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International Journal of Open and Distance Learning

The Journal of the Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA) and Southern African
Development Community-Centre for Distance Education (SADC-CDE)

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning Volume 2 April 2009

Dr T. J. Nhundu
Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL)

Editorial Board
Dr. O. S. Tau University of Botswana
Dr. D. H. Mohapi University of Lesotho
Dr. J. B. Mutangira University of Swaziland
Mr. V. Muyatwa Directorate of Open and Distance Education, Zambia
Mr. A. Franque Insituto Nacional de Educacao a Distancia (INED) Mozambique
Mr. G. Gatsha Southern African Development Community-Centre for Distance Education (SADC-

Editorial Advisory Board

Prof. David L. Mosoma University of South Africa
Dr .P. Kurasha Zimbabwe Open University
Dr. Daniel R. Tau Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL)
Mr. V. Muyatwa Directorate of Open and Distance Education, Zambia
Dr. D. Möwes Polytechnic of Namibia Centre for Open Learning
Ms L. Kolosoa Lesotho College of Education
Mr. G. Mazibuko Emlalatini Development Centre, Swaziland
Mr. T. Thuthoetsile Southern African Development Community Open and Distance Learning Project
(SADC ODL Project)

Reviewers of articles in the current volume

Dr. Vitalicy Chifwepa University of Zambia
Dr. C.W.S Sukati University of Swaziland
Dr. Getrude Nyakutse University of Swaziland
Dr. Regina Masalela University of Botswana
Dr. Johan Hendrikz University of Pretoria
Dr. Stanslaus T. Modesto Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning.

Editorial Correspondence
All articles for the journal should be addressed to Godson Gatsha, SADC-CDE, Botswana College of
Distance and Open Learning, P. Bag BO 187, Gaborone, Botswana. Tel: 00267 3180094 Fax: 00267
3191089 cell: 00267 72163697 E-mail;

Subscription information
The DEASA/SADC-CDE International Journal of Open and Distance Learning is published annually.
Subscribers will be sent copies by air mail. The annual subscriptions are as follows:
Southern Africa Pula 120/US$ 25
The rest of the World US$ 35

© DEASA/SADC-CDE. It is a condition of publication in this journal that authors vest copyright in the
DEASA/SADC-CDE. However, authors are free to use their material elsewhere after the publication
without seeking permission provided they acknowledge the copy-right holder as the first publisher. The
authors of journal articles are responsible for copyright clearance for any part of the contents of their

articles. The opinion expressed in the journal articles are those of the authors and do not reflect the
objects or opinion of DEASA/SADC-CDE.



The quality of distance learning course modules: A case study of commerce modules at the University
of Swaziland.............................................................................................................................6


Table 3: Dummy means of the various variables................................................................................12



Perceptions as factors of media selection: A case of the University of Zambia...................................17

Constraints faced by women enrolled in adult education distance programmes: A Case of adult
learners at the University of Swaziland...................................................................................32

Women access to higher education through open and distance learning: Challenges and learner

A study of inference reading skill used by Botswana police officers...................................................58

A critical review of two books on development planning in schools...................................................70

Project management in distance education...........................................................................................80


This is the second issue of the International Journal of Open and Distance Learning (JODL),
an annual publication of Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA) and
the Southern Africa Development Community Centre for Distance Education (SADC-CDE),
which comes out every September. Following the successful publication of the maiden issue
in September 2007, the JODL did not come out in September 2008 following the untimely
death of the founding Editor-in-Chief, Professor Robert Chimedza. Therefore, the JODL
Editorial Board, Editorial Advisory Board, staff and friends of the JODL take this opportunity
to express heart-felt sympathies and condolences to the Chimedza family. Professor
Chimedza was instrumental to the conception of JODL and worked tirelessly for the
successful establishment and promotion of the JODL as a lead regional mouthpiece for open
and distance education. To make up for the September 2008 issue that did not materialise, two
issues of the JODL will be published in 2009.

The JODL was established primarily to promote open and distance education research in
Southern African and provide a platform for scholarly engagement of regional and
international open and distance education scholars and practitioners. To establish itself as a
scholarly publication of repute, the JODL is interested in strong research-based articles of a
high quality. The current editorial policy requires the JODL to undertake continuous self-
evaluation to ensure that it publishes papers of the highest quality.

It is encouraging to note, with some satisfaction, improvements in the quality of papers in the
current issue largely due to enhanced rigour in the review process. While most of the papers
are good descriptive and research based manuscripts from Southern Africa, the JODL
encourages submissions from outside the region. The JODL is also considering the possibility
of thematic publications under Special Issues, which provide opportunities for thorough and
sustained treatment of selected topics.

The present issue of the JODL contains nine research articles that cover a wide range of open
and distance learning subjects. Sukati presents a descriptive analysis of the quality of print
distance learning materials using the perceptions of distance learners on a diploma in
commerce programme. While the main finding was that learners were satisfied with the
overall quality of print course materials, learners were expressed great concern about the
limited use of in-text self evaluation activities and absence of reinforcement of module
materials during face-to-face tutorials. The findings of the study have implications for training
of course writers and pre-testing of learning materials.

Chifwepa also presents perceptual analysis of factors that influence the adoption of media by
academic staff teaching on distance education programmes in a dual mode university.
Although the lecturers were at different media adoption and willingness to adopt levels, the
sample’s overall order of media preference for course delivery was internet, audiovisual,
audiotapes and radio. A study by Nyakutse, Biswalo and Maduna, which explored constraints
faced by women distance learners, reported that house chores constituted the greatest
constraint for women, followed by inadequate financial support, family obligations, and lack
of transport to and from learning centres were also cited as constraints. Another study by
Badza and Chakuchichi reasons women chose distance learning and the challenges
experienced in distance learning cited similar constraints including motherhood
responsibilities, spousal demands and access to learner support services.

A study by Chitura and Chakuchichi on HIV/AIDS used a qualitative design to determine,

through in-depth interviews, the level of support given to 15 girl child caregivers who were
forced to dropout from school to care for HIV/AIDS infected parents and siblings. The study
revealed that over two thirds of the girl caregivers were below the age of 15 and worked

under unhygienic conditions and with little or no training in caregiving, access to surgical
gloves and detergents. Galegane, on the other hand, who critically examined reading skills of
21 male police officers on a distance learning programme, reported that officers were unable
to use inferential skills used in legal parlance and could not understand fully a narrative text
used in the study.

The issue also includes a comparative review of two books on school development planning;
“School Development Planning” and “Planning Matters: The Impact of Development
Planning in Primary Schools”, by Davies and Ellison and MacGilchrist et al, respectively. In
the review Tau seeks to determine how far the books adequately cover factors that promote or
inhibit the effectiveness of development planning in schools and whether usefulness of the
books is not limited by national or cultural contexts. Finally, Modesto uses a course
development case study to explore the appropriateness and utility of project management
approaches to distance education. In spite of its relevance, the study revealed that the lack of
competency in the use of project management tools by ODL practitioners negatively affected
ODL projects in terms of time and cost.

The Editor-in-Chief looks forward to receiving comments and advice from readers,
contributors, reviewers and Editorial Advisory Board members towards improving the quality
of the publication.

T.J. Nhundu PhD


International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
C. W. S. Sukati

The quality of distance learning course modules: A case study of commerce modules at
the University of Swaziland

C. W. S. Sukati

University of Swaziland


Although distance education now exploits an array of technologies, print is

still dominant and, hence, the standard of such instructional materials is
critical to providing quality programmes. Unfortunately, printed course
modules that are primarily used on a diploma programme at the Institute of
Distance Education, University of Swaziland, have never been evaluated to
determine their quality. This study aims to partly fill this gap by assessing the
quality of the modules used in the diploma in commerce, with a view to
improving them.

Data was collected in 2003 from 102 students drawn from all four years of
the diploma programme, using a researcher designed questionnaire. The
data were analysed using frequency distributions and averages. It was found
that students were generally satisfied with the standard of the course
modules, although there were certain weaknesses that were pointed out, such
as lack of clarity of presentation of tables, charts and diagrams, shallowness
of modules and lack of self-assessment schemes. The conclusions are that it
is essential that the course modules be improved by addressing the
weaknesses. The study makes several recommendations, including pre-testing
of modules, enhanced training of writers and reviewers, and using team
approach in writing modules.


Distance education (DE) is not a new phenomenon; it has been a mode of teaching and
learning for countless individuals for many years (Moore & Kearsley, 1996). It has however
become increasingly popular as a result of the drastic increase in the demand for education,
economic downturn and also due to opportunities offered by new technologies (Keegan,
2001; Potashnik & Capper 1998). With the remarkable change in the quality and quantity of
DE, the status and the influence of its provision has been elevated.

Peters (2001) reports that in its traditional form, DE was learning by reading printed materials
in the form of textbooks, manuals, lecture notes, etc. and that it was popularly known as
correspondence education. Today, DE exploits an impressive range of new information and
communication technologies (ICTs) such as videoconferencing, CD/DVDs, internet, and
world wide web, to enable the teachers and the learners, who are separated by distance, to
communicate and interact with each other in real time (synchronous) or delayed time
(asynchronous). Although there are many new technologies that are used in distance learning,
the print remains the most widely used delivery mechanism in both developed and developing
worlds (Melton, 2002; Potashnik & Capper, 1998). Print is relatively cheap and, even if the
costs of using new technologies fell below those of print, it would still be some time before
many countries acquired the necessary infrastructures to support new technologies.

As DE extends its reach and uses new delivery modes, concerns about its effectiveness have
increased. Some DE programmes still lack credibility, and students taking such courses often
experience difficulty in obtaining recognition for their work (Gulati, 2008; Potashnik &

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
C. W. S. Sukati

Capper, 1998). At the University of Swaziland (UNISWA), some academics, particularly in

the Faculty of Humanities, have also expressed their concerns about its effectiveness and have
argued that the students in the Institute of Distance Education (IDE) who are taught using the
DE delivery mode should not be allowed to finish their BA degree in four years (as many
currently do), but should be forced to complete in six years or more so that the standards are
maintained (Sibanda, 2005).

A key success factor for distance learning courses to meet the needs of the consumer is the
quality of instructional materials (Wood, et. al., 2004). According to Mugridge (2006),
distance learning courses should provide a rich learning environment for learners by
attempting to build into learning materials educational processes that support active learning.
Therefore, the success of the teaching and learning depends on the effectiveness of the
interpretation and communication of course materials or modules to the students.

It is important to ensure that teaching is of the highest possible quality, particularly in

distance learning where study materials are sent to large numbers of students and are usually
much more open to public inspection than teaching in the conventional face-to-face institution
(Melton, 2002). Librero (2004:2) has underscored the importance of teaching modules when
he declared that

In distance education, where the paradigm must be learner-centred, the

instructional materials and modules play a very significant role. You must
have high quality instructional materials if you want to maintain high quality
instruction and academic standards. Instructional materials and modules can
and are prepared according to strict standards, while the quality of live
lectures of different professors can vary considerably.

It follows then that the course modules of the IDE play a critical role in ensuring that the
quality of instruction is high and that high academic standards are maintained. But, are current
course modules of the IDE of good quality to play this role? This question cannot be
answered as no study has been carried out to determine the quality of the course modules used
by the Institute. This study, therefore, seeks to answer this question by investigating the
quality of materials used on the diploma in commerce programme in IDE, with a view to
improving them and the quality of instruction. The findings of this study suggest that
institutions that use of trained instructional designers and elaborate schema for quality control
may still fail to produce high quality materials; hence, the need for continuous capacity
building and careful monitoring of the evaluation process.

The following sections of the study provide objectives of the study, followed by a discussion
of the importance of quality control in instructional materials and then a context of quality
control mechanism used in IDE. The study then presents the research methodology, the
results and analysis of the results. It ends with conclusions that can be drawn, and
recommendations that come out from the study.

The general purpose of the study was to ascertain the quality of the instructional materials
prepared and used by the IDE at UNISWA on the Diploma in Commerce programme.
Specifically, the main objectives of the study were:

1. To find out if the modules produced and used were of good quality, in terms
of readability and usefulness in imparting the content;
2. To determine if the course modules were well presented and appropriate, with
clear tables, charts and diagrams provided;
3. To ascertain if the modules were self-contained and covered at least 70% of

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
C. W. S. Sukati

the instruction in that particular course; and

4. To determine whether the students in the different years of study in the
Diploma in Commerce differed in their observations and encounters with the
course modules.

This study limited itself to the course modules used in the Diploma in Commerce programme
and did not investigate other course modules that are used in other IDE programmes.
Therefore the results apply only to the Diploma in Commerce programme and cannot be taken
to apply to other IDE programmes.


Importance of Quality Control

The definitions of distance education that have been advanced by both theorists and
practitioners have put greater emphasis on the separation and communication between the
teachers and the learners. Moore (1972:76) has, for example, defined DE as

… the family of instructional methods in which the teaching behaviours are

executed apart from the learning behaviours … so that communication
between the learner and the teacher must be facilitated by print, electronic,
mechanical, or other devices.

Keegan (2001) concurs that teaching at a distance is characterized by the separation of the
teacher and the learner, and of the learner from the learning group, with the interpersonal
face-to-face communication of conventional education being replaced by an apersonal mode
of communication mediated by technology. He posits that the quality of learning achieved is
related to the quality of the learning materials provided by the DE system, and also highlights
that the propensity to drop out from the programmes by the enrolees can be attenuated by the
planning of quality learning materials.

It is therefore necessary for DE institutions to plan, produce and use quality materials for their
programmes and thus the need to keep monitoring and improving the standard of such
materials. A relevant standard that the South African Institute of Distance Education (2003)
exposes is that the teaching materials are periodically reviewed in the light of ongoing
feedback from learners and tutors and advances in knowledge and research. Evaluation of
course materials, according to Gaba and Dash (2004), does not only demonstrate its strengths,
but also points out any inherent shortcomings, and thus its importance in an open and distance
learning system.

Many institutions and organizations have come up with their own ways to evaluate the quality
of their instructional materials to provide the feedback necessary for improvement. The
Miami – Dade County public schools, for example, follow general State criteria which cover:

Content – looking at areas like alignment with curriculum requirements,

level of treatment of content, expertise for content development, accuracy of
content, currency of content, and authenticity of content.

Presentation – covering areas like organisation of instructional materials,

pacing of content, ease of use of materials, and readability of instructional
Learning – covering areas like active participation of students, targeted
assessment strategies, motivational strategies, and guidance and support.
(Library Media and Instructional Materials Services 2004: 2 & 3).

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
C. W. S. Sukati

The Examiners Rating Form for Subject Specialists of Degree Programmes of the Distance
Education and Training Council (DETC) Accreditation Handbook (2004) covers criteria for
evaluating quality of distance learning materials, including clearly defined and simply stated
objectives, content broken down into manageable parts, presentation of course materials,
layout and format and reading levels. Astleitner (2003) used “six principles of good
instruction” as standards to evaluate instructional materials. On checking the weaknesses in
instructional materials, it is suggested (Commonwealth of Learning, 2004; Freeman, 2004)
that the students be asked questions like:

• Is the language clear?

• Is the presentation (typography, layout, diagrams) clear?
• Is the level of the content right?
• Are the activities at the right level?
• Are there enough self-assessment exercises?
• Are the progress tests relevant to the material learnt?

This study is thus structured in such a way that similar information will be solicited from the
learners to give an idea of the quality of the course modules used on the Diploma in
Commerce programme.


The IDE was created by the UNISWA in 1994 to convert and offer through distance learning
programmes that were taught by the University in its conventional face-to-face full-time
mode. The IDE was mandated to produce course modules to give to the students to study
away from the campus, and also offer some very limited lecturing and tutorial help to the
learners. The distance learning component (covered by the course modules) was about 70% of
the instruction in each course, and the face-to-face component was to cover about 30%. In
addition, to ensure equivalences and parity of standards between the on-campus and the off-
campus students, the teaching modules were to be prepared and taught by lecturers who also
taught the same course/s to the full-time students (Institute of Distance Education, 1994).
Within its available resources and expertise, IDE set up a scheme (Chart 1 below) used to
produce and check for quality assurance of modules.

Chart 1

IDE Materials Development Process

Nomination and appointment of writer – Head of Dept. & IDE

Orientation and Training of writer - IDE
Writer writes and produces first draft - Writer
First draft reviewed by IDE Instructional Designer - IDE
Reviewed draft revised by writer to produce 2nd Draft - Writer
Second draft reviewed by a subject specialist - Reviewer
Reviewed 2nd draft revised by writer to produce 3rd draft - Writer
Third draft checked by IDE Instructional Designer - IDE
Checked 3rd draft edited by IDE Copy Editor to produce 4th draft - IDE
Fourth draft proof read & illustrations/graphics added to produce final copy - IDE
Final copy printed - IDE
Binding of final copy - IDE
Dispatch and distribution to students – IDE

Once produced, using the above schema, the modules are given to learners to use without pre-
testing. This supports the criticism highlighted by Perraton (2004:4) who asserted that

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
C. W. S. Sukati

We know, for example, that there are advantages in combining media, such
as print, broadcasting and face-to-face support, but we often fall back on just
one of them; we know that materials should be pre-tested, but they seldom
are; we know that rapid and helpful feedback motivates and helps students,
but for practical reasons often fail to provide it (author’s emphasis).

Furthermore, these IDE instructional materials have never been evaluated to determine their
“fitness for purpose” i.e. their quality. This study aims to correct this anomaly by
investigating the quality of modules used on the diploma in commerce programme.

The study was designed to cover all the learners who were enrolled in the diploma in
commerce in IDE in all the four years (or levels) in the academic year 2002/2003. The
researcher chose this programme because course modules for a bachelor of commerce degree
were being produced in the Faculty of Commerce to articulate with the diploma programme.
It was therefore appropriate that before these new modules were finished, information on the
quality of the lower level ones be made available to help writers learn from them and improve
their writing of the new course modules.

The researcher visited each class in February 2003 to collect data. A researcher-designed
questionnaire was given to all the learners found in class on that particular day and they were
asked to participate in this study on voluntary basis by completing the questionnaire. Using a
questionnaire to collect the data was considered to be the most appropriate method as the
views of each student would be documented. All students found in the classes on the data
collection day agreed to participate in the study and filled in the questionnaire. Learners felt
that the results of the inquiry would ultimately help in improving their programme. However,
learners who were absent on that particular day did not participate in the study.

The questionnaire was pre-tested with 20 selected distance learners on a BA (Humanities)

programme and improvements were made on it as necessary. Most questions asked in the
questionnaire were derived from a synthesis of the literature and covered the presentation of
the content in the modules, the content itself, organization of the material, readability,
coverage of the syllabus, self-assessment and match between module coverage and content
taught in face-to-face sessions. The completed questionnaires were checked for completeness,
coded and entered into the SPSS computer programme by the researcher. Once the data had
been captured in the computer, it was verified and thereafter the analysis using frequency
distributions and averages was done. For analysis purposes, the questions asked in the
questionnaire were grouped in accordance with the specific objectives of the study. Those that
referred to the quality and readability of the modules were grouped as 1, those dealing with
the presentation of the modules in group 2 and those dealing with coverage of subject content
by the modules were in group 3. The results found are as indicated in the next section.

Out of 179 learners enrolled on the diploma in commerce programme, 102 (57%) learners
completed the questionnaires. Table 1 gives an indication of the number of students who
filled in the questionnaire in each year of study.

Table 1: Number of questionnaires completed by students and year of study

Year of No of students No. of students filling in
Response Rate %
study Registered form
1 43 36 83.72
2 59 27 45.76
3 36 13 36.11
4 41 26 63.41

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
C. W. S. Sukati

Total 179 102 56.98

Table 1 reveals that most of the learners in the 1st year (36 or 83.7%) and the 4th year (26 or
63.4%) responded to the survey, while less than half of the 2 nd (27 or 45.8%) and 3rd year (13
or 36.1%) students responded to the survey. The overall response rate of about 56.98% is
good for a research study, but if all the learners attended their classes, the response rate would
have been higher. The level of absenteeism from classes seen in this study is not surprising as
the phenomenon is rife in IDE. Sukati et al (2002) provided information on this problem and
the reasons why learners absent themselves.

