infoDev, Commonwealth of Learning releases public report on NEPAD e-Schools

infoDev, Commonwealth of Learning releases public report on NEPAD e-Schools

Results from monitoring and evaluation activity point to challenges, opportunities for multi-country African initiatives seeking to introduce ICTs in the education sector

"The NEPAD e-Schools Demonstration Project: A Work in Progress" highlights lessons learned to date from the pan-African, public-private partnership to introduce ICTs in education.

infoDev and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) have released a public report highlighting the lessons learned from their monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the first "demonstration" phase of the ambitious NEPAD e-Schools project, a multi-country, multi-stakeholder, continental initiative to impart ICT skills to young Africans and to use ICT to improve the provision of education in schools.

"The NEPAD e-Schools Demonstration Project: A Work in Progress" is meant to share some of the general lessons learned by various project stakeholders to date with a larger community of interest.  This public report draws on information and analysis presented in a series of internal M&E reports to the NEPAD e-Africa Commission, which is coordinating the NEPAD e-Schools project. As such, it is not an end-of-project, summative impact evaluation.

The report examines the achievement of the specific objectives that were set for the Demo, key assumptions that have impacted the implementation of the project, constraints and challenges faced during implementation, project impact on participating schools and project impact on ICT in education policy developments.

Report highlights

Referring to the many ICT in schools activities underway across the continent, Shafika Isaacs, the founding executive director of SchoolNet Africa and a member of the monitoring and evaluation team, states that:

“Amidst this myriad of interventions, programs, experiments and innovations taking place in almost all African countries, sits the NEPAD e-Schools Initiative....Never before has there really been a program that mobilised national government participation and leadership at the official continental level in the way the NEPAD e-Schools vision has. Further it has brought the private sector into partnerships that, while experiencing growing pains, has mobilised resources in a way that few other projects have been able to do. And there is much yet to learn about doing this in an optimal way.”

Noting that the vision for the NEPAD e-Schools Demo may well have exceeded the practical bounds of its reach within the expected timeframe of the initial Demo project, and that the project is a very complex undertaking, given its range of stakeholders and its international scope, the report finds that NEPAD e-Schools remains a ‘work in progress’.  That said, the report states that "the purpose of a demonstration project is not just to demonstrate, but also to learn from the experience", noting that lessons about how to coordinate the successful introduction of ICTs into African schools are being learned and applied in a number of areas.

In perhaps its most noteworthy finding, the report states that participation in the "Demo" phase of NEPAD e-Schools is reported to have had a catalytic effect on education sector policy development, particularly in those countries where the Demo has been fully implemented and where an ICT-in-education policy process had not been under way before the Demo was introduced.

The report concludes with a strong recommendation to include civil society organisations to a much greater extent within the larger NEPAD e-Schools framework and to ensure that planning is based on an awareness of global “best practice” regarding the adoption and diffusion of ICT in education, the development of sharable digital content, and teacher-training standards.

Background information about the NEPAD e-Schools Demo Project

The NEPAD e-Schools Initiative is a multi-country, multi-stakeholder, continental initiative, which intends to impart ICT skills to young Africans in primary and secondary schools and to use ICT to improve the provision of education in schools. During the first stage of the NEPAD e-Schools initiative, the "NEPAD e-Schools Demo" is being implemented in six schools in each of 16 countries across Africa through partnerships that involve private sector consortia, the country government and the NEPAD e-Africa Commission (eAC), which is responsible for developing the NEPAD ICT program and implementing its projects.

The "NEPAD e-Schools Demo" is meant to inform the subsequent rollout of the broader NEPAD e-
Schools Initiative, and the monitoring and evaluation activity supported by COL and infoDev was intended as key tool in this learning process. The observations presented in this report, "The NEPAD e-Schools Demonstration Project: A Work in Progress",  are intended to help shape the decision making process of the broad range of stakeholders in the wider NEPAD e-Schools initiative going forward.

Upcoming release of 'Survey of ICT and Education in Africa'

"The NEPAD e-Schools Demonstration Project: A Work in Progress" is the first in a series of publications in late 2007 from infoDev and the Commonwealth of Learning on issues related to ICT use in education in Africa.  Results from a related 53-country 'Survey of ICT and Education in Africa' are due to be released in October 2007.

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