Can e-Learning Become Diaspora’s Way to Contribute to the Well being of Both Host and Native Countries?

Can e-Learning Become Diaspora’s Way to Contribute to the Well being of Both Host and Native Countries?

Can e-Learning Become Diaspora’s Way to Contribute to the Well being of Both Host and Native Countries?

/ DIASPORA ACTUALITE / Tuesday, 24 November 2020 15:40

Professor Janvier Gasana speaks on Diaspora

Introduction

Africa’s large diaspora has mainly been seen as an asset to African countries only in terms ofremittances.According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), about one-third of African professionals have left the continent, which constitute as over 10 million African mini-Diasporas as of the year 2000. Loss of Africa’s intellectual capital, “Brain-Drain”, has been one of the greatest obstacles to the development of the continent. Of the four major countries contributing most to the brain-drain; Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa. One study estimates that there are more than 21,000 Nigerian MDs practicing in the United States alone in the 21st century. The African diaspora is a major source of foreign income - so large that it now outstrips foreign aid sent by Western donors. Nearly 140 M Africans live abroad. The money they send back home, remittances, is worth far more - in value and usefulness - than the development donations sent by Western financial institutions. The exact amount of these remittances is unknown because not all of it is sent through official banking channels. But the official volume to the continent has gradually increased over the years, from $11 billion in 2000 to $60 billion in 2012, according to the World Bank.

Diaspora (6th Region) of the African Union

Virtual participation has tremendous potential to channel the untapped intellectual and material input from the African Diaspora. Moreover, it recorded a growing awareness among the African Diaspora of its moral, intellectual, and social responsibility to contribute to Africa’s development efforts. Africa has shown a growing will to reconcile with the African Diaspora. In 2003, the AU amended its Charter so as to “… encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of the continent”. Within the African Union, there are 6 regions: 1. North Africa, 2. West Africa, 3. Central Africa, 4. East Africa, 5. Southern Africa, plus one last region, the “Sixth Region“, which constitutes the African Diaspora. The political, economic and cultural importance of this Diaspora is increasingly recognized.The emerging Diaspora movement to become more active in Africa’s development efforts, the growing political will in Africa to recognize the Diaspora’s potential contribution, and the possibilities created by information technology show that the African Diaspora is not, after all, a total loss to the continent.

Remedy to Health Worker Crisis via e-Learning

The health worker crisis that is at its worst in sub-Saharan Africa calls for the contribution of the Diaspora. Incidentally, countries in this region are facing a double burden of both infectious and non–communicable diseases, and they lack the funds, technology, infrastructure and trained health workers needed to provide basic health care service. At this juncture, the WHO estimates a shortage of 7.2 million doctors, nurses, midwives and other health care professionals (including occupational health specialists) worldwide. Addressing this shortfall in health care professionals through training requires a substantial investment, e-learning/teaching and research being part of it, both of which can be enhanced by the contribution of the Diaspora.The Internet and the development of information technologies have revitalized the exchange of information and training worldwide. Consequently, eLearning is used increasingly in medical and health professional education, to tackle the global shortage of health workers.

Online Teaching and Learning Technology Before, During and After COVID-19

In the last 10 months, the COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures across the world. Globally, over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom.As a result, education has changed dramatically, with the distinctive rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms.Research suggests that online learning has been shown to increase retention of information, and take less time, meaning the changes coronavirus have caused might be here to stay. Along the same line, Telemedicine is using telecommunications to diagnose and treat disease and ill-health due to its specific target of medical applications, while the broader field of telehealth is focusing on surveillance, health promotion and public health functions (http://www.who.int/trade/glossary/story021/en/). Even before COVID-19, there was already high growth and

adoption in online education technology and a study commissioned by the US Department of Education had shown that online students tend to achieve better learning outcomes than students in traditional face-to-face courses (and students in hybrid (also called blended learning), online, and face-to-face courses do even better than online alone). In whatever format such as language apps, virtual tutoring, video-conferencing tools, or online learning software, there has been a significant surge in usage since COVID-19.With accessto the right technology, online learning can be quite effective. Studies show that on average, students retain about 40% more material when learning online compared to only 9% in a classroom. This is mostly due to the students being able to learn faster online; e-learning requires 50% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting.Students can learn at their own pace, going back/re-reading, skipping, or accelerating through concepts as they choose.

Various Components and Tools of e-Learning

In the e-Learning, technology refers to tools such as the following, whether in the context of a fully online, “blended”, or technology-augmented face-to-face class: 1. Presenting content via computer, for example with illustrated web sites or narrated animations; 2. Learning activities in which students interact with material in a structured way; 3. Exercises such as homework problems; 4. Assessments such as tests and quizzes; 5. Simulations of a process or experience; 6. Demonstrations illustrating how a process takes place; 7. Online social interactions such as online forum discussions; 8. Content creation assignments in which students put together projects such as web sites, podcasts, or wikis.Moodle, the most popular and open-source Learning Management System (LMS) in the world, is now integrated with Microsoft (MS) Teams, both of which we adopted for teaching at Kuwait University during the COVID-19 pandemic. This integration helps us collaborate around Moodle courses, allow students to ask questions about grades and assignments and stay updated with notifications in MS Teams. So, MS Teams is used for the synchronous format (for live presentations) and Moodle for the asynchronous format (for other LMS functions including discussion forum, quizzes, and exams).

OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) Capacity Building

Diasporans[who acquired knowledge and skills in Environmental & Occupational Medicine (EOM) which is part of Environmental & Occupational Health (EOH) which is in turn a public health discipline] and their colleagues in Western institutionscan contribute to OSH capacity building. The specialty of EOM is a unique field that encompasses many aspects of clinical medicine and public health. Clinical work in the field calls on a breadth of medical knowledge to evaluate and treat a wide spectrum of medical conditions, including complex diseases and common injuries. Residency training (to be offered in partnership with a medical school) provides a range of skills in population and preventive medicine, epidemiology and disease surveillance, toxicology, biostatistics, and health services administration. Practicing occupational physicians are experts in legal aspects of medicine, such as evaluating causation, determining fitness for work, and applying health and safety regulations in the workplace. The EOH program allows to pass, 1) For MDs, the board certification examination in Preventive Medicine (Environmental & Occupational Medicine); 2) For MPHs, the CIH (certification in industrial hygiene) and CSP (Certified Safety Professional); 3) For Nurses, the Occupational Health Nursing certification; and 4) Others with a bachelor degree, graduate certificates in EOH.The academic course work leads to a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) and consists of four components:5 College core courses which teach many of the basic principles and skills of preventive medicine; 9 core courses in Occupational Safety and Health;6 credit hours of thesis research; and3 hours of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology plus 3 hours of electives.

OSH Challenges in Africa

Throughout the continent, increasing numbers of workers are employed in high-hazard industrial jobs and they lack the basic OSH knowledge and skills, as highlighted by COVID-19 pandemic. Limited studies of occupational disease in agriculture, mining, and manufacturing suggest that there is a high prevalence of work-related illness in the populations at risk. Trade unions are generally weak, and the high rate of unemployment and underemployment render occupational health a low priority for many workers. Engineering controls and personal protective equipment are unknown or inadequate in many industries, and there is a shortage of trained occupational health professionals in the region.

Added Value from Diaspora Contribution

Unlike Western experts sent to Africa, African health professionals are more aware of the health problems of their countries. Most even speak the local languages, which makes easier the direct communication with

stakeholders even remotely during tele-conferences that will be held on a regular basis.

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