Identified variables (Appendix 1) dealing with the aspects of quality, readability and how well
the module imparted information were variables 10: overviews and introductions helping the
learner; 11: self evaluation activities helping learners, 12: matching self evaluation activities
with content of the unit, 13: inclusion of additional self evaluation activities, 16: modules
with spelling and grammatical errors, 17: clarity of language in and 18: no repetitions in
module content. Items on module presentation and illustrations (tables, charts, etc.) include 6:
overall presentation of module, 7: icons and headings for locating information, 8: excessive
use of icons and headings that confuse the learner and 15: unclear and not easy to follow and
understand tables, charts and diagrams. Finally, items on content coverage included 9:
matching unit objectives with unit content, 14: appropriateness of unit summaries, 19: module
information overload, 20: module covers 70% course content and 21: module content matches
lecture materials. Learners’ responses to these items appear in table 2 below.

Table 2: Students’ responses to questions asked

Strongly Strongly Not
Variable agree
Agree Disagree
Disagree answered
10: overviews and introductions helped to prepare learner 13 57 18 4 9
11: self evaluation activities helped learner learn the material 9 66 13 6 7
12: self evaluation activities matched content of module/ unit 9 54 15 2 21
13: there should be more self evaluation activities included 37 40 14 2 7
16: modules contained too many spelling & grammatical errors 20 36 28 3 13
17: modules written in very clear manner & easily understood 8 46 25 9 13
18: there were no repetitions in the content of the modules 8 51 18 7 17
6: the overall presentation of module was good 9 57 28 4 3
7: icons and headings helped to locate information 16 60 20 2 3
8: too many icons and headings and they confused learner 8 16 54 12 11
15:clear, easy to follow & understand tables, charts & diagrams 6 27 31 22 15
9: objectives of each unit matched information taught in unit 15 58 13 6 9
14: summary appropriateness in reviewing unit/module content 18 50 15 5 13
19: module covers too much information 6 19 44 23 9
20: over 70% of course content covered in module 17 43 23 7 10
21: module content matches material covered in lecture 12 27 32 18 11

When the responses for strongly agreed and agreed are combined, the highest agreement was
variable 13 with 77, variable 7 with 76, variable 11 with 75, variable 9 with 73, and variable
10 with 70 responses. This means that learners agreed with the statements that there should be
self evaluation activities included in each unit (var. 13), the icons and headings helped
learners in locating information (var. 7), the self evaluation activities helped the learners learn
the material (var. 11), the overviews and introductions helped the learners learn the materials
(var. 10), and the objectives of each unit matched the information taught in that particular unit
(var. 9).

Sixty seven (67) learners disagreed and strongly disagreed with variable 19, 66 with variable
8, 53 with variable 15 and 50 with variable 21. This means that the learners disagreed with the
statement that each module covered too much information (var. 19), there were too many
icons and headings that confused the learners (var. 8), the tables, charts and diagrams were
easy to follow and understand (var.15), and the materials covered on lectures was the same as

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
C. W. S. Sukati

that presented in the modules (var. 21).

To confirm the above findings, Table 3 was prepared to show the average of each of the
variables, giving strongly agree dummy variable 1, agree dummy variable 2, disagree dummy
variable 3 and strongly disagree dummy variable 4, (excluding the column of those who did
not respond). Table 3 shows that learners strongly agreed with variables with low total mean
scores and strongly disagreed with variables with high mean scores.

Table 3: Dummy means of the various variables

Variable Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Mean
10: overviews and introductions helped to prepare learner 1.81 2.25 2.00 2.54 2.14
11: self evaluation activities helped learner learn the material 1.97 2.27 2.23 2.32 2.17
12: self evaluation activities matched content of module or unit 1.94 2.15 2.33 2.29 2.12
13: there should be more self evaluation activities included 1.96 1.96 1.75 1.79 1.79
16: modules contained too many spelling and grammatical errors 2.30 1.95 2.42 2.05 2.17
17: modules written in very clear manner & easily understood 2.06 2.57 2.69 2.60 2.39
18: there were no repetitions in the content of the modules 2.12 2.55 2.01 2.38 2.28
Average 1.98 2.24 2.22 2.28 2.15
6: the overall presentation of module was good 1.89 2.42 2.54 2.52 2.27
7: icons and headings helped to locate information 1.97 2.04 2.08 2.27 2.08
8: too many icons and headings and they confused learner 3.13 2.80 2.83 2.26 2.78
15:clear, easy to follow & understand tables, charts & diagrams 2.59 2.95 2.50 3.18 2.8
Average 2.39 2.55 2.49 2.56 2.48
9: objectives of each unit matched information taught in unit 1.94 2.04 2.18 2.38 2.11
14: summary appropriateness in reviewing unit/module content 1.71 2.29 2.00 250 2.08
19: each module covered too much information 2.85 2.91 2.69 3.13 2.91
20: over 70% of course content covered in module 2.03 2.24 2.30 2.46 2.23
21: module content matches material covered in lecture 2.37 2.48 2.40 3.20 2.63
Average 2.18 2.39 2.31 2.73 2.39
Overall Average 2.148 2.367 2.315 2.492 2.309

The results show that:

• The statement that most learners strongly agreed with, at mean 1.79, was
variable number 13 which indicates that there should be more self-evaluation
activities included in each unit of the course modules.
• The next statements that the learners strongly agreed with, at mean 2.08 were
variables 7 and 14 which indicated that icons and headings helped the
learners to locate information, and that the summaries and conclusions also
helped the learners to review what they should have learnt in that module or
unit, respectively.
• The statement that most students disagreed with, at mean 2.91, was variable
19 which indicated that each module covered too much information.
• Another statement that the learners disagreed with, at mean 2.8, was variable
15 which said that the tables, charts and diagrams were clear, easy to follow
and to understand.
• The next statement that most students disagreed with, at mean 2.78, was
variable 8 which indicated that there were too many icons and headings on
the course modules and that these confused the learner.
• The final statement that the learners disagreed with, at mean 2.63, was
variable 21 which indicated that the material covered on lectures was the
same as that presented in the modules.

Table 3 further indicates that in almost all the categories or variables of interest, year 1
students always have the smallest mean score. This means that year 1 learners often agree
with the statements (implying that the quality of the course modules was good) more than the

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
C. W. S. Sukati

students in years 2, 3, and 4. Looking at the overall means, it appears that learners in year 4
were most critical of the modules at 2.492 and disagree most with the statements, showing
that they were less happy with the quality of the modules.

An analysis of the open-ended questions that were included in the questionnaire yielded
results that showed specific course modules that had problems such as having too many icons
and headings that confused the learners, objectives that did not match the written content, and
self evaluation activities that did not match the content. Another important finding was that
none of the modules in the diploma in commerce was said to cover too much information or
content. In fact, most of the students said that many of the course modules were too shallow.

The results of this study show that learners found self-evaluation activities, overview, and
introduction sections on the units very helpful and wanted more of these included. This
confirms the findings of other research studies, including Mokocho (2001) who found that
98% of teacher trainees in Malawi indicated that the self-evaluations helped them to learn the
module. It was also found that on the presentation of the modules, the inclusion of icons and
headings was also very helpful in enabling the learners locate information and that more of
these should be included. That is why they disagreed with the statement that there were too
many icons and headings on the modules and that these confused the learners. These devices
are important as they help give direction and make the document more accessible and
interactive (Waller, 1982). This again is similar to the findings of Mokocho (2001), who
discovered that over 95% of the teacher learners in Malawi found the icons helpful in locating

Further findings were that the learners did not agree with the statement that each of the
modules covered too much information. This could mean that, according to the learners, the
modules either covered adequate information or less information than what they expected
and/or needed for that course. To some extent, this is to be expected in IDE course modules as
by design they are not meant to cover everything, but at least 70% of the content. The learners
disagreed with the statement that the tables, charts, and diagrams were clear and easy to
follow and understand. Their disagreement means that these graphical aids are not presented
in a clear manner, and hence are not easy to follow and understand. Although these aids are
important as they compress information and eliminate redundancy by allowing the reader to
understand the information presented (Holmberg, 2005; Macdonald-Ross, 1977), in this
study, however, it appears that they failed to do this. This finding seems to conform to
findings of other authors. Mokocho (2001:9) for example concluded that “while this
usefulness is there, we realize that of all module elements discussed, these elements have
registered lowest readability”

The results show that the learners further disagreed with the statement that the information
that the material covered on lectures was the same as that presented on the modules. This is a
serious matter to be addressed (if this information that is covered on the module is less than
70% of the course content) as the few face-to-face classes are supposed to cover information
that is covered by the module and is in the course syllabi. If the lecturer, in class, covers
different material from that written in the module, it either means that the module is not self
contained and is incomplete, (and this would be in violation of the IDE quality standards) or
that the lecturers are not happy with the material presented in the module and thus have to
bring in new material, or just that the lecturers teach what they want and do not necessarily
follow the course syllabus as prescribed by the university (Librero, 2004). This calls for
further research to determine the extent of this phenomenon and why it happens.

The trend found was that all the overall year means are less than expected, which is 2.50
(1+2+3+4/4) , it means that the students agreed with most of the statements. This implies that

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C. W. S. Sukati

overall, the modules were well prepared and the learners were happy with them as they were
of reasonably good quality. Finally, it was found that there was no learner who indicated one
or more modules to contain too much information or content. On the contrary, a number of
learners pointed out that many modules were too shallow. This should be of concern to the
IDE as it indicates that the modules cover the course content in a superficial manner and do
not give enough breadth and depth. This is a threat to the quality of the modules produced as
they cannot be said to be truly self-contained and completely self-instructional. Perhaps there
has to be closer scrutiny on the preparation of the modules and on review to ensure that the
breadth and depth of each module is adequate and covers all the information the students
require for that particular course.


This study has found that the course modules produced and used by the IDE in the diploma in
commerce programme were of reasonably good quality in terms of readability and usefulness
in imparting the content of each course. More first year students made this observation than
those in the fourth year of their study. Fourth year students were much more critical of the
modules than students in the earlier years. The presentation of the material in the modules,
particularly the tables, the charts and the diagrams was however wanting as most students
were not happy with these.

The aspect of the modules being self-contained and covering at least 70% of the instruction in
that particular course was not quite answered in this study. The fact that the students seemed
to suggest that the content in the course modules was shallow is not conclusive proof as the
material that was missing, could be the 30% to be covered on the face-to-face support. As it is
important that the course modules be self-contained, this aspect therefore still needs further
research. Further follow-up research was again required to answer questions such as: i) why
year 1 students were mostly satisfied with the quality of their modules while year 4 students
were not; ii) whether the results found for the diploma in commerce modules applied to the
course modules of other programmes; iii) what improvements (if any) needed to be made on
the IDE materials development process.

The recommendations arising from the findings of this study are:

a) There is a need for the pre-testing of the modules once they have been
produced, and a continued monitoring and evaluation process to ensure that
all the problems found are dealt with. IDE, therefore, needs to strengthen its
monitoring and evaluation Section to ensure that its instructional modules are
of a very high standard that will lead to quality instruction and the
maintenance of high academic standards.
b) The training of staff members that write the modules and those that review
them need to be improved and continued so that the modules that they
produce are of a very high quality and meet the standards and house style of
the IDE. In addition, IDE needs to adopt the “Course Production Team”
approach to the production of its modules to increase the expertise available
for the writing of each module. Further, staff members who perform the
checks and balances in the production of the modules, as shown in Chart 1,
need to be thorough in doing their work, and modules should not be allowed
to pass and be used for teaching if they do not meet the set quality standards.
c) All the modules that were indicated to be of poor quality needed to be
reviewed urgently so that they are brought to the required standard. In
addition, the presentation of charts, tables, diagrams and other graphical
information needed to be improved on all the modules.

The implementation of the above recommendations would ensure that the theory-practice

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Volume 2 April 2009
C. W. S. Sukati

hiatus is reduced and only high quality teaching course modules are produced and used,
which would improve the academic performance of the students.

Astleitner, H. (2003). The quality of instructional materials for argumentative knowledge
construction. Journal of Instructional Psychology, March 2003 issue.
Commonwealth of Learning (COL). (2004). Planning and Implementing Open and Distance
Learning Systems: A Handbook for Decision Makers. Vancouver: Commonwealth of
Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). (2004). DETC Accreditation Handbook –
2004. Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education Council, Washington, DC.
Freeman, Richard. (2004). Planning and Implementing Open and Distance Learning Systems:
A Handbook for Decision Makers. Vancouver: The Commonwealth of Learning.
Gaba, A. K. & Dash, N. K. (2004). Course evaluation in open and distance learning: a case
study from Indira Gandhi National Open University. Open Learning: the Journal of
Open and Distance Learning, 9(2), 213-221.
Gulati, S. (2008). Technology – Enhanced Learning in Developing Nations: A review. The
International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(1).
Holmberg, B. (2005). The Evolution, Principles and Practices of Distance Education.
Germany: Bibliotheks- und Informationssystem der Carl von Ossietzky Universitat
Institute of Distance Education. (1994). Policy Guidelines and Collaboration between IDE
and Conventional Faculties/Departments. Unpublished Policy Paper for the
University of Swaziland.
Keegan, D. (2001). Foundations of Distance Education. Third Edition. London: Routledge
Library Media and Instructional Materials Services and its licensors. (2004). Instructional
Materials Handbook. Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Retrieved December 6,
2004, from
Librero, F. (2004). Distance Education in UP: Options and Directions. Paper produced for
the University of the Philippines Open University. Los Banos: UP Open University.
Retrieved January 12, 2005, from http://www.UPOU.ORG/books/options.htm
MacDonald-Ross, M. (1977). Graphics in text. In Shulman, L. S. (ed.), Review of Research in
Education, Vol. 5. Itasca, IL.: F. E. Peacock.
Melton, R. F. (2002). Planning and Developing Open and Distance Learning: A Quality
Assurance Approach. London: Routledge Falmer.
Mokocho, P.M.O.K. (2001). An overview of the quality, readability and relevance of
Distance Education Instructional Modules at Domasi College of Education (Malawi)
– a teacher – learner’s perspective. Paper presented at the Pan-Commonwealth
Forum on Open Learning, Durban, South Africa, 29 July – 2 August, 2002.
Moore, M. & Kearsley, G. (1996). Distance Education: A Systems View. Belmont, California:
Moore, M. (1972). Learner autonomy: the second dimension of independent Learning.
Convergence, 5(2): 76-78.
Mugridge, I. (2006). Quality Assurance in Open and Distance Education. In Garg, S.; Khan,
A.R.; Aggarwal, A.K.; Kanjilal, U. & Panda, s. (ed.). Open and Flexible Learning –

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Issues and Challenges. Prof. G. Ram Reddy memorial Lectures, New Delhi: Viva
Books Private Limited.
Perraton, H. (2004). Well-trodden routes and mountains still to climb. Paper presented at the
DEASA Meeting held in Maseru, Lesotho, September, 2004.
Peters, O. (2001). Learning and Teaching in Distance Education – Pedagogical Analyses and
Interpretations in an International Perspective. London: Kogan Page.
Potashnik, M. & Capper, J. (1998). Distance Education: Growth and Diversity. Finance and
Development, March 1998. Retrieved December 10, 2004, from
Sibanda, E. S. (2005). Proposed Distribution of IDE Course Modules. Unpublished paper
prepared for discussion by the Faculty of Humanities Board at UNISWA.
South African Institute of Distance Education (SAIDE). (2003). Minimum Targets for
Distance Education in South Africa – 2003. Unpublished Paper, (Johannesburg:
Sukati, C. W. S.; Vilakati, L. D. & Sithole, S. I. (2002). Factors Contributing to Poor
Attendance of Classes by the Students of the Institute of Distance Education at the
University of Swaziland, BOLESWA Educational Research Journal, 19, 44-58.
Waller, R. (1982). Text as diagram: Using typography to improve access and Understanding.
In: Jonassen, D. H. (ed.). The technology of text: Principles for designing and
displaying text, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Educational Technology Publications.
Wood, al. (2004). Total Quality Management Strategic Plan for Distance Course
Development. DEOSNEWS, 13(2).


Description of variables used

Variable # Narration
6 Overall presentation of the module was good
7 Icons and headings helping to locate information
8 Too many icons and headings and they confused learner
9 Objectives of each unit matched information taught in unit.
10 Overviews and Introductions helped to prepare learner
11 Self evaluation activities helped learner learn the material
12 Self evaluation activities matched the content of module or unit
13 There should be more self evaluation activities included
14 The summaries helped in review of what should have been learnt in unit/module
15 The tables, charts & diagrams were clear & easy to follow and understand
16 The modules contained too many spelling and grammatical errors
17 The modules were written in very clear manner & could be easily understood
18 There were no repetitions in the content of the modules
19 Each module covered too much information
20 Material in each module covered over 70% of what was taught in the course
21 The material covered on lectures is the same as presented in the modules

The author wishes to thank Prof. Esampally Chandraiah, Prof. Balam Nyeko, Dr. Moses
Sithole, and Ms. Sithembile Manyuchi for their assistance and helpful comments on an earlier

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
Vitalicy Chifwepa

Perceptions as factors of media selection: A case of the University of Zambia

Vitalicy Chifwepa
University of Zambia

The paper identifies perceptions as one of the major factors in the adoption
of media in open and distance learning. Using Roger’s theory of adoption the
paper surveys the academic staff attitudes and perceptions towards various
types of information and communication technologies and, therefore,
explores the degree to which their perceptions and attitudes would influence
the adoption of the technologies in the provision of distance education at the
University of Zambia. The lecturers’ perceptions were that ICT could
improve learning and therefore be employed in the delivery of open and
distance learning. They indicated that their courses could be offered in the
various formats and that the formats could complement each other. The
order of the positive perceptions was: Internet, audiovisual, audio (but not to
be delivered using the radio) and lastly the radio.

Distance education has been one of the modes of delivery that the University of Zambia
(UNZA) adopted from its inception. The University has been operating a dual mode of
delivery in which both the internal and distance education students take the same courses and
examinations given by the same staff. According to Siaciwena (1989) this model was adopted
from the University of New England in Australia.

The dual mode could be quite strenuous on the teaching staff especially if they have to
prepare materials and lessons as well as mark assignments and examinations for both internal
and distance education students frequently. This could be even more strenuous where student
enrolments are increasing, as is the case at UNZA. One of the factors that deters UNZA from
enrolling as many students as would match the demand is that of capacity in terms of facilities
for both internal and distance students. Capacity includes the teaching and learning facilities,
space for students and lecture rooms, among others. As a way of responding to some of these
limitations UNZA, just like other universities world over, have sought to integrate ICT for
both delivery and management of distance education. This paper reviews the attitudes and
perceptions of the academic staff towards the use of ICTs in distance education.

A review of literature showed that attitudes and perceptions of stakeholders, particularly those
that are intended to use the ICTs, have a strong bearing towards the adoption and application
of the ICTs.


The management of distance education at UNZA, as briefly explained above, reveals several
challenges, which include inadequate academic and administrative staffing. Due to this
shortage of staff there is a lot of pressure to produce learning materials. In addition, the mode
of distance education adopted by UNZA could result into staff not devoting adequate time to
distance teaching as was noted by Siaciwena (1989, online).

The print materials that have been the backbone of distance education rely on postal means of
delivery. Regarding this means of delivery Siaciwena (2000) observed that:

Although the postal system is generally reliable, with very few materials
getting lost, it is slow. It takes a minimum of three days in some urban areas
and a maximum of six weeks in very remote rural areas for materials to reach

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Vitalicy Chifwepa

students. Course materials are centrally distributed, from the University in

Lusaka. The flow of materials is also affected by the comparatively high
postage charges (p17).

In the University’s quest to expand its ability to provide wider access and to provide the most
flexible formats of higher education, UNZA has sought to provide laboratories and computer
networks in every unit. In this regard, the University embarked on the Computers for
Academic, Management and Administrative Support (CAMAS) Project.

The CAMAS project was in accordance with the University’s strategic plans and in order to
achieve the University’s strategic goals. Under the project, each unit was provided with
computers for both staff and students and a whole campus wide network was established to
facilitate communication throughout the University (University of Zambia, 1996:2001).

