputy director at South West College said Zambia has one of the highest high levels of unemployment in Africa, and coupled with the low GDP place it amongst the world’s poorest nations. He added:
“South West College is delighted to be inspiring young people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to further their education. The progress to date has been incredible and the Zambian students are now using a range of online learning tools, including Blackboard Collaborate, podcasts, vodcasts and Skype.
“Since the inception of the project, we have established a computer hub in Ndola and both staff and students have been trained on South West College systems and inducted into college processes. We are very excited about the future of this project.
“This is a pilot project but with the Ministry of Education in Zambia currently evaluating the programme, we hope to have the opportunity to expand it in the future.”
The secretary of DAFA (Direct Aid for Africa) Liam McGrath, travelled to Africa to attend the recent graduation ceremony. He said:
“The students were so aware of the lecturers in South West College and were able to talk about their individual personalities; it was clear to me that the e-learning programme provided a very real experience for the students. It also struck me that the second year students have started to help the first year students, and you could literally see knowledge being imparted, which is the mushroom effect we like to see in education.”
The programme has attracted international recognition, and to date has received three awards for innovation in teaching and learning, the most recent being the DANI Award, which celebrates the best of Northern Ireland’s digital and creative talent.
On Saturday 11th October, South West College staff and students were joined by a number of local cycling clubs for the Tour de South West, a 110 mile route, encompassing all of the college’s campuses in a bid to raise vital funds for the development of the Zambia e-learning project.