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Mali’s skywalker Prime Minister: The Nairobi connection

Discussion in 'Kenyan News and Politics' started by erfan, Apr 27, 2012.

  1. e

    erfan Member

    Apr 27, 2012
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    In the 1990s, experts at the World Bank in Washington mooted the idea of expanding access to university education in Africa.
    They came up with an innovative idea of using satellite technology to deliver specialised courses to students in African universities through collaboration with some of the world's renowned centres of academic excellence.

    The idea was sold to African academics and a demonstration conducted at an African Association of Universities (AAU) conference in Dakar, Senegal, in 1997.

    Shortly thereafter, a pilot programme of the concept, the African Virtual University, was rolled out.

    Some 23 universities quickly signed up. In Kenya, AVU learning centres were set up at Kenyatta and Egerton universities and attracted tens of students.
    Initially, it offered diploma and certificate courses in information technology, sciences and business administration, which targeted school leavers.

    The success of the pilot convinced technocrats at the World Bank that the programme was feasible and ought to be scaled up to include more countries and cover more courses.

    Having come of age, it was also resolved that it should be managed from African soil instead of Washington.

    Nairobi became the natural choice because Kenya had excelled at the pilot stage.

    The AVU centre at Kenyatta University pioneered by Dr Magdeline Juma, now deceased, had become a textbook example of innovation in distance and online education.

    In 2002, the bank transferred AVU's headquarters from Washington to Nairobi and simultaneously went out to shop for an eminent African personality and scholar to lead the organisation to new frontiers.

    None other than Dr Cheikh Modibo Diarra was headhunted from America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and tasked with the enviable mandate to expand, upgrade, and domesticate AVU.

    Expanding and upgrading meant initiating degree programmes through partnerships with universities from other parts of the world. Previously, the AVU offered diploma courses from universities abroad.

    Domesticating meant giving AVU an African touch by integrating local knowledge, skills, resources, and values so that its courses found relevance and application to the continent.

    Coming to Nairobi was, so to speak, a climb-down for a man who literally was a high-flier, having been involved in several space explorations as an interplanetary space navigator at NASA.

    Before quitting, Dr Diarra had been involved in five space exploration missions, giving him deep insights into what happens beyond planet earth.

    But he had no qualms leaving the prestigious position at NASA to pursue a relatively lower ranking job.

    In an interview with the Nation then, Dr Diarra was forthright. He was taking up the new challenge so that he could contribute to the development of higher education in Africa.

    A decade after he came to Kenya to take up the AVU assignment, Dr Diarra was last week appointed the Prime Minister in his home country, Mali, with the mandate to form an interim government, clear the mess in a state that has gone through turbulence, and prepare ground for a credible election.

    Last month, Mali was plunged into chaos after the military overthrew the government of Amadou Toumani Tourè.

    The coup made headlines in Kenya because the then Foreign Affairs minister, Mr Moses Wetangula, got caught up in it.

  2. Gurta

    Gurta JF-Expert Member

    Apr 27, 2012
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    I see...