Regarding distance education, there was additional need to “exploit the potential of ICT to
improve the quality of course materials and the provision of learner support services.”
(University of Zambia, 2001:59).

The second phase of the UNZA computerisation programme was supported by the Flemish
Inter-University Council (VLIR) of Belgium and UNZA Institutional University Cooperation
programme (VLIR-UNZA IUC). According to Siaciwena (2000:36), the distance education
component of this programme aimed at achieving the following:
• Capacity building (including staff training)
• Automation of administration/management system
• Improved student support services
• Enhancement of infrastructure

More specifically, according to the VLIR-UNZA-IUC: Distance Education Action Plan 1997-
98, the Project's main objectives were to:

1. Enhance the quality of distance education by improving:

a) the communication facilities between the different actors involved;
b) the dissemination of printed material;
c) the student support through additional educational strategies (better
communication, access to resources, self evaluation, etc.).
2. Increase the number of distance students by:
a) offering more programmes in DE;
b) making access easier.

The third project was through collaboration with the African Virtual University (AVU). This
African Development Bank-funded project sought to create Open and Distance eLearning
centres in selected countries and institutions in order to provide eLearning to mathematics and
science student teachers. This project is still being implemented and the University of Zambia
is one of the institutions in Africa that were selected to take part.

Despite all these efforts, the University of Zambia has not yet completely implemented the
intended use of ICT in the delivery of distance education. The reason is that none of the
projects reached the stages of full application of the ICT as envisaged. However, the AVU
project has installed the equipment in a laboratory and is making headways with training of
some academic staff that are expected to cascade the skills to the rest of the academic

It was, therefore, necessary to explore the perceptions and attitudes of the staff so that the

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Vitalicy Chifwepa

information gathered would be used in the training and sensitisation of the academic staff in
order to prepare for the implementation of the technologies.

This study, therefore, sought to establish the attitudes and perceptions of the academic staff of
UNZA as a step towards planning for the adoption of ICT in the provision of distance
education students of the University.

According to Blurton (1999), information and communications technology (ICT) is

An embracing concept that includes the systems, processes and people that
are involved with technologically mediated communication. Information and
Communication technologies (ICTs) refer to ‘a diverse set of technological
tools and resources used to communicate and to create, disseminate, store and
manage information (p46).

As the ICT developments are being conceived, it is important to understand the attitudes and
perceptions of the stakeholder. Rogers (1995) has found that adoption of any innovation
involves identification of the various categories of the would-be actors in order to plan for
activities that would promote the adoption process. According to Rogers (1995), there are five
elements or factors that affect adoption: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity,
trialability and observability. Relative advantage is “the degree to which an innovation is
perceived as being better than the idea it supersedes" (p212). The players or actors in distance
education, learners and teachers, may want to identify with relative advantage in order to
adopt ICT in materials development use. Compatibility, "is the degree to which an innovation
is perceived as consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential
adopters" (p224). Complexity, "is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as relatively
difficult to understand and use" (p242). What is perceived as more difficult may not be easily
adopted, especially by laggards. Trialability "is the degree to which an innovation may be
experimented with on a limited basis. New ideas that can be tried on the instalment plan are
generally adopted more rapidly than innovations that are not divisible" (p243). Observability,
"is the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others" (p244).

This study, therefore, sought to identify academic staff as a major group of actors that need to
be involved and considered during the planning stages.

As teaching media, ICT has the potential to "enhance the learning possibilities either by
providing (tuition) to a wider audience at a distance or by providing new ways of learning in a
more flexible and open way" (Brande, 1993:2). Plomp (1999) agrees with this point and says
that, “ICT is considered to have the potential to enhance a more student-oriented approach to
learning that not only prepares for, but also meets the demands of the 21st century.” (p18).
Bates and Tony (1995:17) state that:

Technology does provide an opportunity to teach differently, in a way that can

meet the fundamental needs of a new and rapidly changing society. The
evidence is now overwhelming that technology can both improve the quality
of education and enable new target groups to be reached, at less cost than by
using conventional methods.

In some situations only one of the ICTs could be used. Other situations may demand a
combination of different types according to the environment and availability of infrastructure.
Some courses may also determine the best type of ICT to use. Siaciwena (1988) found out
that only slightly more than a third of the student respondents (36.1%) listened to the radio

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broadcasts and 32.8 per cent found them useful. Some of the challenges could be due to the
organization or management of the ICT programmes. For example, Siaciwena (1988)
observed that the challenge could be attributed to the inadequacy of the airtime allocated.

ICT has to be available and accessible in order for it to be used. In addition to the locality of
the technology, Kelso (1998) says ownership and control of the technology and means has an
effect on accessibility. An institution might have guidelines on the accessibility of the
technology, for example, at certain hours at the working place, learning centre, etc. These
measures could be prohibitive or facilitative in terms of access to ICT. Kelso also
differentiates use from effective use. The author argues that having access to the technologies
does not necessarily mean they are used, and using them does not (necessarily) mean they are
used effectively. Like the Commonwealth of Learning (1999), Kelso (1998) identifies factors
to consider in the use of ICT as:
• Availability at low cost, similar to what COL calls affordability;
• Access wherever the intended users live or carry on business;
• Awareness of the availability of the technologies. Do the intended users know
about the existence;
• Development of appropriate services by the service providers. This relates to
content and relevance of the services; and
• Skill to use the technologies

Attitudes and skill of staff and students could affect the use of modern technologies (Schmidt
et al., 2000, Daley et al, 2001; Maguire, 2005; Yang & Cornelious, 2005). With reference to
Turkey, Rajesh (2003) and Usun (2004) observed that there are four factors that affect the
adaptation and application of ICT in distance education in developing countries. The factors
are cultural, such as difficulties to accept change from traditional education methodologies
and attitudes towards technology, technological, that is what technologies are available and
their suitability, political will to integrate the technologies and provide for their availability,
and economic environments that affect availability of income for investment. Attitudes and
perceptions have been cited by many authors to have greater effect than access, skill and other
factors (Daley et al, 2001; Maguire, 2005; Yang & Cornelious, 2005). Burn and Thongprasert
(2005) found that perceived value of the computer-based information had a strong effect on
the use and learning habits. These factors are so strong that they need to be considered and
addressed before any institution could attempt to adopt ICT (Fisser, 2001). Some of the
perspectives of the teaching staff included the fear to lose class control; mainly these were
trained using traditional methods (Dooley & Murphrey, 2000; Maguire, 2005; Yang &
Cornelious, 2005).

Attitudes have not always been negative, some academic staff members were, what Rogers
(1995) would call adopters and innovators. Using the SWOT analysis and the factors of
innovation and diffusion, Dooley and Murphrey (2000) found that the academic staff could
provide strength and opportunity for the infusion of ICT as much as they could be threats,
depending on their attitudes. Maguire (2005) reports that in two studies academic staff felt
“that teaching online provided optimal working conditions, as they were able to “teach” at
any time and from any place and also stated a feeling of self-gratification from teaching
online.” Thus Maguire (2005, online) concludes that, “if administrators misunderstood the
faculty perceptions of motivators and barriers, they will be unable to structure appropriate
distance education programs.” The ability to collaborate with colleagues from other
institutions using ICT was another factor that motivated some academic staff (Dooley and
Murphrey, 2000). ICT could even be a motivating factor for involvement in distance
education; this has been so when staff perceives teaching via distance learning as a benefit to
them in that it is an opportunity to use technology more innovatively and to enhance course
quality (Dooley & Murphrey, 2000; McKenzie et al., 2000)

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With regard to technology, Maguire (2005) observed that technological support is also a
major motivator for faculty interested in teaching online. Quoting Bonk (2001), Maguire
(2005, online) says, “Faculty note the importance of the institution in providing training in
how to effectively teach online and to respect the decisions of faculty in deciding what are the
most appropriate subjects or courses to teach via the medium.” Academic staff was motivated
by availability of technological support in course development. Instructional design and
development support is essential for faculty who do not have the time to develop and maintain
online courses (Dooley & Murphrey, 2000, Maguire 2005).

In order to provide assistance to students, staff may need to be re-skilled. Sherron (1998)
observes that the introduction and effective use of new technologies requires support not only
from the administration, but the teaching staff. In order to be of support, staff needs to have a
positive attitude and skill to use the technologies. With staff assistance, the students could
also develop positive attitudes that would make them use the ICT. In this respect, the SITES
study sought information on “what staff development and support services exist with regard
to ICT?” (Pelgrum, 2001:165). Students need to be well trained in order for them to use ICT

Academic staff members as a group of people could influence the adoption of ICT. In support
of such a view Fisser (2001) concluded that:
1. The actors that steer the adoption and implementation of new forms of ICT in
education come from within the university (p197).
2. Factors that are mentioned by at least two-thirds of the respondents are new
conceptions of learning, technology availability, active learning, facilities
availability, educational and technical support and flexibility (p199).

It is therefore important to consider the attitudes and perception of staff as possible movers of
the ICT adoption. Since perceptions could change with new experiences, this information
would guide the management of UNZA towards what needs to be done, in form of training or
other campaign strategies, for the adoption of ICT.

In order to collect the data that this study aimed at, a survey methodology was utilised.
According to Borg and Gall (2006), Gay and Airasian, (2003), Nyirenda (1981) and
Siaciwena (1988), survey is one of the descriptive research methodologies. It explores,
evaluates and attempts to analyse, interpret and report on the facts and situations as well as
opinions of people towards programmes. A questionnaire was used to gather information
from the lecturers.

The Texas Centre for Educational Technology instrument on teachers’ attitudes towards
technology was adapted for instrumentation. This instrument was developed and used to
explore attitudes of teachers towards the use of educational technology as a questionnaire. It
identifies key terms that could be used to detect positive and negative attitudes The Likert’s
scale of 1–5 was used, where 1 indicated the lowest and 5 the highest degree of agreement to
given statements was predominantly used in the questionnaire. The questionnaire was to all of
the 54 lecturers that were involved in distance education. The questionnaire return was 35,
about 64% return rate. It was considered representative of the staff involved in distance
education. However, since the sample was so small it could affect the degree of universality
of the data.

For reliability the questionnaire was subjected to peer review and the Cronbach’s Alpha
index. Reliability, according to Gay and Airasian (2003) measures the degree to which a test
is consistently measuring what it is supposed to measure. The alpha index was: 0.89 for the
willingness to use or appropriateness test; 0.91 for attitudes towards ICT; 0.72 on the measure

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of relationships between the variables. When alpha is greater than 0.60 then it could be said to
be reliable (Borg and Gall, 2003; Gay and Airasian, 2003)

Descriptive statistics were used to measure frequencies of responses. Since the type of data
that was collected was non-parametric, chi-square was the best test that was used to measure
associations or relationships between independent and dependent variables. This is as
recommended by Bord et al. (2006), Gay Airasian (2003), as well as Fraenkel and Wallen
(2003). The Chi-square test was therefore applied only to the variables that were deemed to
have possible associations. In addition to the chi-square test, factor analysis was used to
measure the latent structure of the variables and to explain the variables, their relations and to
reduce them to those that could be used in detecting attitudes and perceptions. This was in
accordance with the recommendations of Borg et al. (2006), Fraenkel and Wallen 2003, and
Field (2005).

Findings have been discussed according to the sub-headings that are presented below.

Characteristics of the respondents

The lecturers belonged to three different schools that offered courses to distance education
students, namely Education, Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) and Natural Sciences

Table 1: University of Zambia distribution of lecturers by school

School Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Education 18 51.4 51.4 51.4
HSS 12 34.3 34.3 85.7
Natural Sciences 5 14.3 14.3 100.0
Total 35 100.0 100.0

The majority of lecturers were from the School of Education. This reflects the number of
courses and programmes that the schools were offering. The School of Education offered the

Experience with and access to ICTs

Lecturers were asked to indicate the length of period, in years that they had been teaching
distance education students. It was found that 12 (34%) had been teaching for more than five
years, 9 (26%) for periods ranging from three to five years while 29 percent for between one
to three years. About 11 percent had taught for less than a year. Most of the lecture rs,
therefore, had been involved for more than three years.

Table 2: Cross tabulation: School by Years taught at DE

Years taught at DE
School Total
<1 year 1-2 years 2-3 years 3-5 years >5 years
Education 1 3 3 6 5 18
HSS 2 2 2 2 4 12
Natural Sciences 1 - - 1 3 5
Total 4 5 5 9 12 35

In terms of teaching loads, 24 (69%) of lecturers were teaching a load of one to two courses.
There were some lecturers 10 (29%) who were teaching up to three courses. Due to
understaffing, one lecturer was teaching up to four courses.

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Lecturers were also asked on their access to computers and internet. Sixteen 16 (46%) of the
lecturers did not have computers in their offices, while 19 (54.3%) did. On internet, 11
(32.4%) accessed it in departmental offices, 7 (20.6%) in their offices, 7 (20.6%) at internet
cafés, 4 (11.8%) at their homes, 2 (5.9%) just elsewhere, One (3 %) in the Dean’s office, three
percent in UNZA library and one lecturer indicated not using computers and internet at all.
The chi-square test showed that there was no relationship between access places and the
schools where the lecturers belonged at the value of 0.365.

Table 3: Cross tabulation of access to computers and the schools they belonged
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 17.316a 16 0.365
Likelihood Ratio 22.333 16 0.133
Number of Valid Cases 34
a. 26 cells (96.3%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is 0.15.

Lecturers were asked to indicate whether they had used the ICTs and their levels of skill in
them. They were also asked to indicate if they had experience in use of online discussions,
tele and videoconferences, and use of virtual learning facilities.

Most of the lecturers 29 (82%) had used word processors. However 6 (18%) of them reported
that they had not used the applications and needed training to do so. Further analysis of their
responses revealed that of those that had used word processing 20 (57%) of the lecturers
could use word-processing by themselves and 9 (25%) needed help. As for e-mail 28 (80%)
of the lecturers indicated that they had used the facility and 7 (20%) had not used it and
needed training. Further analysis of the responses showed that 16 (46%) could use the facility
by themselves and 12 (34%) needed help.

Concerning the use of presentations 7 (20%) could make presentations by themselves, 12

(34%) needed help, and 16 (46%) could not use presentations and needed training.

Lecturers were asked to indicate their experiences with web based learning facilities,
discussion forums, video conferencing, virtual learning and academic support. The majority
of the lecturers 23 (64.7%) had had no experience with the online or list discussions. Of those
that had the experience only nine percent had done so many times, 5 (14.7%) had done so few
times and 4 (11%) only once. This data was cross-tabulated with access point to internet and
there was no relationship found between the two variables.

Regarding video conferencing, 13 (38%) of the lecturers had been involved. Out of this, 11
had done it only once while 2 had done it few times. None of them indicated having done it
many times. The majority (22 or 62%) had never been involved in video conferencing.

As for experiences in web based learning/teaching, 27 (76%) of the lecturers had never been
involved, 4 (12%) had been involved many times, three (nine percent) once, and One (three
percent) few times.

With regard to the provision of student advice by e-mail, 67 percent of the lecturers had never
done so, 18 percent had done it few times, nine percent once, and six percent many times.
This clearly shows a low usage of ICT by lecturers in general.

Attitudes and perceptions

All (100 percent) of the lecturers indicated that ICT could improve learning. Regarding the
radio, the responses showed that 34 (97%) of the lecturers agreed with the statement that the
radio could improve learning; One (three percent) did not know if radio could improve

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Volume 2 April 2009
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learning and none of the lecturers disagreed with the statement.

On the audiovisual materials, 34 (97%) of the lecturers were of the opinion that AV materials
could improve learning whereas One (three percent) of them disagreed with the statement.

Regarding sharing of experiences in teaching and learning, 88 percent of the lecturers were of
the opinion that ICT could allow effective experience of sharing. The levels of agreement
were 13 (38%) strongly agreed, 18 (51%) agreed. On the other hand, 1 (2%) strongly
disagreed while another 3 (9%) did not know whether ICT could allow effective sharing of

Use of media and Recorded formats of course materials

Regarding using internet as a means of delivery, most of the lecturers (30 or 86%) agreed to
teaching with internet while five (14%) disagreed.

Lecturers were asked to indicate their views on provision of feedback to students and using
internet for publication of results. As a principle, all of the lecturers agreed to the importance
of providing effective feedback to the students with the majority (30 or 86%) strongly
agreeing. On the use of internet for publication of results, 27 (77%) agreed while 23 percent

There was a relationship between willingness to give feed back to students using e-mail and
agreeing to the statement that student should access their results on internet. Reasons given by
the lecturers against making results available using internet were on the security of the results
and the students’ lack of access to the internet.

Further the lecturers were asked to indicate their views on whether students should be able to
carry out self-evaluation using internet. The responses were that 79% agreed with the
statement that they would while 21% disagreed. A cross tabulation with the statement that
students should access their results on internet shows that only 11% of those who disagreed
with accessing results on internet also disagreed with self evaluation on internet.

Most of the lectures (74%) indicated that their courses could be offered using audio materials,
17.43 percent were not sure and 8.57 percent said that they could not offer their courses using
audiotapes. Regarding radio, 66 percent lecturers indicated that they could offer their courses
using radio, 14 percent were not sure and 17 percent said they could not. A cross tabulation of
the two (radio and audio tapes) revealed that the 17 percent who had said no to the radio
thought that their courses could be offered by audio recordings.

Lecturers were also asked to indicate whether their courses could be offered using CD-ROMs.
Most of the lecturers (60%) indicated that their courses could be offered using CD-ROM, 34
percent said that they were not sure while, six percent indicated their courses could not be
offered using CD-ROMs.

The majority of lecturers (66%) agreed that teaching with internet was acceptable to them and
therefore their courses could be offered via internet.

Table 4: My course can be offered via internet

Frequency % Valid % Cumulative %
Valid Yes 26 74.3 74.3 74.3
I am not sure 8 22.9 22.9 97.1
No 1 2.9 2.9 100.0
Total 35 100.0 100.0

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Lecturers were asked to indicate their willingness to prepare materials in the various ICT
based formats. The responses were that 37 percent were willing to prepare their materials for
the radio while 34 percent said only some topics. On the other hand, 20 percent said no and
nine percent were not sure. A cross-tabulation and chi square test showed that the willingness
to produce for radio could be explained by the lecturers’ views on whether their courses could
be offered using the radio (see table 8).

Table 5: Cross tabulation: My course can be offered via*Willing to prepare materials for radio
Willing to prepare materials for radio
Yes I am not sure No
Yes 12 8 3 23
My course can
I am not sure 1 1 3 5
be offered via
No - 3 3 6
radio Total 13 12 9 34

Table 6: Chi-Square Tests

Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Person Chi-Square 9.543a 4 0.049
Likelihood Ratio 11.363 4 0.023
Number of valid cases 34
a. 6 cells (66.7%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is 1.32.

A total of 22 (63%) were willing to prepare their materials for audio recordings while 10
(29%) indicated that only some topics could, while six percent indicated that they were not
willing and two percent were not sure. It could be safely said that a majority were willing.
According to the chi-square test, there was a relationship between the lecturers’ willingness to
prepare their materials for audio recording and their view that their courses could be offered
via audio records (Table 6).

Table 7: Chi-Square Tests

Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Person Chi-Square 14.749a 4 0.005
Likelihood Ratio 14.888 4 0.005
Number of valid cases 35
a. 7 cells (77.8%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is 0.34.

The percentage of lecturers that were willing to prepare their material for audiovisual
recordings was 23 (66%). This shows that the majority of the lecturers were indeed willing. It
was found that eight (23%) indicated that they were willing to prepare materials for
audiovisual formats in some topics only whereas 4 (11%) were undecided. The chi-square test
revealed that there was a relationship between the lecturers’ willingness to prepare their
courses for this format and their views that their courses could be offered using audiovisual

With regard to CD-ROM, 22 (63%) were willing to prepare their materials for CD-ROM
production while 6 (17%) said only some topics and 6 (17%) were not sure. The majority
were in the positive. According to the chi-square test, their willingness to prepare materials
for the CD-ROM was related to their view that their courses could be offered using CD-

De-motivating factors
Some de-motivating factors were used to find out if they would affect the use of ICTs. A
majority (23 or 67%) of the lecturers disagreed with the statement that ICTs were time

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
Vitalicy Chifwepa

consuming, while 6 (18%) agreed, and 5 (15%) indicated that they did not know.

