A day-long Planning Workshop for the Open University of Nepal (OUN) Initiative was organized in Ottawa Citizen Hall in Ottawa on 1st August, 2011 as a part of the fourth national conference of Canadian Nepali Diaspora Organization NRN-Canada (See: Photos). CFFN, a partner organization of the initiative, was the main organiser of the workshop. Participants were representing various OUN committees, incoming and outgoing officers of NRN Canada, Canada Foundation for Nepal (CFFN), academic institutions, researchers and community leaders from Ottawa and other parts of Canada.
The meeting focused on consolidation of the progress made to date and planning for pilot academic programs for a possible launch in 2012. The workshop was organized jointly by NRN Canada and various committees of the OUN Initiative. Dr. Drona Rasali moderated the entire workshop. At the meeting, Dr. Bhojraj Ghimire, Honourable Ambassador of Nepal to Canada emphasized the need to promote the OUN among all stakeholders as the initiative of Nepali Diaspora, which is now supported by the Government of Nepal.
Dr. Pamela Walsh, Vice-President of the Canada’s Athabasca University reiterated the commitment of the University to support the establishment of the OUN. She informed that the University has now received a seed funding from the Government of Alberta to study a pedagogical model for the OUN.
Dr. Pramod Dhakal, Member-Secretary of the Steering Committee of the initiative, presented updates of the initiative, informing that the Government of Nepal through a decision of its Cabinet of Ministers has now formally authorized the Steering Committee of the initiative to implement the initiative for establishing OUN. “The Government has also begun to allocate funds for the initiative in the budget,” Dr. Dhakal said.
Dr. Mohamed Ally, Professor of Athabasca University and Director of Distance Learning, presented a plan of Athabasca University for supporting OUN initiative. Mr. Andrew Martin, consultant to Athabasca University presented updates on funding grant applications for the OUN and Athabasca University partnership. He stated that the OUN Initiative-and Athabasca University will submit jointly a grant application to CIDA to support the OUN’s programs for the coming several years.
Dr. Ambika Adhikari, Chair of OUN Resource Mobilization Committee presented a preliminary strategic business plan for the OUN estimated at $25 million that should come out from varieties of governmental, bilateral, multi-lateral, non-governmental and Nepali Diaspora sources. He gave an update on the current fund raising efforts, stating that USD $135,000 has been pledged by the Nepali Diaspora, out of which some $8,000 has already been collected and deposited in the NRNA OUN account in Kathmandu. Dr. Adhikari also proposed to contact various international financing institutions for possible technical assistance and funding support.
Dr. Drona Rasali, Chair of OUN Academic Development Committee presented specific needs of target group beneficiaries for higher education and various academic program scenarios for the OUN. As a part of the NRN conference, Dr. Rasali also released a promotional song for OUN that he produced in collaboration with Nepali popular singer Yash Kumar.
Dr. Mahabir Pun, Chair of the OUN IT Infrastructure Development Committee, presented a feasibility plan for a wireless Internet network for OUN. He provided the details of the status of the connection of broadband in some remote parts of Nepal, and where the OUN pilot program could be launched in 2012. Dr. Pun also provided a detailed budget for connecting selected areas with Internet connectivity.
Dr. Raju Adhikari, Chair of OUN Research and Innovation Committee jointly with Dr. Benu Adhikari presented from Australia a plan for student enrolments and management. Likewise, Dr. Shiva Gautam, a Nepali Professor from Harvard University provided management inputs for pilot programs of the OUN. Dr. Gokul Bhandari from University of Windsor and Dr. Ishara Mahat from the University of Ottawa provided inputs to students’ assessment plan and tutoring plan, respectively for the pilot programs. Saubhgya Khadka proposed a module of post-graduate curriculum for OUN pilot program.
Ms. Radha Basnyat, NRNA-ICC member from Canada appreciated the efforts by the OUNI workshop organizers, and offered her help and support for the project. NRN-Canada’s outgoing President Mr. Nabaraj Gurung and new president Dr. Binod KC as well as Dr. Govinda Dahal of Canada Foundation for Nepal, Chitra Pradhan (Vice President of NRN Canada) and several other participants of the workshop offered their support for the initiative and provided valuable insights and inputs to the OUN planning. Former Canada Member of Parliament Mr. David Kilgour, who is also an OUN Initiative Steering Committee member, emphasized the need for the Government of Nepal to invest and commit substantially upfront to this initiative for attracting donors’ commitment.
Other attendees of the meeting included Dr. Kalidas Subedi, Dr. Hari Deuja, Dr. Bharat Shrestha, Krishna Homagain, Radha Basnyat, Dr. Neeru Shrestha, Tara Upreti, Maiya Uprety (online from Winnipeg) and Dr. Judy McDonald (from the University of Ottawa). Other CFFN members who attended the workshop were Michael Casey, Tineke Casey, Prashanta Dhakal, Ben Wood, Dr. Bishwa Regmi, Anita Castrence, Robin Pudasaini and Geeta Thapa.