23 July 2012 | EN
King's College London will begin streaming science lectures into Zimbabwe in the new academic year
Flickr/The Advocacy Project
[HARARE] A virtual lecture hall, enabling lectures to be streamed to university campuses from around the world, aims to plug the gap in scientific teaching staff at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), which has suffered years of brain drain.
The Virtual Lecture Hall (VLH) was launched last month (29 June) at UZ's College of Health Sciences (UZ-CHS) and Faculties of Science and Veterinary Science, by the UK-based Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) and Econet Wireless, the mobile communications company funding the project.
The VLH initiative will support academic disciplines suffering from low teaching numbers. It will also foster engagement with the Zimbabwean diaspora and help develop international partnerships, according to Laura Broadhurst, CARA's Zimbabwe programme manager.
"The brain drain of academic staff [from Zimbabwe] is a critical issue, and CARA was encouraged by a broad section of stakeholders [...] to alleviate some of the problems around this issue," Broadhurst told SciDev.Net.
She added that Zimbabwean university science departments have been hardest hit by the brain drain, — mainly the result of low salaries — with skilled staff leaving the country, often for Australia, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The VLH will provide a projection screen and adequate bandwidth for students and lecturers to view 'virtual' lectures and accompanying slides clearly.
"It is hoped that this project will not only enable members of Zimbabwe's academic diaspora to re-engage with the university's future, but will improve standards of teaching and research, and facilitate increased networking and collaboration with universities outside Zimbabwe," Broadhurst said.
Successful trial lectures have already been streamed, Broadhurst says. "In the new academic year, King's College, London, will stream the lectures required by the UZ-CHS — such as anatomy and physiology — from a large lecture hall in the centre of London."
CARA plans to replicate the model in other universities, although subject to funding, according to Broadhurst.
Morris Mtisi, a Harare-based educational consultant, said the VLH concept was a clear acknowledgement of the severe impact of brain drain over recent years.
"It is a brain drain management strategy that will help the country tap [into] intellectuals in the diaspora", Mtisi toldSciDev.Net. "This will obviously add lots of value to Zimbabwean intellectual or academic development".
Midion Mapfumo Chidzonga, an oral health professor and dean of UZ-CHS, said: "This is the great moment we all have been waiting for, turning the virtual into reality".
Sinclair ( Sweden )
6 August 2012
Fantastic news. I was recently involved in a review of a 10-year University Collaboration programme between the University of Zimbabwe and a European counterpart university consortium and the number one concern of our findings was the brain drain from Zimbabwe in university teaching staff and how best to address the problem. Although many university lecturers have found relevant professional activities in neighbouring SADEC countries, so preserving the knowledge and expretise base within the region, this has not helped the overriding problems for young Zimbabweans studying at home in Harare and other institutional centres in the country. Hats off to the Virtual Lecture principle. Best wishes and good luck to all involved in this most relevant exercise which I am sure will be highly appreciated by the whole university sector in Zim. Efforts like these emphasize our shared responsibilities towards future generations. Long may such initiatives be supported.
Washington Mutatu ( United States of America )
9 October 2012
Its good to hear what Zimbabwe is doing to address the brain drain. Not only will this fill in the gaps left by lecturers it also ensures that Zimbabwe students learn the most up to date information and technologies. The is need to expand such programs to other universities especially in the area of sciences. I hope King George London's efforts will be supported by other willing partners. I am working with a group of Zimbabweans at Michigan State University, USA to develop and promote similar programs. One area which need attention is the equipping of science laboratories from High schools to universities. We been asking professors to donate equipment they are no longer using so we can ship it to schools in Zimbabwe. We have formed a Partnership with Michigan State University which will aim to help to address some of the challenges currently prevailing in Zimbabwe. One of the suggestion coming out strongly is that since they are 10 or so universities in Zimbabwe, it will be ideal if they can form a Consortium of Universities, so that some resources which individual universities cannot afford will be made available at a neutral venue accessible to all institutions. Instruments like NMR, LC/MS/MS, X-ray crystallograpghy and other high-tech facilities can be jointly purchased. The Consortium through contributions will be able provide operational costs for the facility. The MSU_ZIM partnership is prepared to spearhead such developments with support from other partners. Please let me know if you want to be part of this project.
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