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by Sean Mason
Monday, Sep. 09, 2002 at 6:24 PM
Shelvan Kannuthurai wants to give the poor a fighting chance. He and the CCBC team have pioneered Professeurs Pour Liberté, which is utilizing the education portal, e-Studies.com, to provide post-secondary education to as many as 92 million African students at no cost to them.
Shelvan Kannuthurai knows a thing or two about sharing. The Sri Lankan immigrant shares his experience with information technology with pupils at his school, the Canadian College of Business and Computers (CCBC). He also expects his students to work together, sharing and building team skills that will help them succeed in business. Now, he wants the world to share its knowledge to support peace and prosperity in Africa.
Shelvan and the CCBC team have pioneered Professeurs Pour Liberté, which is utilizing the U.S. education portal, e-Studies.com, to provide accredited post-secondary education to as many as 92 million African secondary-school graduates. This would be an extension of the United Nations Education For All (EFA) initiative. Just as Médecins Sans Frontières created meaningful contributions to Africa, Professeurs Pour Liberté is calling for collaborative participation from teachers and post-secondary institutions to volunteer their time and resources to provide education to all students.
Shelvan’s vision was inspired by the words of Mother Teresa, who endeared the world with, “a little bit, a lot can give.” In this spirit, Professeurs Pour Liberté wants G8 schools to share just one course each, encompassing all the needed disciplines from its more than 5000 educational institutions. In addition, G8 governments would support accreditation and co-operate by providing the infrastructure necessary to connect all African students to the World Wide Web.
With international co-operation, universal primary education is affordable. The cost is about US billion a year during the next 10 years, according to Oxfam Canada. This represents about four days worth of global military spending, or less than half of what American parents spend on toys for their children each year.
Oxfam claims almost 12 million children younger than the age of five dies each year from infectious diseases as a result of poverty. Their research also indicates that for each year spent by mothers in primary school, their children’s risk of premature death is reduced by eight per cent.
The global education crisis is especially severe in sub-Saharan Africa. It is now the only part of the developing world in which the number of children out of school is increasing each year. If current trends continue, there will be 57 million children of primary age out of school in 2015, which will account for about three-quarters of all the children in the world denied the right to education.
At the recent G8 summit, leaders of the industrialized nations talked of forging a new partnership with Africa, in hopes of channeling more aid, trade and investment to the continent. Critics charge this would do little to address the more immediate concern of building Africa’s social infrastructure and dealing with the crippling epidemic of HIV/AIDS. Although the Web will never be able to vaccinate a child, education is one of the most effective tools to promote the prevention of HIV/AIDS and help stop its spread, this according to Nelson Mandela.
Shelvan sees courses offered through portals, such as e-Studies.com, as a cost-effective way to reach as many students as possible and give health-care providers the most up-to-date information about treatment methods. e-Studies, for example, plans to tailor its courses to meet the needs of the local population, taking language and culture into consideration.
Success of movements such as Professeurs Pour Liberté depends on the co-operation of African governments. Previous education initiatives have faced considerable resistance from local officials, in part because of their perception that industrialized nations view its own knowledge as superior. Shelvan, therefore, sees Professeurs Pour Liberté as a way other countries can share information with Africa, not impose knowledge upon them. “Africans are a proud people. They don’t want donations. Our initiative would give them access to resources of the industrialized world so they can help themselves,” he says.
To promote this spirit of global co-operation, Shelvan is planning a goodwill tour of countries including Libya, Senegal, Nigeria and South Africa. Professeurs Pour Liberté might not solve all of Africa’s problems, but Shelvan believes it could be a great start.
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