Maryland Community Colleges Push Computer Literacy Among South African Teachers
Largo, Md.As American higher education institutions scramble to develop international programs in distance education and Internet-based collaborations, Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) in Maryland has spearheaded a partnership with a South African college system to teach computer literacy to primary and secondary school teachers. Officials at PGCC, working closely with officials from other Maryland community colleges, have high hopes that a computer and Internet literacy training program launched earlier this year in South Africa’s seven-campus Vista University system will become a self-sustaining teacher education program. Dr. Marilyn Pugh, director of the Center for Academic Resource Development at PGCC, says the project, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will far surpass its training requirement of 840 teachers because of overwhelming demand by South African instructors. A total of 480 teachers received training this past spring and an estimated 900 teachers are expected to enroll this fall in the course, according to Marita Oosthuizen, an assistant director of the computer science department at the Bloemfontein campus of Vista University. After learning a few years ago that the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) had partnered with USAID on an international work force development program, Pugh led PGCC along with other Maryland schools to participate in a grant program that was funding international collaborations. “USAID provides seed money to projects with the expectation that they will be self-sustaining,” Pugh says.The initiative, which is known as the Community Computer (COMCO) Sustainability project, is nearing the end of its third round of funding. Total funding has been nearly $150,000 for the project that has purchased computer equipment and paid for salaries of computer instructors. A South African history course, which will be available to Maryland students through the state’s distance learning network, is also supported by the project, according to Pugh. “We are very pleased to have the opportunity for this service to be delivered to our community. There’s a great need for our people to become computer literate,” Vista’s Oosthuizen says. In addition to helping Vista officials locate additional funding for continuation of the COMCO project, Pugh says she hopes to get PGCC involved in an effort to secure old Pentium computers for distribution in South Africa. She notes that roughly 5 percent of COMCO’s teacher students actually work in schools that have computers.
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