chapter  5
10 Pages

Quality Assurance for Distance Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

Distance education (DE) has a tremendous potential to meet Africa’s educa-

tional needs as the demand for all levels and forms of education grows rapidly.

Many African countries and institutions have deployed DE to meet the grow-

ing need for higher education and, to a lesser extent, secondary and non-formal

education. DE is seen as a cost-effective and efficient means of increasing access

to education and enabling Africans to improve their qualifications without the

high costs of building facilities and learners leaving their communities, jobs or

other commitments. But several major challenges are becoming apparent.

There is a perception that DE cannot offer the same quality of education as

conventional face-to-face education. Many African educational policymakers

and planners are sceptical about its legitimacy and standards, and therefore

afford only limited political support and/or funding to DE undertakings. Most

African countries lack policies to guide the development and implementation

of DE programmes at national and institutional levels. There is inadequate

information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and a short-

age of the qualified staff required for influencing and implementing DE policies

and practices. There are dangers of increasing enrolments with little regard for

the quality of the learning experience or whether the programmes are relevant

to the human resource development needs and the adoption of DE by educa-

tional institutions driven primarily by a desire for financial gain (Pityana,

2008). Other challenges facing higher education in Africa include gender and

regional disparities, a mismatch between the skills acquired by university grad-

uates and those demanded by industry, imbalances in terms of the number of