ECOPARL Speaker, Tunis, Urges W/Africa To Prioritise Access To ICT To Avoid Inequality

By Ifeanyi Nwoko

The Speaker of 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 occasioned by COVID-19.Tunis gave the charge while delivering an address at the opening of the meeting of 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, Tunis added that 20 years was an important milestone.He stressed that there was an urgent need to embrace technology in educating the populace and as such, technology must be made available and assessable to ward against a looming socio-economic inequality in education.According to Tunis, West African leaders must prioritise this move and other such recommendations that would emanate from the committee meeting so that education is not further disrupted.Quoting available statistics, the Speaker said that the COVID-19 pandemic caused the highest disruption to education worldwide, with nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries in all continents affected.He said that coupled with already existing disparities in education, COVID-19 reduced learning opportunities for many of the most vulnerable children, youths and adults, especially rural dwellers and those living with disabilities.The Speaker pointed out that most of the people affected in most of the countries 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 using the internet to participate in discussions from practically any place.“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 information and communication technology to promote learning, is a matter of urgency.“I sincerely believe that this gathering is also an indication of our quest to guide 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 said.Tunis pledged the commitment of parliament to working with Member States in areas related to Information and Communications Technology, Science, and Innovation to digitally connect the societies together.He reminded member states that they must bear in mind that the pandemic was not over, even as a second wave, estimated to be more deadly was being predicted.The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the joint committee meeting had as its theme: This Joint Committee meeting is holding under the theme “ECOWAS in the era of COVID-19 and beyond: focusing on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to promote distance education and training in ECOWAS Member States”. 

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