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Botswana Open University Vice Chancellor Dr Daniel Tau, On the 9th of August 2020 through a Ministry of Tertiary Educatio  Research, Science and Technology’s initiave, shared with the nation his organisation’s response to the COVID- 19 pandemic through an address on Botswana Television.

The address was necessary to share BOU’s response and position given the decision by the Ministry of Tertiary Education Research, Science and Technology’s to close all institutions of learning following the announcement of the State of Emergency (SoE) and the imposition of extreme social distancing on all non-essential employees and the public. This platform gave the University a chance to show case the need and viability of ODL

In his address, The Vice Chancellor stated that Open and Distance Learning (ODL) became the most viable alternative for learners to “safely progress their learning goals amidst the lockdown situation” and that entities which relied more on the use of technology like BOU would be disrupted much lesser than those which relied less on technology in offering their services.

The Vice Chancellor shared with the nation that despite that, the pandemic had affected some activities or events which the institution had scheduled. These included two conferences that had attracted experts from near and afar. The pandemic had also affected the end of the 2019/20 University academic calendar which had to be extended by a month which in turn affected the start of the subsequent academic year.

Motswana says “maano ga a site go sita a loso”, loosely translated it means there is always a way of overcoming challenges. The VC explained that despite COVID-19, BOU students continued to learn, submit assignments, and sit examinations online. Prior to COVID 19 most assessments were venue-based and all students were expected to present themselves at these venues for examinations. The VC stated that BOU further extended a helping hand to students at other public universities and at basic education level by making the learning content freely available to them online. To further show its commitment to the spirit of improving access to education, BOU engaged internet service providers like Mascom, to assist in facilitating access to its (BOU) platforms through provision of free data or zero rating. Mascom came onboard to provide free access to all Mascom simcard holders to BOU platforms until the end of theSoE. The Vice Chancellor also stated that through BOU over 350 Batswana got enrolled in COURSERA programmes which were offered free of charge. This was through the BOU, Commonwealth of Learning and Coursera Workforce Initiative that enabled over 1000 Batswana Children to access over 3800 courses stretching over four hundred disciplines. He highlighted that at the time 31 had already completed at least one course and that one had completed seven short courses which was a clear sign of a person who was determined to self-develop.

 

The BOU Vice Chancellor shared with the nation BOU’s plans post COVID – 19. Dr Tau, though acknowledging the challenges the adoption of ODL methodologies may bring in the conventional system, advocated for the expansion of the scope of ODL facilitation to the conventional education system to address the changing nature of education. He further emphasised BOU’s plan to campaign for the development of a National Open Educational Resource (OER) Centre. According to Dr Tau BOU would mobilise all public higher institutions to contribute to Higher Education Content development of selected programmes with Ministry of Basic Education robbed in to contribute to the development of Secondary and Primary School content (e-books, digital videos etc. He said BOU was in the process of undertaking concretising its thoughts and thereafter undertaking consultations locally and globally to drive this progressive thought to reality.

 

The VC also shared with the nation that though the University in its 2019 – 2023 Strategic Plan had planned to have increased technology utilisation later in the plan period, this had to be implemented before the scheduled time to address the current situation.

Dr Tau emphasised that “given the sad reality of COVID – 19, virtual learning is inevitable and is the alternative”.

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