Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Africa demonstrates a strong commitment to ICT-supported education

  • No impunity for human rights violations committed in the name of counter-terrorism’ – UN expert
  • Security Agents Urged to Share Knowledge for Improved Effectiveness
 Africa demonstrates a strong commitment to ICT-supported education
African countries are increasingly engaging in the development of ICT-based solutions for education and training, according to Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal, Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania.
Opening Africa’s leading conference on ICT-supported education, eLearning Africa, in Dar es Salaam on May 25, Dr Bilal said, “We are now witnessing increasing investments in ICT on our Continent, the enthusiasm of the youth in adapting new technologies and bridging the geographical barriers brought by fast changing converging technologies. These initiatives attest to the fact that Africa is now moving from being a spectator to a participatory role in the development of technologies.”
This was demonstrated on Wednesday at the eLearning Africa conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
25 ministers and deputy ministers and more than 50 high-level government officials from 21 countries throughout Africa convened at the eLearning Africa Ministerial Round Table to discuss the future role of ICTs in African education. During the conference, 322 speakers from 57 countries have been discussing and demonstrating best practices in 65 parallel sessions, presenting new ways of learning on the Continent and in other parts of the world.
An accompanying exhibition shows a wide range of innovative technologies for learning. The conference has attracted more than 1,700 participants from all over the world.
In line with the central conference theme, “Youth, Skills and Employability”, Vice President Dr Bilal pointed out that young people in Africa make up 37 per cent of the working age population and 60 per cent of the unemployed. But whilst remarkable achievements have been noted in terms of access and expansion of infrastructure for schools, colleges, vocational training institutions and polytechnics, the rapid increase of student enrolment has posed a number of challenges, such as a shortage of qualified teachers and limited access to library and Internet facilities. Dr Bilal said that to address these challenges, it was imperative for African governments to invest in ICT in schools, colleges and job-related training programmes.
Dr Shukuru Kawambwa, Tanzania’s Minister of Education and Vocational Training, highlighted his Government’s drive to improve standards. He pointed out that the country’s newest university, in the capital Dodoma, only started four years ago and is now accommodating 20,000 students. He said, “My hope and vision is to see Dodoma University spearheading ICT in education.”
Michael Trucano, Senior ICT and Education Policy Specialist at the World Bank, embarked on a tour of innovative uses of ICTs around the world, from novels published on mobile phones in Japan to Uruguay, which is the first country in the world to provide every single student with a computer. Mr Trucano said that the effectiveness of ICT-supported learning could not always be measured but he was optimistic that soon “all the world’s content will fit in the palm”.
The Tanzanian publisher and political commentator Jenerali Ulimwengu made a case for modern pedagogy, including a more ‘democratic’ teacher-student interaction. He stressed the importance of local content and local languages: Education and training, especially in complex fields such as science and IT, can be made more effective if students are enabled to learn in their mother tongue. ICT can provide easier access to knowledge: “All learning requires technology, all technology requires learning”, he added.
In another first for eLearning Africa, the conference was addressed by a senior NATO Lieutenant General, Karlheinz Viereck, who is responsible for Joint Force Training at the world’s largest military alliance. At a special session on improving cooperation and crisis response, he spoke about the need for “global training” for emergencies and said that NATO was keen to develop joint initiatives with the African Union.
The conference will conclude today with the eLearning Africa Debate about the potential of Open Educational Resources.
Tanzania, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burundi, Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Benin, Senegal, Namibia, Ethiopia, Congo, Djibouti, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Liberia.

