Kenya: The African Medical Research Foundation in case studies of non-formal education by Distance and Open Learning, Commonwealth of Learning Vancouver, Canada and the British Development for International Development, UK (DFID)
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This study documents the experience of the Distance Education Project of the African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF), Kenya Country Office. The African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) is an independent, non-profit organisation founded in 1957. It is one of the few international Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) based in Africa, with headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. The Distance Education Project focuses on workers who have little or no access to any other form of continuing education. (Brye et al, 1990). As a result, their medical skills and capabilities often deteriorate which inevitably leads to poor service delivery. (DE Proposal to USAID, 1989/94). Some observations of the study were that: There seems to be a fairly wide geographical distribution of learners. However, a closer look reveals that learners seem to come in clusters from certain areas, especially where there is a larger health care facility. This suggests that information on availability of the AMREF courses is obtained by word of mouth rather than by an aggressive effort to advertise the project in areas with low enrolment. On the other hand, while the majority of learners stated that they find the courses relevant to their work, almost 20% indicated that the course they are taking is not directly related to their work. 30% of respondents stated that AMREF courses should be upgraded, recognised by employers and educational institutions and considered for promotions. Perhaps, if the courses offered by AMREF are aimed at a particular category of health worker and are so structured as to start from the basic training level, bringing the learner up to a higher level through a series of related courses, there would be a stronger case for recognition of the certificates. When planning an education programme, it is important to see it as a continuing programme, bringing a learner from a lower level to a higher level of learning. The respondents noted an increase in knowledge and acquired a variety of skills as a result of the completion of the AMREF DE course(s). Generally, DE learners learned about new medical conditions especially in the area of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), gained new skills in physical examination, refreshed their knowledge in areas previously studied and noted an increase in confidence in the workplace. One of the most common complaints amongst correspondence learners was that it took too long for course materials to be received after registration for a course. In addition, most active correspondence learners had not had an opportunity to meet with their tutors. Fifty five (55) learners from the sample population stated that they had never met their tutors. For distance learners who study alone, it is important to establish a system of quick response and promote a caring attitude to encourage learners to complete their course of studies. This is even more important in this case where face to face sessions have been discontinued.
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