Problems and limits of the Open and Distance Learning project in Africa

Paul Mupa


The systematic attempt to ignore and dismiss the ODL project by some African elites is cause for concern. There
is often devaluation and an internalised sense of inadequacy attributed to Open and Distance Learning by some
African scholars. In its real sense, education is a compulsion for Africans to ‘lighten their darkness’. Some colonised
academics with the mentality that education is only attained through the formal system have fallen victim of a
resilient colonial and colonising epistemology, which takes formal education as ‘the’ ideology and hegemony.
This study calls for listening to the voices of ordinary men and women who are challenging the prescriptive gaze
and grip of emasculated elite. Africanisation is generally seen to signal a renewed focus on Africa, on reclamation
of what has been taken from Africa, and, as such, it forms part of post-colonialist, anti-racist discourse. With regard
to knowledge, it comprises a focus on indigenous African knowledge and concerns simultaneously ‘legitimation’
and ‘protection from exploitation’ of this knowledge. With regard to education, the focus is on Africanisation of
institutions, curricula, syllabi and criteria for excellence in research, performance, among others. This paper spells
out the problems and challenges that limit the success of the ODL project in Africa. The paper calls for paying
more attention to ODL as a way of gaining knowledge. The major challenge is that of overcoming bad mentality
of some African elite and their negative perceptions of the ODL project, lack of financial support and political
support, among others. African scholars need to enter into genuine and critical dialogical encounters with other
pyramids of knowledge for a paradigm shift.

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