‘No impunity for human rights violations committed in the name of counter-terrorism’ – UN expert
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Martin Scheinin, urged the Transitional Government of Tunisia to carry out necessary reforms within the counter-terrorism framework, in compliance with international human rights law.
“I call for measures against impunity to secure accountability for crimes and human rights violations committed in the name of counter-terrorism,” Mr. Scheinin said at the end of his five-day visit to Tunisia, during which he assessed progress in implementing the recommendations made after his previous mission of January 2010, and to identified areas where reforms need to be done.
“The global threat of terrorism is real and can only be responded to through properly targeted and lawful measures, instead of using the notion of terrorism to suppress dissent,” he said. Accordingly, the independent expert offered his assistance to replace the abusive anti-terrorism law of 2003 with a proper legislative framework which regulates Tunisia’s anti-terrorism efforts in line with international legal standards on countering terrorism, while fully respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Following up on his previous report, in which he expressed grave concern about the activities of various entities of the security apparatus, and the secrecy and impunity in which they operated, Mr. Scheinin welcomed the abolition of the Directorate for State Security by the Transitional Government.
“Secrecy was an important element that contributed to the shield of impunity under which these actors could operate,” the Special Rapporteur noted. “All security organs’ functions and powers must be regulated by publicly available laws. Such transparency avoids not only the creation of myths about what these agencies do, but also ensures accountability of these agencies if they commit illegal acts.”
Mr. Scheinin greeted the first steps taken by the Transitional Government to establish accountability for those who attacked the demonstrators earlier this year, but underscored that “in order to look truly forward towards a new Tunisia, it has to come to terms with dark remnants of its past.”
“Tunisia should continue to investigate ex officio allegations of torture and illegal detention, often committed under the pretext of the fight against terrorism,” he said. “Investigating, prosecuting and trying those responsible for the crimes in question can also help rebuilding trust between the population and the security forces in the country.”
The Special Rapporteur also commended Tunisia’s decision to ratify the International Convention against Disappearances, the Optional Protocols to the Convention against Torture and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. However, he warned that “these promises will turn into real rights only when the formal ratification process has been completed.”
During his mission, Mr. Scheinin met with the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, the Minister of the Interior and Local Development, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Prosecutor-General for the Administration of Justice, the President of the fact-finding commission established to investigate human rights abuses since 17 December 2010, the spokesperson of the High Council for the realization of the objectives of the revolution, political reform, and democratic transition, and with law enforcement officials.
The expert also held discussions with representatives of the civil society, including lawyers. Mr. Scheinin also visited the detention centre at Bouchoucha and Al Mornaguia Prison, where he was able to interview in private suspects of terrorism crimes.
A full report of the Special Rapporteur’s follow-up mission to Tunisia will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2012.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur’s:

Security Agents Urged to Share Knowledge for Improved Effectiveness
Security agents have been urged to share their experiences in order to imbibe best practices that will better equip them to contribute to the elimination of impediments to the free movement of persons and goods along the Lagos-Seme road linking Nigeria with neighbouring Benin Republic.
Participants at a week-long sensitization workshop for Nigerian security operatives on the implementation of the ECOWAS Protocol of Free Movement of Persons, Goods and Services which ended in Abuja on Saturday, 21st May 2011, also stressed the need for improved coordination among security personnel deployed at the borders in order to improve their effectiveness and engender cohesion.
They further urged the ECOWAS Commission to embrace strategic promotional techniques in its efforts to eliminate the hindrances on the free movement of persons along this route.
Furthermore, they recommended other sensitization measures in other to create awareness and enhance compliance such as the use of interactive electronic bulletin billboards at strategic locations along this route, targeted messages on radio and television to educate and inform the populace on the rights of entry, residence, establishment and access to the ECOWAS Member States for Community citizens.
In a message to the opening of the workshop, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency James Victor Gbeho, reiterated the Commission’s commitment to the creation of an environment that would promote the unhindered movement of Community citizens as intended by the Protocol.
The President who was represented by the Principal Programme Officer in the Directorate of Free Movement and Tourism, Mr. Tony Elumelu, acknowledged that considerable progress has been recorded in the implementation of the Protocol, including the introduction of the ECOWAS Passport and the protection of the citizen’s right of establishment.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman of the meeting, retired Air-Vice Marshall Terry Okorodudu, lamented that citizens were still encountering impediments while engaged in intra-Community travel, mostly at the borders and urged stakeholders to be more responsive to the requirements of the Protocol.
The Comptroller of Nigeria’s Immigration Service made a presentation in which he highlighted the need for collaborative training with security agencies from Member States to facilitate synergy and sharing of best practices. He contended that this would consequently enhance intra-regional migration, adding that there was the need to improve the welfare of operatives at the borders while providing appropriate infrastructure that will enhance their performance.
Participants included officials of the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigerian Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Police Force, the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), the Border
Communities Development Agency (BCDA), the Network of National Human Rights Institutions in West Africa, ELGYN International Services, Security Watch Africa and Patriotic Citizens Initiative.

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