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African Universities Urged to Embrace Flexible Education Systems as MMUST Becomes the First University in Kenya to Host ACDE Conference

A section of ACDE 2024 Conference participants at MMUST.

 African Universities have been urged to embrace flexible education systems in order to establish robust Open, Distance and Online Learning structures. This was during the 7 Triennial African Council for Distance Education (ACDE) 2024 Conference hosted at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST). This is the first time that the Conference is taking place in Kenya, making MMUST the first University in the country to host it.

The ACDE 2024 Conference, themed ‘From Recovery to Resilience: Innovations in Open Distance and Online Learning,’ is a vital platform for academia, stakeholders, policymakers, and scholars to delve into the intricate nuances of Open, Distance, and Online Learning. The conference officially kicked off on Tuesday, 26th March, 2024 and is set to end on 29th March 2024. Notably the Conference has attracted participation from over fifteen (15) Vice Chancellors of Universities across Africa, delegates from the Department of Higher Education-South Africa, as well as partners from Nigeria, China and the United Kingdom.


Delegates arrive at the ACDE 2024 Conference in MMUST.

Speaking during the official opening ceremony, Mr. Dan Ameyo, who was representing the Prime Cabinet Secretary and the CS Foreign and Diaspora Affairs-H.E. Dr. Musalia Mudavadi, stated that Universities must leverage the power of technology to enhance learning experiences, making education more accessible and inclusive. He added that teaching methods should remain relevant and effective in the digital era, and urged institutions of higher learning to develop robust strategies for building resilience.

“As representatives of our respective nations and institutions, we have a collective responsibility to chart a course towards a more resilient and equitable future for education in Africa. We must prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, ensuring that no one is left behind in our pursuit of educational excellence,” said Mr. Ameyo.


Mr. Dan Ameyo at the ACDE 2024 Conference.

The Principal Secretary-State Department for University Education and Research, Dr. Beatrice Inyangala, was represented by Dr. Jemimah Onsare. In her speech, she reiterated that the pursuit for inclusive and equitable access to quality education is a central objective for African governments, as outlined in Agenda 2063 of the African Union and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “The journey towards achieving this noble goal has been faced with obstacles such as natural disasters, socio-political and economic upheavals. There is a need to develop strategies that will enable African education systems to withstand shocks and disruptions while continuing to deliver quality education to all learners,” stated the PS representative.

“There are over ten countries that have been represented here today to discuss the future of higher education in the Open, Distance and eLearning space. As institutions of higher learning in Africa, we should think about how we will use ODeL to contribute towards Agenda 2063, and in so doing, transform our continent,” said the ACDE President, Prof. Goski Alabi. In her presentation, titled ‘The Future of Education: Navigating the Post-Pandemic Landscape’, Prof. Alabi emphasized the need for flexible higher education systems, adding that ODeL spaces should be skill oriented.


Prof. Goski Alabi speaks during the ACDE 2024 Conference at MMUST.

“We need to diversify assessment strategies and abolish examinations in order to address challenges that staff and students face, including mental health issues,” she added. On his part, the 1st ACDE Vice President, Prof. Olufemi Peters, acknowledged the strides that the Government of Kenya has taken towards Open and Distance learning, like the establishment of the Open University of Kenya, which he said is a significant milestone. “This initiative will empower both Kenyans and Africans to access education conveniently,” he remarked.

MMUST’s Council member, Dr. George Lutomia, who was standing in for the MMUST Chairperson of Council-Dr. Pamela Sitienei, noted that the University Council takes cognizance of the role of research in accelerating development and is dedicated to mobilizing and allocating more resources towards this agenda. “The MMUST Council recently commissioned the University Fibre, marking a significant milestone that will enhance research, teaching and administrative functions. The fiber connection will provide the backbone infrastructure of a high-speed network and internet access to all major University buildings. I urge renowned scholars to mentor upcoming researchers regarding innovative approaches on funding and the politics of the policy arena. The net benefit of such a strategy is that we will have a wide pool of stock researchers who will open up new vistas in the way we handle problems affecting Africa,” read Dr. Sitienei’s speech. MMUST Council members and members of the University Management were also present during the Conference.


Prof. Solomon Shibairo gives his remarks during the ACDE 2024 Conference.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Solomon Shibairo, in his opening remarks extended a warm welcome to all participants. Prof. Shibairo emphasized the significance of the event in fostering collaboration and driving progress in online education, and subsequently applauded MMUST for the investments it has made with regard to online education. “We have established a fully-fledged Institute of Open, Distance, and eLearning, which is dedicated to expanding access to our online clientele,” revealed the Vice Chancellor.

 “This is a very important gathering that takes place every three years. For the last two decades, ACDE has been a champion for using flexible modes of learning to enhance educational access,” pointed out the Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University (KU) and Secretary General of ACDE, Prof. Paul Wainaina. He added that Kenya is the latest country to charter a purely online University, and welcomed the Open University of Kenya to the ACDE network. “I would like to acknowledge Africa’s resilience in the face of challenges, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. I commend institutions like MMUST and KU for their proactive measures in admitting students online during the crisis,” said Prof. Wainaina.


The Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University and Secretary General of ACDE, Prof. Paul Wainaina moderates a session.

As the conference unfolds, participants are poised to engage in enriching dialogues, share best practice, and chart a course towards a more inclusive and resilient future for education in Africa and beyond. MMUST’s pioneering spirit and commitment to excellence continues to inspire and shape the trajectory of education on the continent.

By Caren Nekesa and Wangari Wambugu 

Photos by Shiundu Masafu

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