On finding information, 21 (60%) of the lecturers agreed with the statement that it was hard to
find quality information on the internet (4% strongly agreed while 49% agreed). On the other
hand, 11 (31%) strongly disagreed and nine percent did not know. There was close
relationship between responses that indicated that the lecturers were able to search online
databases and that it was hard to find quality information on the web.

Table 8: Cross-tabulation: Ability to search online*Quality information hard to find on web

Quality information hard to find on web
Strongly Don’t Total
Agree disagree know
by myself 2 5 7 - 14
Ability to
need help 1 5 - - 6
search online
do not need help to do this - 5 4 1 10
never done it & need help 1 2 - 2 5
Total 4 17 11 3 35

The chi-square test shows the relationship between the responses to the two statements.

Table 9: Chi-Square Tests

Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Person Chi-Square 16.485a 9 0.057
Likelihood Ratio 19.503 9 0.021
Number of valid cases 35
a. 15 cells (93.8%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is .43.

Lecturers were then asked whether they thought ICT lacked human face, 25 (71%) agreed
while 10 (29%) disagreed with the statement. However, although most (71%) of the lecturers
agreed to the statement that computer based teaching lacked human interaction, the majority
of those (79% of those that had indicated as such) still accepted the idea of teaching using

It was noted by most of the lecturers that ICT required highly developed skills (22 or 62%)
while 10 (29%) disagreed and three (9%) did not know. Meanwhile, the majority (33 or 94%)
of lecturers preferred the classroom setting for their teaching while six percent disagreed.
However, when these two statements were cross tabulated, it was noted that although they
preferred classroom setting, 26 or 79% of those that preferred classroom teaching indicated
that they agreed to teaching with internet.

Lecturers generally considered face to face being better (19 or 54%). Even when cross
tabulated with length of period taught at the University this view was consistent.

Table 10: Cross-tabulation: Years taught at DE*Face-to-face is better for tutoring

Face-to-face is better for tutoring
Strongly Total
Strongly agree Disagree Disagree
< 1 year - 1 2 1 4
1-2 years - 2 3 - 5
Years taught
2-3 years 2 2 - 1 5
at DE
3-5 years 3 1 3 2 9
> 5 years 4 4 4 - 12

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Vitalicy Chifwepa

Total 9 10 12 4 35

Table 11: Chi-Square Test for marking e-assignments and preferred means of
communicating with students
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Person Chi-Square 11.514a 12 0.485
Likelihood Ratio 16.987 12 0.150
Number of valid cases 35
a. 20 cells (100.0%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is .46.

Attitudes and willingness to prepare materials for the ICTs

Most lecturers (27 or 77%) were willing to prepare their materials for internet. However, 3
(9%) indicated that only some topics of their courses could be offered using internet while
one said courses could not be offered using internet and 4 (11 %) were not sure.

On using internet for providing feedback to students, it was found that 33 (94%) percent of
lectures were willing to mark electronic assignments, while 2 (6%) were not. This also
confirmed their preference of internet as a means of education. Although most lecturers were
willing to mark e-assignments this did not match their preferred communication means with
the students. In addition such relationship could not be tenable when tested with the chi
square test (table 12).

Table 12: Chi-Square Test for marking e-assignments and preferred means of
communication with students
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Person Chi-Square 4.684a 4 0.321
Likelihood Ratio 4.922 4 0.295
Number of valid cases 35
a. 8 cells (80.0%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is .06.

Due to their low levels of skill and experiences in the use of ICTs, lecturers needed training in
the use of various ICTs. This need would be much more crucial if the lecturers were to be
involved in the production of ICT based course materials. The majority of lecturers had not
been involved in online or listserv discussions or tele/video conferences. This could be due to
the fact that UNZA had not hosted or initiated such conferences. However, given the number
of professional list discussions that exist in the various subject areas, the low level of the
lecturers’ involvement could be due to lack of information about, or exposure to, the list
groups. The lack of exposure could be the explanation for those who had closer access to
internet and yet had never been involved in online discussions.

Lecturers were willing to prepare materials for audio recordings, but not to disseminate the
content using the radio. Reasons against radio use were that some students were in areas that
were not covered by radio broadcasts. Lecturers also said that timings (programming) for the
broadcasts would not be suitable for the distance learners since a lot of them were working
during the day. As Siaciwena (1988) observed, airtime allocation could be a problem in the
use of the radio as a means of delivering course lectures to distance education students.

According to the findings above, the lecturers were willing to prepare materials for all the ICT
formats in the order of Internet, audiovisual and audio, but felt that radios should not to be
used as a medium to give lectures. Despite perceived access problems, lecturers had very
positive attitudes towards the internet as a medium of course content delivery because of
perceived positive impact on learning. This is consistent with Bates and Tony (1995:17) said

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
Vitalicy Chifwepa

that “evidence is now overwhelming that technology can both improve the quality of
education and enable new target groups to be reached, at less cost than by using conventional

Other factors such as the fear of loss of class control and cultural background did not seem to
have an influence on the respondent’s views. Since attitudes were generally positive, it could
be argued that lecturers had very high chances of adopting the ICTs in the production of
course materials. The argument is based on the findings by many researchers that attitudes of
staff and students could affect the use of the modern technologies (Schmidt et al, 2000, Daley
et al., 2001; Maguire, 2005; Yang & Cornelious, 2005). With reference to Roger’s theory of
diffusion and adoption, it can be concluded that lecturers would be willing to adopt ICT in the
production of course materials.

Among the perceived constraints skill to use the ICT was not mentioned by many lecturers as
having an effect on their use of ICTs. This could be based on the perception that the skill
could be acquired and therefore was not a big hindrance. Ajen (1985) observed that some
perceptions could change, or have no effect on final decisions, because they could change
with the acquisition of new information or experience.

In terms of ranks, that is according to numbers of those that were positive, in saying that their
courses could be offered using the various ICTs and their willingness to prepare materials to
be used with the same ICTs, Excel was used and Tables 13 and 14 below show the ranks.

In order to rank the preferences, factors 1; 0.5; –0.5; and –1 were multiplied to the
percentages as presented in Table 13. Where the response or level of agreement was positive
such as ‘Yes’, 1 was used as factor to show the strength of the positive response and –1 where
the response was negative, only some topics was 0.5 and not sure was –0.5. Most of the
lecturers were positive towards their courses being offered using internet followed by
audiovisual materials, audio recordings, radio and CD.

Table 13: Ranking responses of views on course offering and willingness to use the ICTs
Course can be offered using ICT Lecturers willing to prepare materials for ICT
Yes N/sure No Yes O/ST N/Sure No
Radio 65.7 14.3 17.1 37.1 34.3 17.1 11.4
Audio 74.3 14.3 11.4 62.9 28.6 2.9 5.7
AV 74.3 17.1 17.1 65.7 22.9 8.6 2.9
CD 60.0 34.3 34.3 62.9 17.1 17.1 2.9
74.3 22.9 22.9 77.1 8.6 11.4 2.9
Factor 1.0 –0.5 –1 1 0.5 –0.5 –1
Key: N/Sure: Not sure; OST: Only some topics

When the choices of formats were computed, using the factors introduced in Table 13, above,
the rank order of ICTs which shows the lecturers’ willingness to prepare materials is as
presented in Table 14.

Table 14: Rank order of course combination and willingness to prepare materials
Format Score Rank
Internet 132.8 1
Audiovisual 127.1 2
Audio 125.8 3
CD-ROM 97.2 4
Radio 75.8 5

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Volume 2 April 2009
Vitalicy Chifwepa

The rank order of ICT preferences was: Internet, Audiovisual, Audio, CD-ROM and Radio.

The study on attitudes and perceptions of lecturers was guided by research questions on
perceptions, motivating factors, hindering factors and the lecturers’ willingness to produce
their courses in the ICT formats. The lecturers’ perceptions were that ICT could improve
learning and therefore be employed in the delivery of distance education. They indicated that
their courses could be offered in the various formats and that the formats could complement
each other. The order of the positive perceptions was: Internet, audiovisual, audio (but not to
be delivered using the radio) and lastly the radio. The motivating factors were that ICT could
improve learning.

The hindering factors, however, were identified by the academic staff as access to the ICTs
(although they had ranked internet highly despite the low access), security of the content from
tampering by the unauthorised and unavailability of services such as broadcasting in some
areas of the country. Broadcast timings were identified as one of the other problems with
using radio and TV, it was observed that these media were running on real time and some
students could be busy and not able to tune in at the time of the broadcasts. It can be
concluded that, due to the positive attitudes and perceptions that lecturers had, ICT based
materials could be adopted. Particularly, that internet based formats of course materials could
be used at UNZA.

The ICT formats that were perceived appropriate were internet, audio recording to be
distributed to the individual students to play back at their own time, audiovisual recordings to
be used on video cassette recorders (VCRs) and CD-ROMs that are multimedia and could be
played on standalone computers.

These findings could be assessed and probably apply even in other countries. What is
important to note is that perceptions and attitudes are important in the planning for integration
of ICTs in open and distance learning. These factors would form a basis for marketing and
training programmes that might be required to effectively apply and integrate ICTs in
teaching and learning. According to Ajzen (1985), attitudes and perceptions could change
with acquisition of additional information and experience.

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Volume 2 April 2009
G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

Constraints faced by women enrolled in adult education distance programmes: A Case

of adult learners at the University of Swaziland

G. Nyakutse, P.L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

University of Swaziland

The education of women is critical in SADC countries where they play a
major role in social, economic, and political spheres. In an attempt to
determine some of the obstacles in women education, a study was carried out
to determine the constraints that women face when enrolled in adult
education programmes. Eighty-seven (87) adult learners (30 males and 57
females) enrolled in certificate, diploma, and degree in Adult Education at
the University of Swaziland participated in the study. Male participants gave
their opinion on how they viewed problems faced by women enrolled in adult
education programmes. A questionnaire with a rating scale of 1-5 was used
for the respondents to rate the 20 items. The results indicated that 44 (77%)
of the women felt that they had more constraints than men when enrolled in
adult education programmes. Eighteen (60%) of the male respondents felt
that women had more constraints when enrolled in adult education
programmes. Major constraints cited by 42 respondents (48%) included
having too many chores to do in the house. Negative influence from friends
was not a constraint for 48 respondents (55.2%). Inadequate financial
support, family obligations, and lack of transport to and from learning
centres were also cited as constraints. It is recommended that planners of
adult education programmes should take into consideration problems that
women learners face when taking adult education courses.


One way of transforming women education in SADC is through provision of distance and/or
adult education/life-long learning programmes to individuals who would not have access to
the mainstream form of education. While there are many constraints in the education of
citizens in most countries in Africa, investing in education is seen as one of the fundamental
ways in which nations and their citizens can move toward long-term development goals and
improve both social and economic standards of living. Educating women is seen as critical to
securing intergenerational transfers of knowledge and promoting sustainable gender equality
and social change. Continuing education is one way of enabling many people to take-up
programmes for self-development.

While the need for continuing education activities for women has been expressed in a variety
of ways, there is still limited understanding of how women learn and what their needs are and
the effects of learning on women (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger & Tarule, 1986:6).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ascribes access to education a right for all,
regardless of gender. This right is even more significant for women, given their community
and family roles. Education will enhance opportunities for women to prepare themselves to
play meaningful roles in national socio-economic and political spheres as equal members of
society. This view finds support from Freire (1974:1) who advocates for education for all,
especially women because they “have the right to equal opportunities and [because] society,
in turn, depends on their full contribution in all fields of work and all aspects of life.”

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

Education for many has already taken a different approach where more people now enrol in
learning programmes in order to address specific personal and vocational needs. Lächler
(1997) observed a new trend in education and training provisions towards higher and different
skills. He also noted another dimension of change in education and training needs as the
growing importance of continuing education needed for regular updating of knowledge and
skills because of the short “shelf life” of knowledge. Accordingly, training is becoming
integral to one’s working life. It now takes place in a myriad of contexts, including on the job,
in specialized higher education institutions and at home. The traditional approach of studying
for a discrete and finite period of time to acquire a first degree or to complete graduate
education before moving on to professional life is being progressively replaced by practices
of lifelong education.

However, the issue for women enrolled in the Adult Education programme at the University
of Swaziland is different in that most of them missed out on basic training. Unlike Lächler’s
(1997) observations, they are not looking for higher skills many do not have any skills that
could be deemed obsolete. They often come to university with junior certificate qualifications
to start at certificate level and then move on to degree level. Many of the women enrolled in
adult education programmes at the University of Swaziland are akin to beginners who seek
knowledge and skills for the first time.

Since the main aim of the study was to investigate constraints faced by women taking adult
education programmes, the researchers give a brief explanation of adult education and/or
learning. In the early 1970s Malcolm Knowles introduced the term andragogy to describe how
adults learn and distinguish children learners (Knowles, Swanson, & Holton, 2005). Using
andragogical framework, Knowles identified six assumptions about adult learning: (1) need to
know, (2) self-concept, (3) prior experience, (4) readiness to learn, (5) learning orientation,
and (6) motivation to learn.

Adult learning can be viewed as being both an experiential and a reflective process. Several
studies done by Knowles (1980) and Knox (1986) show that adult learners possess a reservoir
of experience and that they can be viewed as rich resources in the learning situation. Adult
learners are seen to have a problem-centred approach to learning and are therefore motivated
to learn by internal factors rather than external factors.

Participation in adult education and/or learning activities is mainly non-formal, though there
are many programmes which are formal. While the non-formal nature of adult education may
raise concerns, several studies have attested to the importance of adult education programmes.
For example, a study by Dlamini (2007) to assess the impact of adult education on
participation of rural communities in project implementation ascribed positive attitudes of the
community to the impact of adult education initiatives. These impacts included improved
health, de-stigmatisation of HIV and AIDS, increased abuse awareness, orphan care, access to
portable water and running of income generating projects. The impact appears as increases in
abuse awareness (24%), orphan care (23%), access to portable water (23%), de-stigmatisation
(20%), income generation projects (12%) and improved health (18%).


Since some of the participants in the current study were taking courses through the distance
education mode, the Department of Adult Education and the Institute of Distance Education
(IDE) have major roles to play in transforming the education landscape of Swaziland.

As far as women’s education is concerned, distance education is seen as having a potentially

important contribution to make in overcoming barriers to women’s participation in the

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G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

developed and developing world. Trivedi (1989) is of the view that, distance education has a
very important role to play in women’s development. Women have constraints of time,
resources and socio-economic limitations. Distance education can help them with its outreach
to their homes. It enables them to learn at their own pace and take up vocations and skills for
economic and individual development. It gives them a second chance to step into the main
systems of education, including higher education, enabling them to earn a salary and study
while at the same time fulfilling family responsibilities.

The use of ICTs in open and distance learning or non formal adult learning, especially the
Internet, can increase access of learning programmes for many adults and more especially
women in areas where such facilities are available. While access to technology may be
limited, there are various community based organisations and NGOs that support learning and
other initiatives while using computers. For example, World University Service (WUS) has
assisted a women’s organisation in rural Swaziland to run a media centre as an income
generating activity. The women’s group (Cinicelani Bomake) media centre has an Internet
facility with five computers, a small library, photocopying/desktop publishing, telephone
services and a TV/Video viewing room. Computer lessons are also offered at the facility
(Magongo et al, 2008).

Constraints Women face in Undertaking Adult Learning Programmes

When undertaking educational initiatives women face a number of constraints, including
gender inequalities and sexism, which often play a significant role in the slow development of
African women. Disregard for and discrimination against women contributes to the slow and
poor economic performance in most African countries. For example, between 1995 and 2001
income distribution for male headed households in Swaziland was estimated to be double that
of female headed households. Female households have less than average land holdings. Heads
of female headed households are less educated and are unable to produce enough food to eat
and, therefore, are more prone to poverty than male headed households. According to the
Swaziland Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Report (2006:23), 63% of female headed
households are poor and lack productive assets compared to 52% of their male counterparts.
Therefore, if the objective of development is to raise levels of the standard of living of people
and to provide people with equal opportunities to develop, lack of women participation in
educational activities is a major constraint miring women in poverty and low self esteem. The
words of a female adult facilitator who lacked confidence in participating in a training
initiative programme capture this situation more succinctly

I never thought I could do it in the beginning… I was so shy. It was out of

curiosity I joined the training for the women’s group on the need of education
and the responsibilities of a woman in the household as well as community. I
was inspired to further my studies seriously and at the same time to do
something for my community (UNESCO, 2005:34).

Frank (2003) identified the existence of family-related constraints as an important factor that
hindered effective learning and prevented the advancement of women learners in Adult Basic
Education and Training (ABET) programmes. The programme participants stated that being
an adult learner was but only one of the facets in the multiple tasks that women have to
perform. Women enrolled in any formal educational programme play roles that indicate their
multiple roles of being a mother, to that of being cook, wife, student, and nurse for the sick
members of the family. Other cited problems were associated with travelling and the dangers
involved in commuting using public transport. Learners stated that classes end too late and
that this posed a serious problem to them as they had to use public transport at night.

Other barriers were situational, such as family commitments, lack of partner support, financial
constraints and living in rural/isolated areas. Paying fees required by the institution were

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Volume 2 April 2009
G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

major barriers as most women do not have independent control of resources. Most of them are
dependent on male partners who are unsupportive. Male partners were perceived to be
unsupportive of women’s entry into non-traditional, male oriented courses, and also felt
threatened by women who wanted to improve and advance themselves.

In a study by Heenan (2002) in which he explored the reasons why women who had
successfully completed an access course did not progress on to higher education, obstacles
cited include caring responsibilities, financial constraints and lack of career advice. It was
argued that women as mature students face particular difficulties due to their role and position
in society. Also the women themselves have been conditioned into putting their own needs
after the needs of their families, and their personal development is often not afforded a high

A study by Kaziboni (2000) to identify the motivating factors and the barriers encountered by
women returning to study at tertiary level at the University of Zimbabwe reveals that women
in Zimbabwe were returning to study to empower themselves economically, improve their
skills at work and to elevate their status in society. It was evident that work overloads and
financial constraints hinder their participation. The study further showed that these barriers
were mainly a result of the gender expectations created by cultural and social values, which
have relegated women to second class citizenship and confined them to the home.

The objective of the study was to investigate the constraints that women face when wanting to
enrol or are enrolled in adult education and/or distance education programmes.


The biggest challenge in carrying out a study like this is to access the authentic population
from which to draw a sample. In this case our population were individuals who were enrolled
in the adult education and distance education programmes. They had found their way into
university and were engaged in trying to fulfil their dreams of acquiring a university
certificate, diploma or degree. In reality our sample should have come from those adults who
were not able to enrol into these programmes although they wanted to because of
circumstances over which they had no control. These are men and women that the researchers
could not access because they had no way of knowing them.


Research Design
The descriptive survey design used for this study was useful for two reasons. First, it help
provides data about the distribution of the perceived constraints faced by female learners in
the adult education distance programmes; what Robson (2002:234) and Singleton et al,
(1993:250) call the distribution of certain characteristics within a population. Secondly, the
population in the study was too large to observe so that in using this design the characteristics
of the sample would be taken to reflect those of the larger population. A questionnaire with
four parts that included a rating scale of 1-5 was used for the respondents to rate 20 items
addressing a number of constraints faced by women enrolled in adult education courses.

Sampling Procedure and Sample

The researchers used a census survey approach where the sample comprised all 140 distance
learners enrolled in all adult education programmes at the University of Swaziland. Eighty
seven of the 140 learners responded, giving a response rate of 62%. Those who responded are
the students who had attended contact classes on that day. All adult education students at the
University of Swaziland, study through the distance education/part-time mode. Certificate and
Diploma students are part-time while degree students are in the distance mode.

