Burkina Faso is located in West Africa and has a population of around 14 Million people. The country’s infrastructure (transportation routes, roads, and telecommunication) is severely underdeveloped, which causes huge barriers in terms of access to training and knowledge exchanges between different actors, especially in rural and rural regions. Key challenges include:
Participation by rural and remote areas in direct knowledge exchanges at reasonable prices;
Connecting with different schools, clinics, NGOs and government entities that are located far from traditional video conferencing centers;
Achieving the Millennium Development Goals related to poverty reduction, due to a lack of technology infrastructure needed to facilitate training and knowledge exchanges, both nationally and internationally.
Moreover, Malaria is regarded by the WHO as one of the key health issues in Burkina Faso and as endemic throughout the whole country accounting for 35 percent of hospitalizations and 25 percent of deaths in the country (Source: WHO).
In 2009, Mr. Ouedraogo, director and founder of INFOLEC, uncovered an opportunity to partner with the National Program for Malaria Control (PNPL) in Ouagadougou to develop a malaria training program targeting nurses and regional health care workers located outside of the capital city. Malaria is regarded by the WHO as one of the key health issues in Burkina Faso. Elluminate (based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada is one of the world’s leading providers of educational technologies for distance learning) was invited to supply the Project with web conferencing technology and financial sponsorship to enable health care workers to receive training without having to travel outside of their local communities.
Global objectives of the project:
To enable rural and remote areas of the Burkina Faso to participate in online collaborative events and professional development courses, at a fraction of the cost of traditional videoconferencing centers;
To bridge the communications divide for schools, hospitals, clinics, NGO’s, and government entities that are located far from existing Burkina Faso videoconferencing centers;
To help Burkina Faso achieve its Millennium Development Goals and Poverty Reduction Strategy by enabling education through frequent collaboration events, both nationally and internationally. These events include, but are not limited to, training, delivery of distance education, collaborative health seminars, and knowledge sharing through online meetings.
Giving a practical example to the general public and key actors in the world of education in the use of cost-effective and highly efficacious technology solutions that overcome physical barriers to access to knowledge and expertise in developing countries like Burkina Faso.
Create a distance training course of five weeks for the prevention and treatment of malaria, which combines the local knowledge and methodologies of the host country (Burkina Faso) with the latest methodologies and knowledge from abroad (in this case, from the United Kingdom’s University of Hertfordshire);
Deliver the course online to 25 health workers (mainly nurses) in their health districts across several provinces of the country, as well as 70 local health care workers in a particular village:
Help recipients improve their professional knowledge and clinical practice, and to become mentors and leaders in their communities;
Improve the quality of health care workers by strengthening the capacities of stakeholders in management of malaria patients;
Allow nursing staff to enjoy the knowledge and best practices from international experts while remaining professionally operational in their respective locality.
The project is an innovative, cost-effective, and proven methodology for transferring knowledge on malaria to Burkinabe nurses, enabling them to participate live in training sessions without having to leave their local communities. The innovative aspects of the Project include:
The use of a virtual classroom software program that works well on low bandwidths and in unstable African internet environments;
The distribution of CDROM’s containing pre-recorded live lectures, to both training recipients and to the colleagues of the training recipients who were unable to attend the live lectures;
The launch of a social networking platform to enable the recipients, as well as other African francophone health care workers, to share knowledge and best practices in the field of malaria control and treatment;
The above mentioned social networking site also served as a useful learning management system for the malaria course in terms of content management, scheduling of lectures, upload of videos and photos, and promotion of interaction between the instructor and the trainees;
The implementation of Burkina Faso’s very first Classroom of the Future collaboration stations in Ouagadougou and in the village of Samorogouan, which included a computer, LCD projector, webcam, microphone, speakers, portable generator, and mobile Internet connection.
The training delivered to health workers and nurses has helped increase their knowledge in the management of Malaria, resulting in a direct impact on improving the health of the local population.
This training project has also created a spinoff project and partnership between a primary school in Calgary, Canada and a school in the village of Pa, Burkina Faso. This partnership consists of cultural exchange and free distribution of impregnated nets for the most vulnerable citizens to combat malaria in the village.
Burkina’s Ministry of Education has also expressed a growing interest in popularizing this collaboration methodology throughout the entire education system in the country. The Ministry has commented to INFOLEC that this type of technology and collaboration solution offers Burkinabe students the opportunity to gain practical experience from exchanging culture and knowledge with other students from abroad.
The project is very well conceived and designed and depends on team work. Another very positive feature is the management structure of the project which reflects good organizational arrangement that does not depend on a certain individual but is rather well institutionalized. The elements of sustainability have not been demonstrated sufficiently in the document/s although sources of funding are adequately cited. And seemingly guaranteed. A recommendation would be to train certain project personnel in further fund-raising skills at the national, regional and international levels. Furthermore it is strongly advisable to connect more strongly with UN agencies with similar goals and programmes.
This appears to have been an ambitious project, carefully planned and well implemented. Distance learning is not new, nor are ‘travelling’ short courses in developing countries, but the energy and enthusiasm of Jules OUEDEAOGO has brought together a number of international partners and made the project happen despite the (predictable) technical hitches (power cuts, no spare bulbs) and logistical problems (bad roads). Although it is not clear how the course was objectively evaluated, it seems to have been well received, and there are clearly opportunities for it to be repeated elsewhere in Burkina Faso and beyond. The project meets a number of AGFUND’S objectives including: improvement in health, institutional development, and capacity building. Its principal innovative feature is the use of modern communication systems to reach professional medical staff working in remote locations. Valuable lessons will have been learned from the pilot project.