Updates on Open University of Nepal – 001

First of the regular updates on the activities on Open University of Nepal released on July 20, 2010. It summarizes key achievements made from the time of inception of the initiative to July 2010.
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The origin of the Open University of Nepal Initiative taken up by the NRNs goes back to various small projects involved in establishing computer laboratories and electronic libraries with desires to improve education in primary and secondary schools. CFFN also carried out such projects in rural Nepal. And through those experiences, we realized the need and potential for harnessing the education and talent of Nepalese Diaspora in developing educational content and delivering educational classes from wherever in the world they reside now. In the process, we realized that Nepal lacked an institutional setup to make this vision into reality. Subsequent studies, field surveys, and deliberations made in this problem domain led us to conclude that Open University of Nepal could be that aspired institution. And with that vision CFFN approached NRNA, which subsequently took strong initiative to mobilize NRNs scattered around the world to translate this vision into a reality. Thus the intellectual debates that were brewing under the Diaspora mindset came to prominence at the beginning of 2010 and slowly ramped up in efforts since then. The major achievements made thus far are as follows:

  1. A series of presentations were made in CFFN in 2008, NRN-Canada in 2008 and NRN-Canada National Convention in 2009 by Dr. Pramod Dhakal. The mission then was to convey the potential impact of NRN collaboration with Nepal in advancing education in Nepal though distance learning mechanisms. This led to the formation of a core proponent team comprising Dr. Pramod Dhakal (lead), Dr. Ambika Adhikari, and Dr. Drona Rasali, which made a presentation on the issue in 4th Global NRN Conference in Kathmandu in 2009. These efforts received encouraging response from Diaspora community.
  2. A conclusion was made by the core proponents that instead of trying to build a competing institution of distance learning, it would be most prudent for the NRNs to explore if it could contribute to materialize the Open University of Nepal envisioned by Government of Nepal in light of the fact that the project has not taken off the ground for two decades for various reasons.
  3. Subsequently, NRNA, CFFN, and NeCASE led a fact finding mission to Athabasca University, the leading and pioneering distance university in Canada. The team made a submission of its report to NRNA International Coordination Council (ICC). This study concluded that the open and distance education has an impactful future in Nepal, and NRNA should play a major role in helping Nepal establish an Open University of international stature.
  4. The report’s findings were taken positively in NRNA ICC, which created a task force named NRN Task Force on Skills Knowledge and Innovation (SKI). Within SKI, a sub-task force on access-to-education was created, which led NRN’s educational efforts including the Open University. The Open University of Nepal (OUN) Initiative was thus born from that effort.
  5. The first major undertaking the team took was to obtain NRNA ICC approval for organizing a daylong workshop on Open and Distance Education in Nepal during 4th NRN Regional Conference in Houston, USA. The team took swift action in securing pledges of logistic and intellectual contributors from major international institutions in distance education and top Nepalese NRN academics.
  6. The core proponent team prepared a proposal for the Open University of Nepal for the discussion on the workshop. It prepared Open University of Nepal flyer (pamphlet), developed website openu.cffn.ca, and information content was put to it. Information dissemination to the interested was thus simplified. The members of the core proponent team also wrote a paper to set the initial objectives and parameters of the OUN.Please see: https://repository.unm.edu/dspace/handle/1928/10797
  7. Presentations were made, which brought sufficient publicity to the matter, especially by the one made in Louisville, Kentucky, USA during NRN-USA National Convention in February 20, 2010.
  8. The team took initiative to sign a MoU between Government of Nepal, NRNA and CFFN. The MoU has already been submitted through the NRNA Secretariat to the Office of the Prime Minister of Nepal. We are waiting to hear on the status of the MoU.
  9. The team built strong working relation with the foremost distance institution on Canada, the Athabasca University, International Council for Open and Distance Education, and International Association of Mobile Learning, in a swift manner.
  10. The workshop of May 28 was a success and heads of international organizations concerned with distance education and Presidents and Chancellors of Prominent Universities, and prominent Diaspora Nepalese academics participated in the workshop.The workshop played a significant role in gathering valuable suggestions for business, academic and administrative planning and in spreading good words about the initiative.
  11. Following the workshop, positive messages about the Open University of Nepal Initiative spread through news media and, most importantly, through the word of mouth of the participants of the conference. This has created tremendous goodwill and environment of support among Diaspora Nepalese community. It has also created some goodwill towards the initiative within Nepal but we know less about the extent of it.