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

Research Instrument
The researchers constructed a questionnaire which had four parts. Part I focussed on personal
variables, including gender, age, marital status and educational background. Part II recorded
the opinions of respondents on whether the statement “Women have more constraints than
men when they want to enrol in adult education and/or distance programmes” was “True”,
“Not Sure” or “False”. Part III had 20 questions where respondents were required to rate (1–
5) on constraints faced by women when enrolling in adult education or distance programmes
with “1” being “Not a strong constraint” and “5” being “Strongest constraint”. The last part
had an open ended question where respondents were asked to give their view by naming one
major constraint that they believed hindered women from enrolling in adult and/or distance
education programmes.

Data Analysis
The data was analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) PC +v 10
2000 to calculate percentages and results are presented in tables and charts.


Characteristics of the Research Sample

The characteristics of the respondents are presented in tabular form according to gender, age
and marital status.

As indicated in Table 1 below, of the 87 respondents who participated in the study, 30

(34.5%) were males and 57 (65.5%) females. The overall distribution of respondents
according to age shows that the majority of respondents (50 or 57.5%) were in the 25-35 age
range, followed by those in 36-45 (31 or 35.6%) age range. Similar distribution was observed
when respondents were grouped according to gender.

Table 1: Gender and Age of respondents

Gender Total
25-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 >65
Male 17 12 1 30
Female 33 19 3 1 1 57
Total 50 31 4 1 1 87

Table 2 below shows that married respondents (48 or 55.2%) were the majority and single
respondents were 39 (44.8%).

Table 2: Marital Status

Marital Status Total
Single Married
Male 10 20 30
Female 29 28 57
Total 39 (44.8%) 48 (55.2%) 87

Table 3 above indicates that apart from the certificate programme, where there is a gender
balance, there are more females enrolled in the diploma and degree programme than males.

Table 3: Current enrolment of respondents by programme

Gender Certificate Diploma Degree Total
Male 15 9 6 30
Female 17 23 17 57

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

Total 32 32 23 87

Constraints faced by females enrolled/wanting to enrol in adult education programmes

Participants in the study were requested to agree or disagree with the statement that women
have more constraints than men when enrolled in adult education programmes. The results are
shown in the following tables.

Table 4: Responses to whether women have more constraints than men by age
Item Response Age Total
25-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 other
Women have more True 34 (54.8%) 22 (35.5%) 4 (6.5%) 1 (1.6%) 1 (1.6%) 62 (100%)
constraints than men when Not Sure 5 (45.5%) 6 (54.5%) 11 (100%)
enrolling in Adult Educ. False 11 (78.6%) 3 (21.4%) 14 (100%)
Total 50 (57.6%) 31 (35.6%) 4 (4.6%) 1 (1.1%) 1 (1.1%) 87 (100%)

Table 4 shows that out of 62 respondents who felt that women have more constraints, 34
(58.4%) were in the 25-35 age category; and 22 in (35.5%) in the 35-45 age category. It is
also interesting to note that 11 respondents in the 25-35 age category also felt that the
statement was false.

Table 5: Responses to whether women have more constraints than men by gender
Item Response Gender Total
Male Female
Women have more True 18 (29.0%) 44 (71.0%) 62 (100%)
constraints than men when Not Sure 6 (54.5%) 5 (45.5%) 11 (100%)
enrolling in Adult
False 6 (42.9%) 8 (57.1%) 14 (100%)
Total 30 (34.5%) 57 (65.5%) 87 (100%)

Table 5 above shows that of the 62 respondents who agreed that women had more constraints
than men when enrolling in adult education, 44 (71%) were females and 18 (29%) were
males. While this statistic shows that more than twice as many females agreed with the
statement as males, the difference between males and females who agreed with this statement
was much smaller when considered as proportion of male and female participants. As a
proportion of males the results show 60% (18 of 30) males agreed with the statement
compared with 77% (44 of 57) females. It is important to undertake within group analyses as
well to determine if there are important differences with findings of between groups.

Table 6: Responses to whether women have more constraints than men by marital status
Item Response Marital status Total
Single Married
Women have more True 23 (37.1%) 39 (62.9%) 62 (100%)
constraints than men when Not Sure 5 (45.5%) 6 (54.5%) 11 (100%)
enrolling in Adult Education False 11 (78.6%) 3 (21.4%) 14 (100%)
Total 39 (44.8%) 48 (55.2%) 87 (100%)

Data in Table 6 above indicates that the issue of females having more constraints than men
was viewed differently by single and married respondents. Of the 48 married respondents, 39
(81.25%) reported that women had more constraints compared with 23 (60%) of the 39 single
respondents who felt the same way. However, 11 single respondents compared to three
married respondents adjudged the statement to be false. This is probably a true reflection of

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Volume 2 April 2009
G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

what happens in African societies where married couples tend to have responsibilities thrust
upon them although evidence from a combination of data from table 2 and table 6 indicate
that even single individuals are experiencing constraints, although to a slightly lesser extent.

Major Constraints
Respondents in the study were requested to rate 20 items on a 5-point rating scale on
constraints faced by women enrolled in adult education programmes. The bar charts below
show major constraints faced by women in adult education programmes.
Chart 1: Too many chores to do in the house

Chart 1 above shows that 42 (48.3%) of the 87 respondents felt that too many house chores
were a major constraint for women enrolled in adult education programmes, compared with
14 (16.1%) felt it was not a strong constraint and 17 (19.5%) who felt it was a mild constraint.

Chart 2: Inadequate study time

Chart 2 shows that inadequate study time, selected by 39 (44.8%) respondents, was the
second strong constraint for women enrolled or wanting to enrol in adult education
programmes. Only 12 (13.8%) respondents felt it was not a strong constraint.

Chart 3: Too many responsibilities (community activities)

The third major constraint cited was too many responsibilities such as community activities.

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

Chart 3 above shows that thirty one (35.6%) respondents felt it was a strong constraint while
24 (27.6%) felt it was not a strong constraint.

The responses to the constraint “too many house chores” were then explored when the sample
was classified according to gender and marital status in order to determine whether the
responses were conditional on gender and marital status of respondents.

Table 7: Too many chores by gender

Item Response Total
Male Female
Too many chores to do not a strong constraint 4 10 14
in the house mild constraint 5 12 17
moderate constraint 3 3 6
strong constraint 3 4 7
strongest constraint 14 28 42
No response 1 1
Total 30 57 87

Data in Table 7 above show that both male and female respondents were equally distributed
in citing it as a mild or moderate constraint. Fourteen out of 30 male respondents (46%) cited
too many chores as a major constraint while 28 (49%) females cited it as a major constraint.

Table 8: Too many chores by marital status

Marital status
Item Response Total
Single Married
Too many chores to do not a strong constraint 10 4 14
in the house mild constraint 6 11 17
moderate constraint 3 3 6
strong constraint 5 2 7
strongest constraint 15 27 42
No response 1 1
Total 39 48 87

When the variable of marital status was introduced as a variable, both single and married
respondents felt that “too many chores” was a major constraint. Table 8 above shows that 15
(38%) single and 27 (56%) married respondents cited the constraint. However, 10 (25.6%)
single respondents were of the view that too many chores were not a constraint compared to
only 4 (8.3%) married respondents. Thus, although more married respondents saw this
constraint as major, single respondents did not see it as a major constraint.

Not Strong Constraints

Respondents were requested to rate 20 items on a 5-point rating scale where 1 = “not a strong
constraint”, 2 = “mild constraint”, 3 = “moderate constraint”, 4 = “strong constraint” and 5 =
“strongest constraint”. Major findings appear in the charts below.

Chart 4: Negative Influence from friends

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

Chart 4 above shows responses of the research sample to the constraint “negative influence
from friends”. According to chart 4, 48 (55.2%) respondents felt that negative influence from
friends was not a constraint to women enrolling in adult education programmes, contrary to
10% who rated it strongest constraint. Chart 5 shows that 46 (52.9%) respondents rated “I am
too old to enrol in education activities” the second highest non-constraint respondents.

Chart 5: Excuse that I am too old

As indicated in table 9 below, respondents were asked to pick out from a supplied a list, one
issue that hinders women from enrolling in education programmes.

Table 9: Factors hindering women from enrolling in adult/distance education

Statement Frequency Percent
Women have many family and community responsibilities 34 39.1
Lack of family and spousal support 14 16.1
Lack of financial resources to pay for adult education programmes 12 13.8
Lack of confidence/ or inferiority complex 7 8.0
Fear of the unknown and failure 7 8.0
The time required to complete programme is long 1 1.1
Complacency of women after getting married 1 1.1
Lack of knowledge about the adult education programme 7 8.0
No response 4 4.6
Total 87 100.0

Table 9 shows that family and community responsibilities (39.1%), lack of family and spouse
support (16.1%) and lack of financial resources (13.8%) were the major impediments against
women enrolling in adult education. Next were issues like fear of the unknown and failure,
lack of self confidence and lack of information about education programmes.

Table 10: Major factors hindering women (Age distribution)

Stem Statement Age Total

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Volume 2 April 2009
G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

Total 50 31 4 1 1 87
100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%

Table 10 above shows that 18(36%) out of 50 in the 25-35 age category felt that women have
many family and community responsibilities compared to 14(45.2%) out of the 31
respondents in the 35-45 age category who concurred. The issue of community and family
responsibility seems to be more of an issue of the ages 25- 45. This is the age group that is
most productive in all societies and it therefore not a surprise that they feel the weight of
community and family burdens on their shoulders.

The researchers also looked at gender and marital status as constraints that hinder women
from enrolling in education programmes.

Table 11: Things that hinder women (Gender distribution)

Stem Statement Total
Male Female
adult education programmes
hinders women from enrolling in
Name one thing that you believe

Women have many family and community responsibilities 9 (30.0%) 25 (43.9%) 34 (39.1%)

Lack of family and spousal support 4 (13.3%) 10 (17.5%) 14 (16.1%)

Lack of financial resources to pay for the programme 3 (10.0%) 9 (15.8%) 12 (13.8%)

Lack of confidence/or inferiority complex 3 (10.0%) 4 (7.0%) 7 (8.0%)

Fear of the unknown and failure 5 (16.7%) 2 (3.5%) 7 (8.0%)

The time required to complete programme is long 1 (1.8%) 1 (1.1%)

Complacency of women after getting married 1 (3.3%) 1 (1.1%)

Lack of knowledge about the programme 3 (10.0%) 4 (7.0%) 7 (8.0%)

No response 2 (6.7%) 2 (3.5%) 4 (4.6%)

Total 30 (100.0%) 57 (100.0%) 87 (100.0%)

Table 11 below shows that both male (30%) and female (43.9%) agreed that women have
many family and community responsibilities which hinder their participation in education
programmes. Other issues were not cited much. Spousal support seems to be also important
for female respondents.

Table 12: Things that hinder women (Marital status distribution)

Marital status
Stem Statement Total
Single Married
adult education programmes
hinders women from enrolling in
Name one thing that you believe

Women have many family and community

11 (28.2%) 23 (47.9%) 34 (39.1%)
Lack of family and spousal support 7 (17.9%) 7 (14.6%) 14 (16.1%)
Lack of financial resources to pay for the programme 9 (23.1%) 3 (6.3%) 12 (13.8%)
Lack of confidence/ or inferiority complex 3 (7.7%) 4 (8.3%) 7 (8.0%)
Fear of the unknown and failure 4 (10.3%) 3 (6.3%) 7 (8.0%)
Time required to complete programme is long 1 (2.6%) 1 (1.1%)
Complacency of women after getting married 1 (2.1%) 1 (1.1%)
Lack of knowledge about the programme 4 (10.3%) 3 (6.3%) 7 (8.0%)
No response 4 (8.3%) 4 (4.6%)
Total 39 (100.0%) 48 (100.0%) 87 (100.0%)

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
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G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

Table 12 above shows that 11 (28.2%) single respondents and 23 (47.9%) married
respondents perceived that women have many family and community responsibilities that
hinder their participation. Second and way below was lack of family and spousal support 7
(17.9%) for single respondents and 7 (14.6%) for married respondents.

Findings of the study confirm and echo the UNESCO 2003 view that 60% of those out of
school are girls with the majority of those in Sub-Saharan Africa. In our study about 65% of
those ‘who had returned to school’ were women, (Table 3). Although we cannot generalise
this finding to all ODL and DE institutions in other countries, it is important to note that for
women in Swaziland this underscores the vital role played by the DE programme. The
findings also confirm earlier findings by Trivedi, (1989), Frank (2003), Heenan (2002) and
Kaziboni (2000) who also found that women enrolled or wanting to enrol in educational
endeavours face many challenges and hurdles.

As the results revealed, too many chores to do in the house is a major constraint followed
closely by inadequate study time as shown in Charts 1 and 2. The assumption here is that after
enrolment, house chores continue to hinder their progress and thus causing divided attention
and inadequate study time. Women also have many other activities and commitments they
have to perform on a daily basis as shown in Chart 3. Because of the division of labour
dictated by cultural norm, women cannot divorce themselves from family and/or community

Lack of family and/or spousal support and weak financial base were cited as constraints that
hinder women from undertaking education programmes as shown in Table 9. While there
were some disparities in terms of age, gender, and marital status, the findings generally
revealed that all were in agreement that women have more constraints than men when
enrolled or wanting to enrol in adult education and/or distance education programmes. This is
shown in Tables 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. However, in Table 3 different age groups seem to perceive
the situation differently, with more respondents in the age group 25-35 (54.8%) saying that it
is true that women have more constraints than men compared to those in the higher age group
of 35-45 (35.5%). The age group 35-45 includes among its rank and file young people who
are starting life and are still struggling to make a name for themselves. In this group are also
people with children of various ages and as a result have their hands full with both career and
child rearing issues. This is especially so for women.

Analysis by gender (table 4) showed that 44 (71.0%) women compared to 18 (29.0%) men
felt that women had more constraints than men. Similarly 23 out of 39 (79%) single
respondents, compared to 39 out of 48 (81% married respondents also agreed that women had
more constraints than men (tables 2 and 5). The fact that male respondents (79%) are aware
that women have too many constraints is a positive thing. Awareness is one step towards
action. Men have the power to act. In all aspects of African life women are overwhelmed with
work; around the home looking after children and the sick members of the family and with the
advent of HIV/AIDS performing chores at funerals. And yet they are often short of resources.
The subservient role that they find themselves in often results in lack of opportunities for self
advancement. In some instances an expressed desire to advance one’s self is frowned upon
and viewed as a desire to be equal with men or rebelliousness.

Other constraining issues for women like lack of self confidence and/or inferiority complex
and fear of the unknown are also character traits that are common in women because of
cultural and child rearing practices that undermine women’s self confidence and lay emphasis
on submissiveness. Thus, taking a bold step into the unknown academic world may be a big
challenge for the less confident woman.

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

The study also revealed that there were constraints that were not strong. They include
negative influence from friends and excuses that “I am too old to undertake education
programmes” as shown in Charts 4 and 5. This shows that some assumed constraints are more
of a stereotype rather than substantive.

Constraints cited were too many responsibilities that ate into the women’s time, lack of family
and spousal support and lack of finance to pay for the courses. In making these
recommendations we took into account the fact that in our sample women formed almost two
thirds of the sample hence they are the greatest beneficiaries of the ODL and DE programmes.

1. ODL institutions and DE programmes could allow women flexible completion

periods for their studies. This will enable them to study and at the same time still
perform other duties required of them because the fact that women have many tasks
to perform is beyond ODL and DE institutions.
2. ODL and DE Institutions could consider policy changes that allow individuals to pay
in instalment even after completing the course would benefit especially single
mothers who may find their resources overstretched by engaging in studies.
3. ODL and DE institutions should explore the possibility of setting up mechanisms to
enable women to access loans and/or grants in-order to access education.
4. There is need for more studies to be carried out to find out if the picture that emerged
in the Swaziland with women being the largest beneficiaries of the ODL and DE
programmes is true. The picture may be different elsewhere.
5. Sensitization of family and the community at large through organised dialogue on the
importance of women education as they contribute immensely to national
development initiatives.

From the study findings it is clear that women face many constraints which even their male
counterparts acknowledge exist. These constraints cannot be wished away but ODL and DE
institutions can play a significant part in softening the impact by bending over and
introducing strategies and measures that will further encourage women, especially if like this
study shows, the biggest consumers of their products are women.

Belenky, M.F., Clinchy, B.M., Goldberger, N.R., & Tarule, J.M. (1986). Women’s ways of
knowing: The development of self, voice and mind. New York: Basic Books.
Dlamini, J. (2007). The impact of Adult Education on participation of rural communities in
project implementation: A case of Madlenya community. Research Project Report,
University of Swaziland
Evans, K. (1995). Barriers to Participation of Women in Technological Education and the
Role of Distance Education. The Commonwealth of Learning.
Freire, P. (1974). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.
Frank, M. (2003). Women’s Experiences as Learners in an ABET Programme. M.Ed Thesis
Heenan, D. (2002). Women, Access and Progression: an examination of women’s reasons for
not continuing in higher education following the completion of the Certificate in
Women’s Studies. Studies in Continuing Education, 24(1): 39-55
Knowles, M. S., Swanson, R. A., & Holton, E. F. III. (2005). The adult learner: The
definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (6th ed.).
California: Elsevier Science and Technology Books.

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G. Nyakutse, P. L. Biswalo and S. Maduna

Kaziboni, T. (2000). Picking up threads – women pursuing further studies at the University of
Zimbabwe. Studies in the Education of Adults, 32(2): 229-240
Knowles, M. (1980). The modern practice of adult education. From pedagogy to androgogy.
New York: Cambridge University.
Knox, A. (1986). Helping adults learn. A guide to planning, implementing and conducting
programs. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Lächler, U. (1997). Education and Earnings Inequality in Mexico, The World Bank,
Unpublished paper.
Magongo, B., Mabaso, H., Dlamini S. & Ngcobo B. (2008). A Field Practical Project Report
for Ciniselani Bomake. Department of Adult Education.
Robson.C (2002). Real World Research (2nd Ed). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Singleton, R.A. Straits, B.C. & Straits, M. M. (1993). Approaches to Social Research. (2nd Ed)
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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21: 17-22.
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Mobilisation for Gender Equality in Basic Education.

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
Auxilia Badza and David Chakuchichi

Women access to higher education through open and distance learning: Challenges and
learner support

Auxilia Badza & David Chakuchichi

Zimbabwe Open University

Open and distance learning (ODL) is reportedly the most practical option for
post-school education for adult women who face many socio-economic
constraints to accessing quality education, including time restrictions and
mobility (Kirkup, 1995 in von Prummer, 2000). From this perspective,
therefore, this study investigated the reasons why adult women learners
enrolled with the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) chose ODL and
challenges which they experienced while pursuing their studies. A qualitative
research design, in the form of a case study, utilized an in-depth interview
strategy to elicit information from a sample of 50 adult women learners. The
findings indicate that adult women learners in this study cited several
reasons, of which the flexibility to study while taking care of other roles and
responsibilities emerged as the major reason for choosing ODL. On the
other hand, challenges cited by the sample include social factors, in
particular competing social responsibilities of parenthood, spousal rights
and employment. Access and adequacy of learner support was also cited by
the sample as a major challenge. Accordingly, the study recommends the
search for alternative learner support and pedagogies that enhance women’s
access to education in ODL. In addition, the findings of the study attest the
need for further research to explore appropriate pedagogical approaches
that respond to the unique needs of women in order to enhance women
participation in ODL.

ODL has created opportunities for all sorts of people in all walks of life to access education.
In spite of this development, women seem to lag behind in gaining equal access to learning
opportunities. Several socio-economic constraints in developing societies, such as poverty
and cultural perception, have made education for women a challenging prospect. While there
is a general consensus that educating women is key to improving family and societal life in
terms of health and economic status, the gender disparity in education needs to be addressed
urgently, especially since the gap in education on the basis of sex widens with each level of
higher education (Prummer, 2000). Access to higher education in disadvantaged communities
such as rural areas, farms, and slums is still low. Worldwide gender disaggregated data on
education has indicated that women have attained low level of formal education as compared
to their male counterparts (Kwapong, 2007). The situation in developing countries is worse
due to lack of resources and more pronounced cultural expectations. The societal perception
of women and their productive and reproductive roles adversely affect their participation in
formal education more in developing societies where society still perceives women as
primarily homemakers, child minders and spousal caregivers. In these societies any activities
that are contrary with these cultural expectations and which might take women away from
prescribed family roles are generally looked at negatively.

