Over 100 professionals from museum and educational institutions across Africa, Europe, the USA and the Caribbean participated in an online meeting on 14 May 2020 organized by the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa and the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) in celebration of International Museum Day, which focused on ‘Opportunities, challenges and best practices in the development of distance education resources for museums in Eastern Africa.’
The webinar was opened by the Director of UNESCO Regional Office for East Africa, Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, and included testimonials by National Museum Directors in Uganda, Tanzania, Seychelles and Rwanda as well as case studies in good practices and resources shared by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access and the American Centre for the Study of Distance Education as well as the Zeitz Museum of Contemp orary Art Africa (South Africa) and the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage site Interpretation Centre (Mauritius). The results of a regional survey on the use of digital technology in African museums was also presented by the Commonwealth Association of Museums (CAM), and teachers perspectives were shared by a primary and secondary school professor from Kenya and a programme officer in Teacher Education and Curriculum Development from UNESCO-IICBA.
Following the presentations, a question and answer session was led by Prof. George Abungu, Emeritus Director General of National Museums of Kenya and Founding Director and Lead Consultant of Okello Abungu Heritage Consultants, who also provided a summary of the conclusions and recommendations to guide a regional project proposal being developed by UNESCO to strengthen distance education resources and networks in Eastern African museums. To this end, many panelists underscored the need to adapt existing education programmes to meet distance learning needs, and also suggested low tech solutions should be prioritized. Several participants called for the creation of a regional distance education platform for African museums and teachers and also called on UNESCO to help strengthen the regional museum network in Africa.
The closing remarks were provided by Dr. Yumiko Yokozeki, Director of the UNESCO-International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA), who called on governments to provide more extensive internet access across Africa and also proposed organizing a follow-up meeting to develop a policy paper on museum education.
The webinar provided an opportunity for all participants to learn about the current context of distance learning educational programmes and resources at museums in the Eastern Africa region, the availability of national, regional and global resources for distance learning at museums, and the formulation of recommendations for the elaboration of a UNESCO project proposal to support the development of distance learning educational programmes and resources for museums in the Eastern Africa region.
I am pleased to see the links strengthened between museums and education through this webinar
Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections, their Diversity and their Role in Society, https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000246331
UNESCO Distance learning solutions: https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse/solutions
Smithsonian Learning Lab: https://learninglab.si.edu/
American Center for The Study of Distance Education: http://www.americancenterfordistanceeducation.com
Recording of webinar
NB: the first 10-15 minutes were not recorded due to a technical error