Climbing the Tower of Babel: ODELPD in multiple languages
The African future looks hopeful with the 2063 initiative – it looks bright and promising. Within the specified time frame of 50 years, 2025 is the landmark that has to be kept in mind. It is the year that the hand hoe will be banished, poverty in a generation will be eradicated, education catalyzed so that all its promises realized, African agriculture and agribusinesses modernized, while the youth as drivers of Africa’s renaissance will be fully supported and domestic resource modernization will be strengthened so that aid dependency will reduce by 50 % and transparency in all financial transactions will be upheld. Very importantly, prior to all that, by 2020, all remnants of colonialism would have ended while very importantly, all guns will be silenced and gender parity achieved. This is the challenge that as Africans we have to overcome to realise our common Pan African vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena” (AU, 2015, p.1) We know however that Africa is one continent with many different countries. Each country predictably has its own contextual and cultural specificities and subsystems. Language is part of the individual specificity: there are many African languages within the countries of Africa. As Africa attempts to attune its different educational systems, it is important to define strategies to support the articulation of the different languages with a harmonized African educational system (prompted by the Addis Convention, 2015) while still retaining country specificity.
When it comes to distance education, it is universally acknowledged that its philosophy is an inclusive one. Distance education was designed primarily in its first generation as correspondence education. It was meant to reach those that traditionally did not have access to or did not have a chance to complete their education. That is why correspondence education was also called ‘second chance’ education. Gradually the audience widened to include those women who could not attend university and even soldiers who were out at war. When correspondence education morphed into distance education, inclusiveness and openness remained its characteristic hallmark. As the classical distance education incorporated online technologies inclusiveness has remained a subsuming element. Distance education practitioners have long searched for strategies to address diverse audiences. In this regard, it would seem that when it comes to professional development in Open, Distance and Electronic Learning (ODeL), the challenge of multiple languages can be addressed in an inclusive manner.