The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, MNI, MFR, FNAL, has said the Commission was ready to work with the African Council for Distance Education (ACDE) on the promotion of quality assurance in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programmes especially in the areas of providing solid structures and frameworks to build public confidence in the system.
He stated this last Friday when the Commission received in audience the leadership of African Council for Distance Education (ACDE), who visited the Commission to seek areas of possible collaboration on quality assurance in ODL.
The Executive Secretary, who was represented by the Deputy Executive Secretary (DES) Administration, Mr Chris J. Maiyaki, noted that the visit was coming at a time when the call to expand access to university education was becoming louder, explaining that conventional universities could barely admit a quarter of the teeming youths seeking university education in the country. He added that the emergence of Covid-19 with its associated pandemic has enabled Open and Distance Learning (ODL) to become the new normal in the delivery of university education across the African sub-region.
He assured that through the ODL mode, Nigeria was certain to meet the aspirations of its youths seeking access to higher education.
The NUC scribe informed the team that the Commission was empowered by laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to regulate the activities of all degree-awarding institutions in the country, lay down minimum academic standards as well as accredit their programmes. He said that the Commission had continued to undertake these responsibilities through, constant review of its instruments beginning from Minimum Academic Standards (MAS) to Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) and most recently, towards the launch of the Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS). The CCMAS, he said, was in line with global best practices and current realities.
The Executive Secretary maintained that the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) had remained the anchor point of ODL mode in the country, stressing that the collaboration between ACDE and NOUN would help breach the gap in expanding access. He informed the team that the Commission was willing to be part of such collaboration in order to assure quality.
Speaking on behalf of the ACDE team, the President, Professor Goski Alabi, noted that ACDE was a continental educational organisation comprising African universities and other higher education institutions committed to expanding access to quality education through Open and Distance Learning (ODL), including e-learning. He disclosed that the organisation was registered under the laws of Kenya, as an International educational non-profit organisation, with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
According to her, “ACDE is currently the lead implementing agency for Open, Distance and e-Learning in Africa.
Prof. Alabi informed the Executive Secretary that ACDE was formerly launched in January 2004, at Egerton University, Kenya at a Conference attended by Vice-Chancellors and senior distance education practitioners from seven countries, presided over by Kenya’s Minister for Education. She added that the conference ended with the adoption of a Constitution and election of officials mainly comprising Vice Chancellors, while the Egerton University was also selected to host the interim ACDE secretariat a role they played until September 2020, when the secretariat was moved to Kenyatta University.
The ACDE President also noted that ACDE was formally recognised as the lead implementing agency for ODL in Africa during the November 2010 Fourth Conference of Education Ministers in Africa (COMEDAF IV). The Conference, she noted, was held in Mombasa and accorded ACDE Observer Status at the African Union Commission (AUC). This recognition, she stressed, was followed with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the ACDE and the AUC in July 2011.
She recalled that the third Pan-African Conference on Teacher Development (PACTED III) and Fifth Conference of Ministers of Education in Africa (COMEDAF V) held at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa in 2013 identified ACDE as the lead Coordinating Agency for the Continental Teacher Development Roadmap (AU/ED/PACTED/RDMAP/2).
She highlighted that the objective was to enhance greater use of distance learning to improve access to teacher training; enhance the use of ODL to increase access to and the quality of teacher training, promote professional development of teacher; as well as improve performance in Science, Mathematics and Technology and reflect life-skills and labour market demand.
Prof. Alabi stated that the Executive Board of the Council at its 30th meeting approved ACDE Quality Assurance Institutional Certification in line with its vision and mandate of assuring quality of ODEL processes and practices in Africa ODEL institutions, and in conformity with international best practices through the instrumentality of ACDE QA Toolkit.
She revealed that the meeting, which had in attendance, His Excellency, Olusegun Obasanjo and Chaired by Distinguished Professor Peter Okebukola, resolved that in response to the dictates of COVID-19 Pandemic, the ACDE should promote and fast-track its Quality Assurance training and certification programme by working with National Regulatory Body, to which NUC belonged.
In her words: “To fulfil the mandate of this Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency (QAAA), the Council intends to roll out a training and certification programme. The ACDE-QAAA is directed to start the full implementation of the approval and we can’t fail the people of Africa in this regard.”
She explained that the process leading to the certification would have a five-year life span and included: Train the Trainer, on the use of the QA Toolkit; Institution Self-assessment, using the toolkit; as well as an External peer review leading to the certification.
She stressed that ACDE recognises and understands that certification was not accreditation and would not replace accreditation but was only supporting accreditation by ensuring that institutions maintain and enhance quality assurance practices for ODEL established during accreditation.
The ACDE President called on the NUC to kindly consider and approve that all institutions under its jurisdiction offering or intending to offer ODEL or Blended- learning programmes undergo the ACDE QA training.
It should also endorse NOUN as the host Implementing Institution subject to the NUC’s own standards and support NOUN to entrench its QAAA mandate.
The high point of the event was the presentation of the ACDE Quality Assurance Toolkit and Policy Framework to the Commission.
At the meeting were the Vice Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria, Professor Femi Peters; Executive Director, ACDE, Dr. Teresa Mwoma; ACDE Desk NOUN, Professor Rotimi Ogidan; NOUN Director of QA, Professor Mercy Bandele; Director, ACDE/QAAA, Professor Christine Ofulne and the Director of DAL; Mrs. Omorogieva Ileka.
Present were the NUC Directors of the Directorate of Executive Secretary’s Office (DESO), Mr. John Mairafi; Directorate of Establishment of Private Universities (DEPU), Mrs. Constance Goddy-Nnadi; Directorate of Human Resources (DHR), Mr. Boniface Odum; Directorate of Open, Distance and E-learning (DODel), Engr. Kayode Odedina; Acting Directors of Inspection and Monitoring (DIM), Mrs. L.T. Imoroa, as well as Research, Innovation and Information Technology (DRIIT), Mr. Faruk M. Lawal.