For a long time families gave preference to education to the male than female members.
Consequently women often find it difficult to embark on further studies, especially in their
adult life when they have begun building families (Evans, 1995; Compora, 2003). While
education of women in developing countries remains at lower levels than men, research
presents ODL as the most practical option for addressing this disparity and overcoming
challenges of time, mobility, and access to disposable income experienced by adult women

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(Kirkup, 1995 in von Prummer, 2000). Cornvale (2002) reports that several studies on
participation of women in distance education in US universities revealed the following
interesting trends that are relevant for the present study:-

• distance education attracts significantly more female students (67%) than

• a majority of women distance learners had post-secondary college education
but had not completed university education;
• most female distance learners were working adults, married and with

In another study Newswatch (2002) reports that in 1999/2000 academic year 7.6% of students
in the US took distance education courses and that of these women outnumbered men by
8.5%. The study further revealed that older women with families and jobs were more drawn
to undergraduate distance education programmes than were members of other demographic
groups. Unfortunately, it is not evident from the findings of these studies whether the
enrolment of more women in distance education in the US is an indication of their socio-
cultural emancipation in gender roles and access to relatively more disposable income than
women in developing countries.

However, experiences with the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) are contrary to those of
US universities reported by Newswatch (2002) and Cornvale (2002). For example, ZOU
statistics from inception in 1999 to 2007 show that male enrolments outnumbered females
across all programmes except in social science and nursing science only (Zimbabwe Open
University Statistic Year Book 2003, 2005 and 2007). While the findings on women
participation in ODL in US may be explained by relatively greater levels of women
emancipation and access to disposal income, the experience of ZOU may reflect the absence
of the same factors, which might be compounded by the fact that distance learning might be
relatively harder for women in developing countries like Zimbabwe who are further
constrained by cultural expectations and overloaded with family responsibilities. According to
Carlson (2001), women distance learners have to turn to studying only after fulfilling all other
roles such as full time housewives and fulltime employees.

The assertion that ODL is suitable for women was grounded on the premise that adult women
distance learners have relatively more restrictions on time, resources, social space, and
mobility available to them than their male counterparts. For these reasons ODL is generally
seen presenting greater potential for contribution to overcoming barriers to women
participation in higher education than other forms of education. ODL enables them to
continue with their education in all kinds of environments; at home, work, rural, and farm
communities because they can manage their time and social space as well as minimise
expenses related to travelling. ODL gives women the second chance to participate in the main
education systems while, at the same time, responding to family and societal roles and
responsibilities. It is estimated that over half of the several million learners who make up the
world's distance education population are women who are presented with a second chance to
pursue their educational dreams (Burge & Lenksyji, 1990).


According to Burge and Lenksyji (1990), female learners come to class with specific personal
histories and learning needs and expectations that are shaped to varying degrees by their
diverse experiences as girls and women in a society that is characterised by male power and
privilege. They also go through experiences that could be classified as attitudinal and cultural
and varying in significance according to cultural contexts. Therefore the impact of socio-
cultural contexts has implications for the learning styles of women distance learners.

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However, the majority of women learners prefer a learning style that involves social
interaction (Prummer, 2000). This preferred learning style is largely influenced by their social
status as mother, spouse, overwhelming domestic roles, and employment. Most women
learners also have demands from employers; hence, they have to develop styles that do not
choke them up. Prummer’s study also indicates that women learners in ODL make greater use
of local study centres due to easy access and their choice of a study group is subject to similar
consideration. Accordingly, indications are that, for a majority of female distance learners,
support from other students and the institution is a function of distance. Unlike males who
may prefer individual learning, women benefit more when they learn in social contexts.
Accordingly, institutions that pay more attention to ways women learn are likely to improve
participation, retention and success of women in ODL. Therefore, distance education
institutions have the potential to hinder or promote women learning through ODL.


Although it offers the greatest opportunity for women to access further education, open and
distance learning delivery mode also presents complex problems to women learners. For
example, there is ongoing debate concerning the extent to which early andragogical
approaches (Knowles, 1980) and later learner-centred teaching approaches (Maclean, 1987;
Burge, 1988) may be implemented in ODL. While the differences between andragogy and
learner-centred teaching approaches may be minimal, the later approach is more linked to
feminist teaching approaches that emphasize comfortable, cooperative, and respectful
learning environments and mutually negotiated learning objectives and activities, which take
into account the learners’ personal experiences as a resource for self and other learners (Burge
& Lenksyji, 1990; Kwapong, 2007; Prummer, 2000). In addition, women learners have some
unique need which andragogical approaches do not address directly.

This exploratory study is set in the qualitative research paradigm. It utilises the case study
approach. The population of the study was women students enrolled at the Zimbabwe Open
University’s Harare/Chitungwiza Region. A convenience sample of 50 women enrolled at the
Zimbabwe Open University, drawn from undergraduate programmes in all the four faculties,
constituted the participants of the study. The participants were married students registered at
Harare/Chitungwiza Region. Their age range was from 23- 53 years. As this was an
exploratory study it was adequate to draw participants from only one of ten regions. An in-
depth interview, using an interview guide, was carried out to elicit information relating to
reasons for women enrolling in ODL studies, challenges they faced and the scope for learner

Data collection was done by inviting students for an interview as they visited
Harare/Chitungwiza regional office for other services. The participants’ responses were
recorded and analysed by thematic categorising in order to draw out the meanings and
interpretations thereof.

The findings of the study were categorized into the following three major themes of reasons
for joining ODL, challenges faced by women in ODL and learner support systems. The
themes were further broken into sub-themes which relate to issues that affect women in ODL.

Reasons for studying through ODL

The participants in this study reported a number of reasons for studying in ODL. Most of the
participants, that is, 35 (70%) of the 50 participants, said that studying at their own pace was
the main reason for enrolling in ODL. Also 30 (60%) of the participants said that the
flexibility of studying while employed was their main attraction to ODL. The flexibility
included the ability to study, work and look after the family as captured in the following two

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Auxilia Badza and David Chakuchichi

representative responses:

Studying through distance education enables me to work and look after my family.

I chose to study through open and distance learning because it is adult education…
there is room to do parental duties as well as studies. The dual role is covered.

Another participant who was attracted to the flexibility of ODL said;

I didn’t get the chance to go to the University of Zimbabwe because I had no enough
points. I got married and still needed to pursue my studies. It [ODL] gives you time
to engage in other things like going to work, taking care of family, travel outside the
country etc.

A substantial number of participants (60%) reported that they chose ODL because it was an
opportunity for self actualisation for a self-driven person. For example one participant said;

Because I enjoy my job so much, such that I wanted to gain more knowledge and
become an expert at it.

It is self-driven and flexible; being an adult this has many advantages.

Generally, observation from the responses indicate that women join ODL because it offers
them an opportunity to enhance themselves while at the same time engaging in the multi roles
of worker, mother and wife.

Challenges faced by women in ODL

The participants reported a number of challenges they faced as ODL students. These were
categorised as social factors, time management, attitudes of society, accessing resources and
financial constraints. Forty (80%) of the 50 participants mentioned social factors as the
biggest challenge to their ODL studies. The nature of the social factors-related challenges
included conflicts derived from the multiplicity of competing roles like motherhood, spousal
conjugal responsibilities and house chores. These social challenges were exemplified in the
following sentiments as expressed by some of the participants;

As a woman I have got a lot of responsibilities at home such as being a wife,

a mum to my kids and all the other household chores and still having to cope
with my studies.

The presence of social issues like sick children…..presence of visitors at

home during times of studying.

Being a mother, worker and home owner and then being a student.

Additional social factors cited by participants include lack of support from the husband, lack
of support from other women and attending to community activities.

Time management presented an important challenge to many women in the sample. Another
challenge which threatened studying space and time was work commitments. The sample
attached a lot of importance to a demarcated space and time of study to avoid conflict of
interests with demands of a work life. To this end, 20 (40%) of the participants reported that
pressure of work was an impediment to their ODL studies.

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Auxilia Badza and David Chakuchichi

The attitude of society towards women in ODL was also seen as a challenge. Twenty (40%)
of the participants said that the community looked down upon ODL, contrary to 10 (20%)
who reported that community had positive perceptions of women in ODL. On further probing,
initial reports on negative cultural perceptions of women in ODL seemed to scratch the
surface of a deeper moral issue for married women as expressed in the following sentiments
of some participants who reported that;

It [participating in ODL] is viewed as a waste of time. People perceive

learning while married as a waste of resources. They think that women
should concentrate on family matters instead of going to school.

The community is still behind (negative). Some members don’t really

believe that you will be going to the library, e.g. in-laws think uri kuhura
(you are prostituting) when you are at school.

Some parents (the in laws) are not happy; they think that husbands only
should study, not women.

They (people) feel it should be left to young adults.

Society and community perceptions of ODL could be said to be in a transformative stage,

moving slowly from negative cultural mindsets to a more open and positive attitude where
education through ODL is viewed as an empowering opportunity.

Another challenge mentioned by participants was the accessibility of learning resources such
as library materials. Generally, participants reported that library and other learning resources
such as information communication technologies (ICTs) were inadequate and inaccessible. A
lot of the sentiments expressed by participants suggested the need for the enhancement of the
resources in order to sustain increased learner support.

Finance was viewed not as a challenge but that the method of paying fees was seen as
inflexible. Some participants preferred to be allowed monthly instalments or staggered
payments. Factors cited as challenges related to the macro-economic environments prevailing
in the country.

Learner Support Systems

In this study learner support systems were viewed in the context of improving service
delivery for the benefit of women in ODL. In order to enhance service delivery for women in
ODL the participants suggested increase in learner materials and library resources including
establishment of internet cafes. Other participants reported the need for increased tutorials,
especially in technical subjects such as statistics. Another aspect mentioned by some
participants was the need to consider learners’ complaints and suggestions. Issues of learner
support are captured in the following paraphrased suggestions that are typical of the
comments made by respondents;
• ODL is very effective but there is need for more tutorial sessions &
internet cafes.
• The institution should make relevant reading material available at the
• Availing internet café --- adding more books in library
• Making internet services free and accessible in ZOU libraries
• Students complaints should be considered and problems rectified

Generally participants joined ODL in order to fulfil their educational aspirations and that it

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Volume 2 April 2009
Auxilia Badza and David Chakuchichi

was a more flexible mode of learning. The main challenges faced by most women related to
management of the multiplicity of social roles which included parenthood, work and being a
wife. Learner support was considered in the context of making available learning resources
such as library books and internet cafes and increasing tutorials. While the ODL mode was
found to be most suitable for adult female learners, the findings indicated that there were a
number of problems that still negatively challenge these students.

The findings of this study indicate a number of challenges that militate against women access
to and participation in higher education. The major challenges are in the context of managing
the many roles that are experienced by married female students. The challenge of competing
roles has also been found to be consistent with the studies by Evans (1995) and Compora
(2005). It is pertinent to view the issues of women students in the light of the challenges and
available interventions in order to increase their access and participation in higher education.

As evident from the responses to items under the three themes of challenges, learner support
and reason for joining ODL, female students have a number of confounding issues relating
mainly to marital responsibilities, inadequate qualifications and the need to enhance
themselves for self actualisation. Some of these confounding issues peculiar to female
learners were identified by Burge and Lenksyji (1990) as personal history, learning needs, and
expectations that are shaped by their unique experiences as girls and women in a male
dominated social environment. The fact that some of these challenges are set in socio-cultural
expectations, such as the status of mother, spouse and worker, creates overwhelming
domestic and employment roles that compete with learning activities for time and space.

While cultural perceptions are not easily changed, there is room to investigate the possibility
of utilising other pedagogical interventions in order to enhance access of women to higher
education. The use of learning centres that enhance collaboration among learners cited in
Prummer (2000) could be the starting point. Also Kwapong (2007) and Burge and Lenksyji
(1990) suggest the use andragogy that is underpinned by feminine pedagogy. Dodds (2005)
suggests that the numerous challenges of students in ODL require counselling but
unfortunately the counselling practices in place have been devised for traditional face to face

Research on feminine pedagogy is still sparse in contemporary literature necessitating the

need for more studies in this area. ODL practices should essentially be interrogated to see
how they come up with instructional approaches that may mediate the challenges expressed
by female students as they relate to their gender roles.


The study alluded to some deficiencies in the learner support systems which included
challenges with learning materials and tutorials. Some of them said;

Yes - some materials are difficult to understand – understanding the module

especially subjects like statistics.

The problem cited in the statement recorded above reflects a pedagogical concern which
could be addressed through capacity building programmes in the context of synergies created
by professional organisations such as the distance Education Association of Southern Africa
(DEASA). The study therefore recommends that, DEASA could offer training to tutors in the
region and lend support in conceptualising learner support issues and strategies as well as
capacity build member institutions to carry research studies that were beneficial to women in
ODL. It is critical to note that andragogy was in itself, inadequate to take care of the learning
needs of women in ODL. Some participants suggested that ODL allowed a lot of sharing

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Auxilia Badza and David Chakuchichi

information which indeed was collaboration. Collaborative learning, which is the exchange of
information from one learner to another, constitutes symmetrical learning relationships that
are compatible with women learning styles. Collaboration through get together, e-mailing and
telephoning could alleviate the challenges associated with the congested social environment
contextual to their study space. The Learner Support concept should include counselling and
orientation services in order to equip women in ODL to rise above the challenges imposed by
the multiplicity of roles and responsibilities that compete with their studentship. The
challenges that women in ODL faced, constitute a unique body of complex phenomena which
could be addressed through educational approaches ideal for women in ODL referred to as
feminine pedagogy. The study would therefore recommend more research in feminine
pedagogy which should investigate the potential for the development of appropriate
pedagogical interventions that would enhance women access in higher education.

Aggarwal, J. C. (2004). Development and Planning of Morden Education. New Delhi: Vikas.
Burge, E & Lenksyj, H. (1990) Women Studying in Distance Education: Issues and
Principles. Journal of Distance Education, 5(1): 20-37.
Carlson, S. (2001). Distance Education is harder on Women than on Men, Study Finds.
Chronicle of Higher Education; 48 (5). Retrieved June 13, 2008, from
Clarke, P. (2000). Learning School, Learning Systems. Continuum, London
Compora, D. P. (2003). Current Trends in Distance Education: An Administrative Model.
Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 6(2). Retrieved June 13, 2008,
Dodds, T. (2005). Open and Distance Learning in Southern Africa. A Collection of papers
Compiled for Distance Education of Southern Africa (DEASA). Pinetown: UNISA.
Evans, K. (1995). Barriers to participation of Women in Technological Education and the
Role of Distance Education. The Commonwealth of Learning. Retrieved May 22,
2008, from
Knowles, M. S. (1980). Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy.
(2nd edn). New York: Cambridge Books.
Kwapong, O. (2007). Factors Influencing Information Delivery Technology Choice in
Deprived Regions in Ghana. Journal of Community Informatics, 3(2):1-14.
Lemmer, E. (1999). Contemporary Education: Global Issues and Trends. Sandton:
Muranda, Z. (2004). Dissertation Writing: Concepts and Practice. Harare: University of
Newswatch. (2002). Older women choose distance education courses. Women in Higher
Education, 11 (12). Retrieved June 17, 2008, from
Prummer, C. (2000). Women and Distance Education: Challenges and Opportunities. London:
Wearmouth, J. (2001). Special Educational Provision in the Context of Inclusion; Policy and
Practice in Schools. London: David Fulton.

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
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Miriam Chitura and David Chakuchichi

A study of the levels of support that exist to the girl child who takes care of HIV infected
parents and siblings among disadvantaged groups in Zimbabwe.

Miriam Chitura and David Chakuchichi

Zimbabwe Open University

While Zimbabwe’s HIV & AIDS prevalence rate indicated a down trend from
24% to 18% in 2007(UNICEF), it still remained in the hyper-endemic
category (>15%) requiring multi-sectoral mitigation strategies, according to
Southern Africa Region Universities Association (SARUA 2008) report. This
study attempted to find out support available to the girl child who, because of
cultural traditions, was burdened with taking care of the young, the sick and
the old members of the family. The case study approach utilizing observation
and in-depth interviews was used to gain insight into support available to
HIV& AIDS orphaned and vulnerable children. The participants of the study
were girl children HIV & AIDS care givers and the District AIDS Committee
(DAC) for the area. The findings of the study were that the girl child was
found to be encountering many challenges that include care giving without
adequate protection, carrying out household chores and parenting
responsibilities which often compromised her health, education and or social
development. The study proposes a need to engage both legislators and the
custodians of culture to raise awareness on the plight of the girl child in
order to come up with supportive structures.

Since the advent of the Human Immune-Deficiency Virus (HIV) it has become apparent that
it is not just a medical problem but one that pervades all sectors, that is, social, economic,
political or cultural (UNAIDS, 2000:26-33). Also, HIV and AIDS has become an epidemic
among other epidemics such as poverty, gender injustice, and social discrimination of certain
groups, war, and violation of children’s rights as well as cultures of inequality, according to
the World Council of Churches (WCC, 2003:7) report. The complexity of factors in HIV &
AIDS demands that prevention and mitigation should look beyond the symptoms and
interrogate the complex issues inherent in social relationships (WCC, 2003:9). Approaches to
the prevention and mitigation of the impact of the HIV & AIDS should therefore address the
accompanying challenges of stigma and other social injustices. Mitigation strategies and any
other initiatives should essentially view infected and affected persons as inherently dependent
on their social relationships and power (UNAIDS, 2000:26). It is therefore important to see
the problem as contextual to the community and any measures taken to ameliorate the impact
of the pandemic should be contextual to the society. Greater understanding of the impact of
HIV/AIDS on the social-cultural environment of children is important in order to develop
strategies to support children, especially the girl child, who in many instances, has to look
after HIV infected parents, siblings as well as fend for the family.

Southern Africa is currently the epicentre of the global HIV epidemic (SARUA, 2008) and
prevalence in Zimbabwe, one of the affected Southern Africa countries, is described as
generalized epidemics; a term used for countries where the prevalence rate in the adult
population is between 15% and 35%. According to UNAIDS (2002) about 2.3 million people
in Zimbabwe are living with HIV and AIDS.

Studies to ascertain the number of children living with and looking after parents who are HIV
infected in Zimbabwe are scanty. Lyons (2001) discusses several psychosocial effects of HIV
and AIDS to children. She notes that children can easily lose their right to live as children
especially when they are orphaned. It is from this background that this study sought to

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Miriam Chitura and David Chakuchichi

ascertain the magnitude of the problem, the existing support and the preparedness of the girl
child to care for the HIV infected parents. The study aims to be instrumental in developing
distance educational programmes in line with the Millennium Developmental Goals that
effectively impact on the pandemic. Recommendations from the study would be aimed at
reducing the impact of HIV and AIDS on the girl child and the nation as a whole.

Girl child’s rights to education and her specific needs to be protected from physical and
psychological harm should be made public knowledge and be legally enforced. The girl child
should therefore be empowered in such a way that she becomes aware of her rights. Currently
there is no legislation that supports the girl child who is below eighteen years of age who
looks after parents who are HIV positive. The girl child who looks after parents who are HIV
positive may be working under very difficult circumstances and hardships, including lack of
education, poor health, overwork, poor diet, psychological trauma and poverty. According to
Jackson (2004), circumstances of the girl child are generally sustained by cultural traditions
and perception that view the girl child as a care giver for the young, the sick and the old.
Therefore, it is largely for this reason the study set out to identify the level of support and
preparedness the girl child had in looking after HIV positive parents. The study also explored
some cultural factors and other issues that impinge on the rights of the girl child.

