PgDIT – TV style!

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Yesterday, I attended the ceremony to award certificates to 45 Ugandans who had taken the last 2 years to acquire various degrees and diplomas through the Video-conferencing study project named Pan-Af e-Network Project.

Started in 2005, its the brainchild of Government of India, The African Union and 5 various African governments, in Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, Botswana and Malawi. The MOU signed between these parties, was for Tele-Medicine and Tele-Education to be delivered across to 5 African countries, taking advantage of the onset of fibre cables landing at major african ports, on the eastern coast.

In Uganda, Makerere University was selected, and Faculty of Computing and Information Technology (Now the College of Computing and Information Sciences) was selected to host. The Partnership saw Amity University Uttar Pradesh, of India step up in 2009, to begin video conferencing classes. To date, over 850 students have been enrolled in various, Diploma and Degree programs at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate level.

Government of India awarded the Technology delivery aspect of this project to an Indian firm – Telecommunications Consults India Limited. The total cost of the project is estimated at over 140M USD. And the courses were delivered free, minus, operational fees, which I found to be laughable and certainly inviting. If I could, I would have registered for 5 courses at ago.

Yesterday, was the first ceremony Uganda had, to issue certificates to 10 ladies and 35 gents, all from the 2yr master courses, and the one year Postgraduate and Undergraduate Diploma. At the end of this year, the first Bachelors’ class will be graduating – all with BSc Information Technology.

The results, at least if you consider proof of concept, depict a success, one that Makerere University’s tech-savvy VC – Prof. Barya – has said, he will aim to implement with MUK’s upcountry campuses. Naturally, having steered the former Faculty of CIT to global recognition as a center of excellence in ICT Research in the region, I cannot see why he would fail to deliver on this one. Yesterday’s graduates would more than be happy to be taken on such a project.

As a student, in the system, I cannot say that all was rosy. Neither can I take anything away from the organisers, indeed, when failure stared us all in the face, adaptations were quick and spot on. For-example, the original idea was to have ALL assignments and exams be done online. That never came to fruition. We still faced a number of problems with the intermittent connection to the systems, and the online portal, was perhaps not ready for numerous simultaneous real-estate guzzling pings. And to this day, i wonder, why hasn’t the Computing College at MUK, in the spirit of showing support to this project offered one year extensions towards Masters’ qualifications for all courses being offered at Postgrad level?

But while, the computer marked PBT more than made up for that under par online exam delivery, little had been guaranteed, as per the communications available, on the fate of course units like Research Projects, or on the nature of Retakes, for those who had them. When the marks came in, oft, too late, a few fell on the way, when we realised that Amity Universities grading schemes were unlike Ugandan standards.

The challenge that perhaps was least expected, and the one, in my view, least dealt with, was effect that these failures would have on Ugandans who had been promised (and had indeed paid for) smooth online study. Many of my colleagues did not return into the second Semester, and those who did, were far too discouraged to complete it. It seems that Ugandans are atypical to endurance… on the screen.

I cannot forget the laughter – a perfect mix of excitement and relief – we had when our first lecturer showed up on the 40-inch screen, in a study room, fitted with 2 hi-res cameras. We enjoyed the Indian accent, well, until, C programming concepts.

I must applaud Amity University for the consistency in the way materials were delivered, by all 8 lecturers that I had class with. I cannot expect that students in the other courses received less than the same.

So not only do I congratulate myself, and my class, I sincerely do congratulate the College of Computing and Information Sciences, Governments of Uganda and India and the African Union. This is certainly going to open a can of ideas, and will put our leading Universities and Governments on the spot.

I am happy with my award, and can only wish that there is a Masters Course in the Computing field.