W/Africa must ensure access to ICT to check looming new inequality in education, says Tunis

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By Ifeanyi Nwoko

Lome, Nov. 17, 2020 The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, has called on member states to strive towards effectively deploying Information Communication Technology (ICT) in educating its populace, especially in view of the new normal caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tunis gave the charge in an address at the opening of a meeting of the Parliament’s Joint Committee on Education, Science and Technology -Telecommunication and Information Technology and the committee on Political Affairs, Peace, Security, as well as Committee on Infrastructure.

He stressed that there was an urgent need to embrace technology in educating the populace and it must be made available and accessible to check the looming socio-economic inequality in education.

According to Tunis, West African leaders must prioritize this and any other such recommendations that would emanate from the committee meeting so that education is not further disrupted.

The Speaker noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had already caused the worst disruption to education worldwide, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries across the globe.

He said that coupled with already existing disparities in education, COVID-19 had reduced learning opportunities for many of the most vulnerable children, youths and adults, especially rural dwellers and those living with disability.

Tunis pointed out that most of the people affected were mainly low income earners and vulnerable people, especially since COVID-19 forced many activities to go virtual, an infrastructure which the poor cannot afford.

“Technology has advanced so much that the geographical gap is bridged with the use of tools that make you feel as if you are inside a classroom or a meeting hall.

“Some of the most important developments in education have happened since the launch of the Internet. These days, learners and workers are well versed in the use of smartphones, text messaging and the Internet, to participate in discussions from practically any location.

“With these innovations and as the world plans to chart out a post-COVID-19 period, we at the ECOWAS Parliament believe that addressing access to ICT to promote learning, becomes a matter of urgency”, he said.

“I sincerely believe that this gathering is also an indication of our quest to guard against new forms of socio-economic inequalities, especially in the education sector across our region.

“As you may all be aware, the general objective of this delocalized Joint Committee meeting is to reflect on the possibility of guaranteeing a truly digital learning environment with unhindered access to the Internet.

“It will also lay the basics for Parliament’s identification of a relevant intervention mechanism in order to make an efficient contribution to the implementation of the ECOWAS Protocol A / P3 / 1/03 on education and training, as well as make recommendations that are geared towards impacting the sector,” he added.

Tunis pledged the commitment of parliament to work with Member States in areas related to ICT, Science, and Innovation, to digitally connect their societies together.

Naija247news reports that the joint committee meeting had as its theme: ”ECOWAS in the era of COVID-19 and beyond: focusing on ICT to promote distance education and training in ECOWAS Member States”.

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