  12. The OUN initiative received special confidence and goodwill from some great institutions. Among them are the unequivocal assurances for working together in establishing Open University of Nepal (OUN) made by Norway based International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) and Canada based Athabasca University (AU) through President Dr. Frits Pannekoek. This support to us is vital because ICDE is also the UNESCO advisory body in distance education and AU is one of the premier Open and Distance Universities in the world and the foremost and pioneering institution of distance learning in Canada. This support was further augmented by the assurance of support made by Chancellor Dr. Renu Khator on behalf of University of Houston System, by Dr. Carl Stockton and Dr. Mrinal Mugdh on behalf of University of Houston – Clear Lake, Dr. Mohamed Ally on behalf of International Association of Mobile Learning, Dr. Jeet Joshee on behalf of California State University Long-Beach, Dr. Krishna C. Prashad on behalf of UNESCO-IHE.
  13. The 4th NRN Regional Conference of Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), the international organization of Diaspora Nepalese, adopted a resolution declaring that Open University in Nepal would be its flagship project on May 29, 2010.
  14. The conference also formed an 11 member Open University of Nepal Strategic Committee (OUNSC) to work on key strategic issues, including the partnership development with international institutions, developing terms of references, signing of memorandum of understandings with partnering institutions and Government of Nepal, advancing legislative initiatives, and soliciting donor support. The committee members are: (arranged alphabetically by last names):
    1. HE Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya, Nepalese Ambassador to the United Nations
    2. Dr. Ambika Prasad Adhikari, Arizona State University, USA
    3. Dr. Raju Adhikari, NRNA-SKI, Australia
    4. Dr. Pramod Dhakal (Coordinator of OUNSC), CFFN and NRNA-SKI, Canada
    5. HE Dr. Bhoj Raj Ghimire, Nepalese Ambassador to Canada
    6. Mr. Dev Man Hirachan, President of NRNA, Japan
    7. Dr. Upendra Mahato, Chief Patron of NRNA, Russia
    8. Dr. Drona Prakash Rasali, University of Regina, Canada
    9. HE Dr. Shankar Prasad Sharma, Nepalese Ambassador to the USA
    10. Mr. Deependra Bikram Thapa, Secretary, Ministry of Education, Government of Nepal (tentative to official confirmation)
    11. Vacant (to be filled in consultation Government of Nepal, awaiting resolution to Item 15)
  15. The cooperation received from the Government of Nepal is of encouraging level. We have just received a message stating that Government of Nepal has accepted our proposal for the Open University submitted through NRNA positively and the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and Ministry of Law (MoL) have endorsed the proposal.
  16. The spread of good words induced invitations to present the OUN concept from forums outside NRNA and CFFN. Since the Houston Conference, we also had the privilege to present the concept to major forums including one with a group of Nepalese parliamentarians.
  17. Preparation of the report of the Houston Workshop; the ideas that are to be gathered on August 13, 2010 workshop in Ottawa are to be added. This will make the basis on which major proposal will be prepared for the submission to donor institutions for funding.
  18. Presentation on the concept, progress, legislative needs, and government role in establishing Open University of Nepal with Nepal’s parliament members from all major political parties, and with representatives from the Prime Minister’s office.
  19. Advancement of Open University idea through media, including newspaper articles, press releases, television appearance particularly in Sajha Sawal (common concerns) program of BBC Nepali Service.
  20. Presentations in Toronto and Boston to generate grassroots support among Diaspora Nepalese.
  21. In-person discussions on possible collaboration in building library for the open university with Room to Read officials, who have been actively building libraries and schools in Nepal; we mutually found complimentary roles for OUN initiative and the library initiative of Room to Read.
  22. In-person discussion and collaboration arrangements with Himachal Foundation and its Founder and Magsaysay International Award winner Mahabir Pun, who has been the most celebrated champion for using communication technology in rural schools in Nepal, for network infrastructure development and pilot program development
  23. Offer of help from a number of Nepali artists in North America and Nepal; this is considered to be vastly important in building grassroots awareness and fund-raising
  24. Second workshop on Open University of Nepal is being organized on August 13, 2010 in Ottawa, Canada. This is to further develop some of the key components of the OUN proposal including the further formulation of a business plan and initial funding strategy. Please treat this letter as our official invitation to the workshop. Please organize travel financing on your own.

Despite summer interruptions and a number of travel engagements, substantial preparation and accomplishment of number of important tasks are being completed as of writing this message. Our progress has been steady, and we have given an utmost value to the contributions all concerned people have made.

I look forward to having your continued collaboration, support and contribution in this endeavor.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Pramod Dhakal, Ph.D.
Coordinator, Open University of Nepal Initiative, NRNA SKI Task Force, nrn.org.np
Leader, Core Proponent Team, Open University of Nepal
Country Representative of Canada, NRNA-ICC
Executive Director, Canada Foundation for Nepal, CFFN.ca
613-596-6692 | pdhakal@cffn.ca | http://cffn.ca

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