20 AUGUST 2020
On 18 August 2020, over 2,300 learners from 17 African nations were celebrated at a virtual convocation organized by Commonwealth of Learning, Canada (COL) and Coursera in collaboration with implementing partners across Africa. These were learners who had successfully completed various online courses after joining the COL-Coursera Workforce Recovery Program.
Along with the graduates, the event brought together COL’s President and CEO Professor Asha Kanwar, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, as well as high ranking representatives of implementing partners in Africa: Botswana’s Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, The Honourable Dr. Douglas Letsholathebe, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Education, Ms Gifty Twum Ampofo, Namibia’s Minister of Art, Education and Culture, The Honourable Ms Ester Anna Nghipondoka and the Executive Director of AfLIA, Dr. Helena Asamoah-Hassan.
“This virtual convocation is a sign of the times when we have had to adopt new models of teaching and learning practically overnight. Since the students can’t go to the university, the university is coming to the students,” said Professor Kanwar.
COL and Coursera partnered through the Workforce Recovery Initiative to help governments in the Commonwealth nations and beyond to provide those who have lost their livelihoods due to COVID-19 with the skills needed to re-enter the workforce. Registered learners have gained unlimited and free access to 3,800 courses taught by highly reputed professors and instructors from top universities and companies around the world. Over the last three months, in Africa alone, learners have collectively invested over 100,000 hours of learning.
Interestingly the most popular courses enrolled in the learners so far include, Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python), Write Professional Emails in English, Technical Support Fundamentals, Excel Skills for Business Essentials, Initiating and Planning Projects, Introduction to Web Development, Introduction to Data Analysis Using Excel, Better Business Writing in English, Speak English Proficiently: In Person, Online & On the Phone, Accounting: Principles of Financial Accounting among others.
“To all the students, you are living proof that learning has the power to transform lives, that it allows us to rethink what’s possible and to re-imagine what we can become. You have demonstrated courage and commitment to learning even in the face of uncertainty and difficulty,” noted Mr Maggioncalda at the event.
The Honourable Dr Douglas Letsholathebe remarked on the timeliness of the new initiative and commended graduates for becoming an inspiration to others. According to Ms Gifty Twum Ampofo, the programme has helped equip citizens with the new skills to be relevant in the changing job market. In a written statement, The Honourable Ms Ester Anna Nghipondoka called on the learners to embrace the new normal, the new methods of learning and make this learning meaningful.
Commenting on the Initiative, the Executive Director of AfLIA, Dr. Helena Hassan-Asamoah, said “the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be devastating on the Continent. Initiatives such as the Workforce Recovery Program has provided the needed opportunity for beneficiaries to gain new skills, re-skill and up-skill in order to recover and secure their livelihoods. As partners in Africa, AfLIA is excited to see the growing interest in the Program across the continent and the impact it is already making in the lives of learners.”
Currently, AfLIA has recommended close to 3000 active learners from 34 African countries including Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Chad, Congo Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, eSwatini, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Applications for the COL-Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative is expected to close by 31 September, 2020, however, participants can complete course work through 31 December 2020, and graduates will be able to join regional alumni groups. The next virtual convocation for Africa is expected to held early 2021.