It is hoped that findings of this study will empower the girl child through influencing policy
and imparting knowledge to campaign and lobby legislators to come up with training policies
that aim to disseminate ‘information for survival’ of the girl child through distance learning.
In addition, the study will create awareness among traditional leaders who are the custodians
of culture, assist them to understand the rights of the girl child and develop culture centred
structures that may protect the girl child who has to look after parents suffering from HIV and

More specifically, the objectives of the study were:

• To empower the girl child in terms of knowledge on her rights

• To assess the levels of support that exist to the girl child who has to look after
HIV infected parents
• To identify existing problems encountered by the girl child
• to create an awareness on the plight of the girl child to legislatures custodians
of culture
• To recommend strategies that empower and protect he girl child

Zimbabwe is a signatory to the convention of the rights of the child. Most of these rights are
relevant to the situation of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC). Article 3 of the
convention on the rights of the child refers to Best interests of the child which purport that;

all actions concerning the children should take full account of their best
interests. The state is to provide adequate care when parents or others
responsible fail to do so. (National Plan of Action for Orphans and
Vulnerable Children, Zimbabwe, 2004:11)

Unfortunately, this article is probably the most violated as most children’s interests are often
ignored in the context of the HIV & AIDS pandemic. Best interests such as education, health,
recreation and participation in social and cultural events are foregone as the girl child spends
most of her time taking care of family members living with HIV & AIDS. In order to redress
the plight of the girl child who is an HIV & AIDS caregiver, the United Nations General
Assembly Special Session on HIV &AIDS, proposed a common approach of responding to
HIV & AIDS by adopting the following declaration committing member states that;

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Miriam Chitura and David Chakuchichi

By 2005 implement national policies and strategies to build and strengthen

governmental, family and community capacities to provide a supportive
environment for orphans, girls and boys infected and affected by HIV &
AIDS, including providing appropriate counselling and psychosocial support,
ensuring their enrolment in school and access to shelter, good nutrition,
health and social services on an equal basis with other children; and protect
orphans and vulnerable children from all forms of abuse, violence,
exploitation, discrimination, trafficking and loss of inheritance. (National
Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Zimbabwe, 2004:12)

It is doubtful how far such conventions and rights ratified by UN member states assist the girl
child HIV/AIDS care giver. Similarly, the impact on the welfare of girl child HIV/AIDS
caregivers of communities and community based organizations local initiatives, such as
District AIDS Committees, remains undocumented. However, the apparent lack of
coordination suggests the impact may be fragmented and resources highly underutilized, with
the result that the number of children with basic survival needs of food and inadequate health
services continues to grow (Zimbabwe National Plan of Action for OVC, 2004). Meanwhile,
the culturally marginalised and disadvantaged girl child HIV/AIDS caregiver requires support
in accessing her rights and privileges in order to experience normal development consistent
with the expectation of national policies and international conventions.

This explorative study used a qualitative research design which utilized the interview and
observation as the methods of data collection, which also allowed for the triangulation of data.
The qualitative research design used assisted the researcher with the process of data
collection, data analysis and interpretation.

A purposive sample of 15 girl child caregivers was drawn from a number of households in
Mbare, a low income and high density suburb of Harare, and five community health officials
in the same area. The participants were identified by the District Aids Coordinator (DAC) for
the area. The instrument for the study was a 12 point unstructured interview schedule. Data
collection was done through observations of care giving in situ and in-depth interviews of the
girl child and the respective community health nurses. Further interviews were carried out
with health officials in order to validate information collected through observations and
interviews of the girl child care giver.

Data was recorded on sheets of paper and re-written in full. The data was further reorganized
and sorted into categories. Themes related to knowledge, self-efficacy and support were
drawn from the collected information in order to come up with interpretations and meanings
about the issues.

A total of 15 households, registered on the local Home Based Care programme, were visited
in the high density suburb of Mbare. However, the magnitude of the problem could be greater
than appears in this study, since not all households in Mbare were visited and some clients
who were affected were not on the register of Mbare Home Based Care Programme.

All the 15 caregivers selected for interview in the study were girls. Age-wise Table 1 shows
that 10 (66.7%) were 11-15 years old, four were 16-20 years old, while one caregiver was
over twenty years of age. It was noted that of the clients that were being cared for, only four
(4) were completely bed ridden and needed wholly compensatory care.

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Volume 2 April 2009
Miriam Chitura and David Chakuchichi

Table 1: Ages of Respondents in years

Age group Respondents Percentage (%)
11 - 15 10 66.7
16 - 20 4 26.7
Over 20 1 6.6
Total 15 100

Caregiver HIV/AIDS Knowledge Level

Observations were made to find out whether the caregivers were conscious of issues related to
prevention of cross infection when taking care of people living with HIV & AIDS. Although
the respondents had some idea, they appeared less informed on some aspects as indicated

• Use of gloves was viewed as taboo by 7 respondents

• All 15 respondents ranked the use of detergents as highly important but cited
the problem of non affordability
• Regular change of linen was not viewed as an important component in
prevention of infection
• Hand washing after handling patients was practiced by 9 of the respondents

It appears the caregivers did not have adequate knowledge and enough resources for their
work. From observations it was found out that the girl child had to cope with a lot of
challenges which included carrying out household chores, attending to educational needs and
looking after the young ones. More than 50% of the families were single-headed - one of the
parents had died from AIDS. Two of the families were orphaned and the younger siblings
were being looked after by the elder ones. Food and other basic resources were not readily
available and so were cleaning items. The caregivers did not have the prescribed resources
such as protective gloves, cleaning detergents and soap. It was also observed that the
households did not have enough food, although all the infected persons were on anti retroviral
drugs. Generally, girl child caregivers were casual about their responsibility as a lot of it was
at the instruction of the surviving parent. There were no caregivers who had wholly
compensatory parental responsibility because even the bed ridden parent gave verbal

The findings of this study also revealed that cultural traditional values still persisted as all
caregivers were female, although they were not always the oldest child. Such discriminatory
cultural practices tended to give the girl child more than her share of responsibility in the
context of home based care. The children said there was no way out as refusing to carry out
the responsibility would be tantamount to disobeying one’s parent.

In-depth interviews were conducted to find out information on caregiver knowledge about the
disease, adequacy of training in home based care and support required for the caregivers. The
results of the interviews revealed that all girl child caregivers interviewed were aware of
AIDS and its transmission. The commonly cited source of information was mass media, with
the television ranking highest. However, knowledge about lifting and handling of infected
people as well as infection control was limited. Girl child caregivers did not know the
procedure to follow in the event that they got exposed to infected blood. Some participants
reported that they had been visited by health personnel and received instruction on caring for
people with HIV/AIDS.

None of the children received supportive assistance in terms of attending to activities of daily

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
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Miriam Chitura and David Chakuchichi

needs of the infected parent(s). Although a majority (9 or 60%) of the respondents had done
‘O’ level, all had performed poorly. The respondents attributed the low performance to
inadequate study time and unfavourable home environment. The caregivers also reported that
they had failed to cope with and balance family responsibilities with school work.

Nine participants expressed the need to get respite services as they were experiencing
burnout. They felt that respite services would assist them find time to study and or catch up
with their social and recreational activities.

As indicated in Table 2 below, home-based care support was mostly in the form of monthly
visits by community health nurses and District Aids Coordinators who asked caregivers
questions and gave guidance on how to manage the situation. At least 60% of caregivers
reported they had been visited by health personnel, compared to 26.7% and 20% who reported
receiving training on home-based care and food provisions, respectively. However, this
support did not meet with the expectations of the caregivers who expected to be given
resources for HIV & AIDS home-based care patient management.

Table 2: Training, support and provisions

Variable Received service No service received Total
N % N % N %
Trained on HBC 4 26.7 11 73.3 15 100
Monthly Visits by health personnel 9 60.0 6 40.0 15 100
Respite services provided Nil - - - - -
Food provisions 3 20.0 12 80.0 15 100
Protective clothing (gloves) Nil - - - - -
Detergents supplied Nil - - - - -

None of the caregivers mentioned counselling as an essential support service. Counselling

was quite important in that it gave the care givers information about respite services and an
opportunity to speak out on the anger and frustration that was brewing in their minds because
of the care giving burden placed on them.

The responses of community nurses validated most of the information given by the girl child
HIV & AIDS care givers. Lack of skills was attributed to the fact that when they called for
training at the local health facilities, it was not the girl child care givers who came but other
people who were not involved in the actual care giving. The explanation of this problem was
that the girl child could not leave her parent unattended in order to attend a training workshop.

Generally the care givers expressed concern that they lacked the much needed resources such
as food, protective clothing (gloves) and detergents. They did not complain about the
community’s attitude towards them. They believed the community understood their situation
as awareness programmes had been wide spread. Despite the abundance of knowledge on
HIV & AIDS the participants lacked support in terms of resources and counselling services.

In line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the study sought to
investigate the home based girl care givers’ challenges and requirements for support. While
information dissemination in HIV & AIDS had reached most parts of the country through the
media, the girl child received neither training nor adequate support services. Similarly, the
national policies and international initiatives were adopted by government but what was
important was to assist the girl child with appropriate knowledge, skills and resources to
empower her to be effectively functional. Home Based Care training was a critical skills
development identified in the study as lacking among the girl child care givers. Critical issues
on infection control were ignored in most cases. Counselling was viewed as an integral part of

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Miriam Chitura and David Chakuchichi

the support systems required by the girl child care giver. Counselling would empower the girl
child care giver to manage herself beyond HIV & AIDS especially in the face of adverse
cultural traditions and perceptions.

There is need to engage legislatures and custodians of culture at all levels. The problems
created by lack of support for the girl child are cyclic and are passed from generation to
generation. It appears there is need for government and social support groups to engage in
meaningful distance educational programs that inform and support the girl child. Distance
education, by its nature has the advantage of reaching out to larger populations as opposed to
the conventional system of education, HIV and AIDS have created great societal challenges
and Public Health problems. Poverty alleviation, as a Millennium Developmental Goal can
only be achieved through educational programmes targeted at the youth, especially the girl
child. Coordination of HIV & AIDS initiatives is critical in getting the support in terms of
skills and resources to those who need them most. In order to have an effective coordination
system to mobilize resources and skills there is need for wider and strengthened collaboration
with other ministries such as the ministry of Education and Ministry of Health and Child
welfare. It is hoped that with the involvement of government, Ministry of Education and
Ministry of Health and Child Welfare will eventually ensure the sustainability of Distance
educational and home based care programmes for the benefit of the girl child care givers with
the result in minimizing the impact of HIV & AIDS on the Zimbabwean society.

Jackson, H. (2004). AIDS Action Now. Information Prevention and support in Zimbabwe.
SARUA. (2008). HIV & AIDS: An Action Guide for Higher Education Institutions in the
SADC Region. Southern Africa Regional Universities Association
United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. (2002). Zimbabwe Epidemiological Fact Sheet on
HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections. July 2002.
WCC, (2003). HIV & AIDS Curriculum for Theological Institutions in Africa. Geneva: WCC.
Zimbabwe Government. (2004). National Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Harare:
Government Printers.

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
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Golebamang Galegane

A study of inference reading skill used by Botswana police officers

Golebamang Galegane
University of Botswana

This paper examines the reading skills of twenty-one (21) male Botswana
Police Officers to determine how they make inferences from a reading text.
This was a particular group that was studied through both quantitative and
qualitative approaches. The officers were enrolled into the Certificate in
English for Professional Purposes (EPP) with the Botswana College of
Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL). They were given a narrative text
for which they were required to read and apply their inference skills. A
questionnaire was also administered to solicit the respondents’ demographic
information. Two theories that relate to reading were used to benchmark the
findings. The results indicate that, by and large, the officers could not apply
the inference skills which are used in legal parlance and so could not answer
certain questions from the text. The researcher postulates that the failure to
use inference skills was due to the lack of skills in using clues to understand
the meaning of the passage. To solve the problem, the researcher
recommends that police officers, in addition to doing a certificate in EPP,
should have regular refresher courses on legal problem-solving cases, which
can help them sharpen their critical reading skills of civil and criminal cases.

Central to reading is inference, an important cognitive skill which should be applied in order
to perform successfully at almost all levels of learning such as secondary, tertiary,
professional and occupational levels. The use of inference in reading enables one to process
meaning beyond the text. According to Alagozlu (2007), meaning can be processed by critical
thinking and evaluating the content of the text. According to the Communication Skills and
Statement Writing Module 2 (2002:34), inference calls for one to read the text and interpret
what the language communicates. In this study inference refers to showing understanding of
the text beyond print by deducing meaning from the case study that was presented. The study
also uses related concepts like interpretation and critical reading because they are thinking
skills used to process information. Inference is important in open and distance learning (ODL)
because the instructor is not there to guide the learner.

Open and distance learning brings education to where students are through the Botswana
College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL). BOCODOL was established in 1998
and aims at providing Batswana with skills through open access to quality, innovative
distance programmes. (EPP Guide, 2005:5) ODL sees to it that it closes the gap between
physical and face to face interaction in the classroom. Everybody has the privilege of learning
throughout one’s life. Besides individuals, institutions and organizations use it to upgrade and
develop their employees; hence the Botswana Police Officers (BPOs) are no exception of this
learning mode.

The Botswana Police Service (BPS) in their vision statement state that they are committed to
providing a professional law enforcement service for a peaceful, safe and secure nation in
partnership with the community. According to the Botswana Police Magazine (2006:3)
“Providing a professional law enforcement service means that the service provided will be
characterized by a high level of skill, competence and experience…” On the same issue, the

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Golebamang Galegane

BPS further state that some of their objectives are to prevent and detect crime, protect life and
property, enforce all written laws with which they are directly charged and to maintain peace.
The above BPS vision and mission could be met if the police officers apply a high degree of
inference skills in the civil and criminal situations that they read about. The use of inference
skills also helps them to be competent as they provide the service to the community.

Botswana Police Officers are required to work in various areas in the community in order to
achieve the vision and mission of policing. The officers read and write cases, interpret and
defend arguments on legal issues and apply the statutory provisions of the law. In the light of
the number of documents (that the police officers have to read in their daily duties) such as
cases, law reports, penal codes and standing orders inference reading becomes crucially
important. The research task required them to apply the skill in a legal scenario that they were
given in an assignment for their EPP course. Despite the fact that it was related to what one
would assume is something that they already knew from their policing duties and initial
training at Police College, some of the officers were unable to apply inference skills. It was
assumed that the police officers would be able to interpret the situation that they had been

English for Professional Purposes (EPP) is an in-service programme developed by the

Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL) for the Botswana Police
Services. The EPP Guide (2003:5) identifies some of the key objectives of the programme as
to develop critical approaches to dealing with academic and practical communication
situations and to upgrade English proficiency of officers. The course, which commenced in
2003 sought to help meet professional communication needs of police officers by equipping
them with basic communication skills such as reading and writing. EPP is meant for all the
police officers from the rank of constable to that of inspector. There is need for police officers
to interpret situations appropriately in order to carry out their daily duties efficiently. Finally,
the EPP course is designed to help police officers develop confidence in the conduct of their

The EPP programme is organised into Part I and II. In each part three (3) contact sessions of
tutorials are offered, leading to mock and sessional examinations. On successfully completing
the two parts, learners are awarded a certificate in EPP. The programme is offered from
several study centres throughout Botswana.

This study intends to answer the following general research question: “Are the BPOs able to
interpret the meaning beyond the sentence?”

Two theories will be used to benchmark the findings of this study.

The Schema Theory

Inference as a reading strategy is explained by Schema Theory, which suggests that there are
both prior and linguistic knowledge (Koda, 2007). The schema helps one to use the inferences
that are needed in reading. Nassaji (2007, 2002) observes that the Schema Theory is used to
explain and interpret cognitive processes such as reasoning, inferencing, remembering and
problem solving. The schemata could also involve the structure and organization of linguistic
and discourse knowledge, in addition to describing the structure of knowledge of ordinary
events. This study will focus on what Swaffar (1988) cited by Nassaji (2007) terms “textual
schemata”, which is conceptual and background knowledge combined to achieve the desired
reading outcome. The lack of one of them will hinder the ability to infer from the text.

Pragmatic theory of inference

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Golebamang Galegane

Pragmatics focuses on the study of meaning as communicated by a speaker (or writer) to a

listener (or reader) (Yule, 1996; Leech, 1983). The pragmatic theory of inference emphasizes
the process model of human language abilities (Lycan, 1999; Leech, 1983). Inference is
brought about by knowledge and the meaning of what is inferred and the process takes place
in the mind. The police officers had to analyze the meaning conveyed by the questions. In this
study, the subjects had to process what they were reading and come up with correct answers.


Linguistic knowledge on inference reading

For a person to infer effectively, one has to have the appropriate language to be able to decode
the text (Koda, 2007). It is because of this, that readers need to recognize the conceptual and
textual clues used in the text. The readers have to be metalinguistically aware of the
fundamental and abstract properties of language. This means that readers should understand
both the surface and the deeper meaning of the text. When inference, there is need to examine
the heading and apply prior knowledge which will work together with the memory capacity
(Leeser, 2007) to interpret information beyond what is being read. Conceptual clues in this
study refer to the understanding of constituent notations that comprise the writing system and
how those notations represent spoken language (Bialystok, 2007:50).

The text and reading skills

It is important that students apply appropriate reading skills when reading a text (Dhieb-
Henia, 2003) because the meaning of a text does not lie solely within the text itself (Blanton,
1984). Whether reading for academic or professional purposes, a high level of linguistic
proficiency and extensive background knowledge is required (Spector-Cohen, Kirschner &
Wexler, 2001). In applying inference skills one needs to interact with the text. Inference
skills, do not only require pronouncing the words in print, but also require one to deduce the
hidden meanings. Inference is important in the career of police officers because they take
statements from victims, criminals, complainants, et cetera. Police officers therefore need to
infer lies, twists, truths, misrepresentations and make conclusions.

Related studies
For more than three decades, studies have been carried out on reading for academic and
professional purposes (Blanton, 1984; Mosallem, 1984; Vivian, 1984). Li So-mui and Mead
(2000) analyzed English for occupational purposes offered to students taking textile and
clothing courses. In another related study, Ferguson (2001) examined conditionals in English
for Scientific Purposes level. Dhieb-Henia (2003) studied ESL/EFL science students at
undergraduate university level. The purpose of the study was to find out if training on the use
of metacognitive strategies helps in an ESL/EFL context. The study showed that the
problems these students faced could relate to their inability to read selectively. Mosallem
(1984) examined English for police officers in Egypt. The study looked at the use of English
in their social life, such as family crises and crime prevention. The study showed that much
attention should be given to developing the officers’ reading ability. Harris (1992) studied
English for Academic Legal Purposes in England, focusing on academic legal writing. In
another study Feak, Reinhart and Sinsheimer (2000) noted that English in academic legal
contexts is limited. They also observed that research in English for academic purposes has
focused on other areas and not on legal language. Their study was based on an analysis of
legal writing just like Harris (1992); but this study focused on reading among Botswana
Police Officers. It attempts to bridge the gap that was left by not focusing on critical reading
in Open and Distance Learning.


Research design

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This case study used a descriptive research design to investigate a problem among a particular
group within a limited time scale (Bell, 1999; Mason & Bramble, 1978). The purpose of
undertaking this type of research was to describe inference reading skills used by Botswana
Police Officers based in Gaborone during the year of studying EPP. The study employed both
quantitative and qualitative approaches by using summaries of the responses and a reading
text that the BPOs were given for their assignment. A questionnaire was also administered to
have personal information of the respondents, which would enable the researcher to
understand the background of the subjects. The qualitative approach further helped to explore
how inference reading skills are relevant to open and distance learning in Botswana.

A group of 21 male BPOs who enrolled for English for Professional Purposes (EPP) through
the Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL) during the 2005/6
academic year were purposively chosen for the study. They were sampled through the
convenience sampling technique which allows the researcher to choose the closest live
persons as respondents (Bailey, 1987). To investigate a learning problem experienced by the
learners, the researcher used one of the tutorial groups at hand. The BPOs were taking the
course on a part time basis. The police officers belonged to one of the stations in the eastern
part of Gaborone. The respondents had a working experience ranging from 5-24 years. They
also held various ranks from constable to inspector. The officers were doing the first part of a
certificate in English for Professional Purposes (EPP). Their academic qualifications ranged
from Primary School Leaving Certificate to the High School Certificate such as the Botswana
General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE). Their personal background was as
a) Academic qualification: 2 possessed Primary School Leaving Certificate, 15
had a Junior Certificate, and 4 had a High School Certificate.
b) Professional qualification: 2 officers had an additional professional
qualification. 19 officers had only undergone basic police training. The
current basic police training lasts one year and for those who completed in
the 80’s, it was 6 months.
c) English grade: 21 officers obtained a marginal pass grade of C or D at Junior
Certificate or High School Certificate.
d) Final year in the classroom: 17 officers completed their last educational
qualifications in the 80’s and 4 completed during the 90’s.

