Mobile phones to the rescue of distance learners: Democratizing access to OERs through public libraries
As the key depositories of knowledge in towns, schools and universities, libraries play a very important role in promoting a literate and intellectual environment in society. They are an indispensable link between learning in formal, informal and non-formal settings and opportunities for further learning or lifelong learning by making available an array of books and learning materials across the gamut of subject areas. Without them it is difficult to create a learning society. Within universities they play an even more crucial role as they are the nexus between the fundamental missions of academia of learning and research. However, libraries in Africa, both public and school or university-based, are confronted with a difficult policy environment as they are not always seen as a key priority and therefore do not receive the resources and attention they deserve. As a result, they are poorly resourced in reading materials such as books and multimedia learning platforms that one can find in more developed contexts. In universities, where they are supposed to be the center of academic scholarship, funding is lacking for the acquisition of scholarly journals in all subject areas and in sufficient quantity. Also lacking is the state-of-the art research material such as computers and internet connection of good quality to access and download information from databases the world over. Moreover, with the rapid expansion of enrolment of students in universities and the corollary need for building many campuses in provinces to accommodate the intake, good libraries tend to be mainly located on the main campuses in capital cities.