The text
To investigate the use of inference among the BPOs, the subjects were given a narrative text
(refer to appendix 1) to read and answer the questions that followed. According to Davoudi
(2005) a text contains more information than what is explicitly expressed. So, the purpose of
the reading text was to trigger off the students’ inference skills. The content of the text
required background legal knowledge and linguistic proficiency. It was part of their
assignment which contributed to the learners’ final assessment. The text was prepared
centrally at the BOCODOL examination office and distributed to the subjects at the beginning
of the course. It was part of the students’ assignment for module 3 entitled “Court procedures
and Cross-Cultural Language Issues”. From the case study, the subjects were to show their
knowledge and practice of a legal issue by reading and answering the questions correctly to
determine that they were able to infer hidden meanings. They were asked nine questions
based on the case study but only one of these questions, which they did not do well, was
analyzed for their ability to infer the meaning of the text. The question analyzed for inference
skills was in two sections (a) and (b) as shown below:-

Members of the community where this case happened appear to be ignorant about some
aspects of the law (Refer to appendix 1 for the case study). What lessons would you teach the
community with reference to

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a) the part played by Rakwadi and Msomi in the case?

b) the behaviour of Gasemotho?

The questions above involve inferring because the subjects had to read beyond the text and
come up with what they would teach the community in order to avoid conflict. The answers
for these two questions cannot be found from the passage. The researcher felt that examining
the two questions was vital as it would shed some light on whether the BPOs are able infer
the meaning from the various documents that they read at the workplace. The study will also
help learners enrolled in open and distance learning to always read critically.

Data collection and analysis

Data were collected from two items which were part of the police officers assignment. The
assignment was a ‘take home’ which they had to work on within a period of two weeks. The
subjects had to work on the assignment after a four-hour class tutorial. After the two weeks
they submitted the assignment to the tutor for marking. They had to infer meaning from the
case study which they read. Jackson (2004: 213) suggests that, “case study methods of
teaching are now common in…education programs worldwide”, hence BOCODOL used this
method. To analyze the data, 21 responses were coded for ease of reference. Each of the
answers provided was read by the researcher to determine if subjects used inference skills.
The data were analyzed by examining each of the answers given for the two questions. The
responses were further compared against the personal data provided to find more information
on the officers’ use of inference skills.

Limitations of the study

Even though the researcher used the aforementioned methodology, the study had the
following limitations:
a) Since the assignment that the police officers were given was a “take home”,
there was the possibility of getting assistance.
b) Only one group of police officers was used in this study. It would have been
interesting to use more groups of officers who are enrolled for EPP.
c) Gender was also an issue of concern as the group comprised of only male
police officers.


The results, which were mainly qualitative, intended to find out if the police officers were
able to read beyond sentence level.

Respondents who were able to show evidence of inference by critical thinking were rated
‘Above average’ and those who explicitly showed evidence of inference but with some
confusion were rated ‘Average’, while those who did not reflect inference in their answers
were rated ‘Below average’.

The first question read;

Members of the community where this case happens appear to be ignorant about some
aspects of the law. What lessons would you teach the community with reference to the part
played by Rakwadi and Msomi in the case?

N.B: Rakwadi and Msomi in this case have been involved in buying stolen donkeys.

Below are verbatim answers typical of those rated above average. However, the names used
to present the findings are not the learners’ real names.

Phenyo: They should not buy anything whatsoever without the proof that the thing being

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sold belong to the person selling it.

Kitso: That they should not receive suspected stolen properties - they should report to the

Thato: They must first seek proof of ownership from the seller before they buy any property.

These are above average because the police officers had critically thought of the situation
Nassaji (2007, 2002). It is evident that the officers used Rakwadi and Msomi to read and
think beyond the situation and stated what had to be done legally. Maybe the officers who
inferred the meaning are those with High School Certificate because the process of inference
could be taught at that level. As a result the officers could have been taught how to apply the
skill from primary to senior secondary school. It also shows that they used their experience as
postulated by the Schema Theory (Koda, 2007) and the textual clues to answer the question
(Yule, 1996; Leech, 1983). They were able to interpret what the language in print
communicated. It is important for Open and Distance learners to always use the textual clues
to get meaning.

Below are some students’ samples which were average:

Poloko: They should have inquired about the brand certificates before buying.

Gideon: They are accused persons in a case of receiving stolen properties and Rakwadi
also being the witness in a case of stealing stock again.

Tshepho: Always find the proof whether the stock sold belongs to said (selling) person.

John: Stock theft: Every stock should be bought at the kgotla with valued brand certificate
and the local police presence.

Dimpho: They both played part in stealing the donkeys because they did not bother
requiring a brand marks before agreement.

Lechaena: That there is nobody who is supposed to receive stolen stock.

In the above answers, making reference to Rakwadi and Msomi or (They) showed some
confusion in inferring the meaning. The officers had to think beyond these two people and
come up with a message to be learnt by the community. May be the officers who inferred the
meaning with some confusion are those who posses Junior Certificate. Since cognitive
processes are taught, it could be that the officers were not fully taught as they stopped half-
way through their school education. Reference to stock or donkeys also shows that the officers
did not infer meaning from the text. The officers had to know that stock or donkeys are
concepts that they had to use to logically give the answers. They should clearly know that in
teaching the community, stock or donkeys could refer to any form of property. This
application is what Swaffer (1988) cited by Nassaji (2007) termed “textual schema”.

Below are some sample answers which were below average:

Thebe: Rakwadi and Msomi received stolen donkeys and failed to help find the owner.

Ronnie: They had both received stolen property.

Phodiso: They can be made into state witness for having knowledge of the movement of the

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Rebaone: All of them unearthed the dirty tricks by Chipiya because he was the one who
committed the offence of stock theft.

Gosiame: They both committed the offence of receiving stolen stock because they bought
the donkeys even though they knew that they are stolen since they have the

Serwalo: They all received stolen stock.

Stanley: Rakwadi and Msomi were compliances.

Bakang: They can be turned into state witnesses because they knew the movement of
Gasemotho’s donkeys.

Most of the BPOs in this tutorial group failed to show how they can teach the community
about an aspect of the law. The answers above lack legal accuracy which was needed to infer
meaning from the text. It is assumed that legal accuracy in the above examples was vital
because the officers would be showing prior knowledge as noted by Koda, 2002. This could
be because the officers concerned cannot read beyond the text. In addition, there is the
inability to use correctly the conceptual clues such as Rakwadi, Msomi and the donkeys.

Table 1: Summary of the responses on the first question

Above Below
Questions Average
% Average %
% Total
What lessons would you teach the
(n) (n) (n) (n)
community with reference to
a) The part played by Rakwadi? 3 14 9 43 9 43 21

From the table above, most of the officers either inferred with confusion or they failed to do
so. This could be because of the marginal pass grade of C or D during their schooling. As a
result, the officers might have difficulty in what was expected as the passage was in English.
Further, this could be as a result of the police training, for example, six months is not enough
to expose them to inference skills.

The second question read: What lessons would you teach the community with reference to the
behaviour of Gasemotho?

Please note that although Gasemotho is the rightful owner of the donkeys, he was ignorant
about the law because he lost the donkeys for six months but did not report the case to the
police. Even when he found the donkeys, he threatened Msomi and only reported to the police
as the last resort when he could not have his way.

While there were no ‘above average’ category sample answers for this question, sample
answers for the ‘average’ category are reported below:

Tumi: They should not take the law into their own hands and report any unlawful act to the
Sailor: That they must report to the police the theft of their livestock.
Phenyo: He should have reported Msomi to the police instead of taking his donkeys.
Poloko: He is ignorant about some aspects of the law. He could have asked Msomi where he
got his donkeys and reported the matter to the police.

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Gideon: Members of the public should always be loyal to themselves

John: They should not take the law into their own hands as they might distort the evidence.
Shathu: He took what belonged to him, but should have reported the matter to the police.
Topo: Gasemotho could have reported Msomi the time he found Msomi keeping his

The answers given above are partly correct because they do not reflect that the community
should learn to report suspected theft. There is an indication that the police officers did not
make reference to what they can teach members of the community; instead, they referred to
Msomi or the donkeys rather than the message. This reveals confusion in the answers and
further shows that officers did not fully understand the notations that represented the language
(Biaslystok, 2007).

Below are students’ samples which were below average:

Joseph: The behaviour of Gasemotho is not allowed in the community.

Serwalo: He behaved well because he did not fight; he just told them the truth.
Rebaone: He should have reported the case since it is a serious case.
Elvis: Was a good man since he was able to explain why he claimed the donkeys to be his
by brand mark.
Gosiame: I will warn him of the offence and failure to report suspected stolen property.
John: Gasemotho is an honest and well behaved someone.
Thebe: Gasemotho was calming down Rakwadi and explaining to him softly as he was
threatening to beat him up if he doesn’t release the donkeys.
Tsheko: He was honest and well behaved person.

These were completely inaccurate as most of the officers failed to fill the information gap.
Evidence of inference would be shown by the ability to have own input on the situation in
order to get the meaning from the text. They should have made reference to Msomi, not
Rakwadi. This could be because the officers did not use their memory capacity as observed by
Leeser (2007). Having most of the officers giving partial or wrong answers could have been a
result of lack of exposure to reading strategies both during academic and professional
training. It could also be that most of the officers had been out of the classroom for a long

Table 2: Summary of the responses on the second question

Questions Above
% Average %
% Total
Average Average
What lessons would you teach the
(n) (n) (n) (n)
community with reference to
b) The behaviour of Gasemotho? 0 0 8 38 13 62 21

The factors that caused the officers failure to use the correct inference skills could be
attributed to their demographic variables. The police officers had to show their experience in
law by reading beyond the literal meaning reflected in the case study. They were supposed to
show knowledge of the law related to cases of this nature but it appears the officers lacked the
ability to infer the meaning. This inability could be because their academic or professional
qualifications did not expose the officers to inference skills. That is why there is need for
further exposure beyond the EPP course. Nevertheless, those who have been in the police
service for a longer period could be the ones who managed to infer as they have come across
various practical situations.


As already noted from the findings, inference is a very important reading skill. The tutors

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Golebamang Galegane

should give officers ample time to apply the skill. The officers’ duty requires them to read
many documents, some of which are voluminous. So the tutor should make officers aware and
appreciate the importance of reading skills. By so doing, it would bridge the existing psycho-
pragmatic gap among the officers. This can be done by (i) spending more time with the
officers so that they can identify the main points of the text (ii) giving them exercises that will
help them draw inferences from the text.

Further, there is need for the BPOs to obtain higher professional qualifications like Diploma
in EPP since the current certificate in EPP can be regarded as an elementary course for the
police officers (Feak et al, 2000). As the officers upgrade, the following are likely to happen;
(i) they might have more time to practise the important skills of reading, (ii) gradually
improving on their inference skills, (iii) the officers might develop an awareness that different
texts are read in different ways and hence require various skills and (iv) the police officers
might refine their use of conceptual and textual clues in inferring situations from the texts
read. That being done, it might help develop the officers’ metalinguistic awareness. Forey
(2004:447) points out that “although in recent years there has been an increase in research and
development of resources for workplace English, work in this field is still rather limited”.
Reading skills should start from the initial training that BPOs undergo at Police College. This
might help them apply the skills even more during professional courses like EPP.

There is also need for the national policy to cater clearly for the coordination between
different training organizations. This could be done through refresher courses that prepare
them for their daily reading challenges. The Revised National Policy on Education lacks a
unified policy for vocational and technical training (RNPE, 1994). There should also be an
attempt to bridge the gap between academic and professional training. This might help the
BPO’s as inference is central to effective reading. There is also need to have equal sexes
among the officers. According to RNPE, 1994 “Botswana will need to increase its capacity to
offer options for vocational and technical training and ensure that they are equally available to
both sexes” (Vision 2016). This might help in the officers’ acquisition of inference reading


This paper focused on psycholinguistic aspects of reading as it explored the problems of
inference among the Botswana Police Officers. Based on the case study, it was found that
most of the officers were unable to understand the text beyond the sentence meaning and
apply it to practical situations. This inability means that their use of inference is a problem.
Even though the questions asked were related to their duty, there was no evidence of applying
prior knowledge. This failure indicates that they probably missed one of the actions that have
to be performed as postulated by both the Schema and Pragmatic Theory. The conclusion
poses a question on police officers’ background knowledge as the case study required them to
apply legal knowledge. Even though these findings affect officers who were under study,
these shortcomings may be widespread. There could be a possibility that the same problem
affects police officers in different departments and regions of the Botswana police force.

On the basis of the foregoing conclusion, it is recommended that;

• In addition to doing EPP there should be regular refresher courses on legal problem
solving cases. This might sharpen the police officers’ inference skills of civil and
criminal cases and give them more exposure to the pragmatic and linguistic aspects of
legal texts.
• EPP should also be upgraded from Certificate to Diploma which might enable the
officers to have ample time to practise the metalinguistic aspects of reading.
• There is need for future research in the use of different texts such as an expository

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Golebamang Galegane

• The police officers should also read widely beyond documents related to law so that
they might enrich their inference skills.

If Botswana is going to have informed police officers, there is need to cultivate in them a
culture of reading. They need to be equipped with the reading skills for use in reading
different documents in their offices. The professional reading needs of the police officers need
to be determined by the different stakeholders: Botswana Police Service, BOCODOL and
tutors. If the above are taken into consideration, the officers would probably be able to infer
meaning from any text that they read.

Alagozlu, N. (2007). Critical thinking and voice in EFL writing. Asia EFL Journal. 9(3)
Bailey, K.D. (1987). Methods of social research. London: Collier Macmillan Publishers.
Bell, J. (1999). Doing your research project. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Bialystok, E. (2007). Acquisition of literacy in Bilingual children: A framework for research.
A journal of Research in Language Studies. 57(1) 45-77.
Blanton, L.L (1984). Using a hierarchical model to teach academic reading to advanced ESL
students: How to make a long story short. The ESP journal. 3: 37-46.
Bogwasi, B. (2002). A reading child is a progressive child. A paper presented at the
Teacher’s Conference held at Oasis Motel. 27- 29 August 2000.
Botswana Police Service. (2006). Botswana Police Magazine. XI(2).
Davoudi, M. (2005). Inference generation skill and text comprehension. The reading matrix.
5(1) 106-119.
Dhieb-Henia, N (2003). Evaluating the effectiveness of metacognitive strategy training for
reading research articles in an ESP context. English for Specific Purposes, 22: 387-
English for Professional Purposes Guide. (2003). Resource Guide. Gaborone: BOCODOL.
English for Professional Purposes Guide. (2005). Resource Guide. Gaborone: BOCODOL.
English for Professional Purposes. (2002). Module 2: Communication skills and statement
writing. Gaborone: BOCODOL.
English for Professional Purposes. (2002). Module 3: Court procedures and cross cultural
language issues. Gaborone: BOCODOL.
Feak, C.B., Reinhart, S.M. & Sinsheimer, A. (2000). A preliminary analysis of law review
notes. English for Specific Purposes. 19(3) 197-220.
Forey, G. (2004). Workplace texts: do they mean the same for teachers and business people?
English for Specific Purposes. 23: 447-469.
Ferguson, G. (2001). If you pop over there: a corpus based study of conditional in medical
discourse. English for Specific Purposes. 20 (1) 61-82.
Harris, S. (1992). Reaching out in legal education: Will EALP be there? English for Specific
Purposes. 11: 19-32.
Jackson, J. (2004). Case-based teaching in a bilingual context: Perceptions of business faculty
in Hong Kong. English for Specific Purposes. 23: 213-232.
Koda, K. (2007). Reading and Language Learning: Crosslinguistic constraints on second
language reading development. A Journal of Research in Language Studies. 57(1): 1-

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Leech, G.N. (1983). Principles of pragmatics. New York: Longman.

Leeser, M.J. (2007). Learner-Based factors in L2 reading comprehension and processing
grammatical form: Topic familiarity and working memory. A journal of Research in
Language Studies. 57(2) 229-270.
Li So-mui, F & Mead, K. (2000). An analysis of English in the workplace: the
communication needs of textile and clothing merchandisers. English for Specific
Purposes. 19(4) 351-368.
Lycan, W.G. (1999). Philosophy of language. London: Routledge.
Mason, E.J. & Bramble, W.J. (1978). Understanding and conducting research. Johannesburg:
Mosallem, E.A. (1984). English for police officers in Egypt. English for Specific Purposes 3:
Nassaji, H. (2007). Schema theory and knowledge-based processes in second language
reading comprehension: A need for alternative perspectives. A Journal of Research in
Language Studies. 57(1): 79-113.
Nassaji, H. (2002). Schema theory and knowledge-based processes in second language
reading comprehension: A need for alternative perspectives. A journal of Research in
Language Studies. 52(2): 439-482.
Republic of Botswana. (1997). Vision 2016. Gaborone: Presidential Task Group.
Republic of Botswana. (1994). The Revised National Policy on Education. Gaborone:
Government Printer.
Spector-Cohen, E., Kirschner, M & Wexler, C. (2001). Designing EAP reading course at
university level. English for Specific Purposes. 20: 367-386.
Vivian, S. (1984). ESP for Nursing Assistants and Home Health Workers. The ESP Journal.
3(2): 165-170
Yule, G. (1996). Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

I would like to thank the police officers who were used in this study, some colleagues who
helped me in shaping up the study and the two anonymous reviewers, for making helpful
comments on my initial draft of the paper.


Case study
Chipiya sells two donkeys to Rakwadi, his neighbour. After three months, Rakwadi sells the
two donkeys to Msomi who pays half the amount of the price charged. Six months later,
Gasemotho, who is the owner of the donkeys and has been looking for them, finds them at
Msomi’s place. He identifies them by the brand he put, and drives them away immediately
threatening to report Msomi to the police. When Rakwadi goes to Msomi to ask for the
balance of payment, Msomi refuses paying and argues that the donkeys were lost, so he could
not pay for something he no longer had.

Rakwadi decides to report the matter to the police the following day. However, before he gets
home he meets somebody who informs him that he had seen the two donkeys at Gasemotho’s
homestead, some ten kilometres away. Early in the morning, the following day, he went to
Gasemotho’s home and threatened to beat him up if he didn’t return the donkeys immediately.
Gasemotho calms him down, and explains that the donkeys had actually disappeared from the
homestead some months ago, and that he had been looking for them all along. Rakwadi would

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not listen to that, and decides to go to the police station straight away. All the four men
involved in this case are speakers of Kalanga, and are not fluent in Setswana.

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Daniel Tau

A critical review of two books on development planning in schools

Daniel R. Tau

Botswana College of Open and Distance Learning

This article critically reviews two texts, School Development Planning and
Planning Matters: The Impact of Development Planning in Primary Schools,
authored by Davies and Ellison (1992) and MacGilchrist et al (1995),
respectively. The review aims to answer the following two research
1. What does the selected literature reviewed suggest may be key
factors that promote or inhibit the effectiveness of development
planning in schools?
2. To what extent are the factors identified in the literature
applicable to the management of educational institutions in different
national and cultural contexts?

In answering these questions, the review examines the purposes of the books
using Bolam’s (1999) typology of study or intellectual projects as extended
by Wallace (2002). In addition, the review also interrogates the type of
literature each text represents and also critically reviews the main claims of
the texts.

The review observes that the Davies and Ellison’s (1992) text represents
personal views and experiences of the authors with no empirical evidence,
while the MacGilchrist et al (1995) text advances claims based on empirical
research and analysis of literature. In conclusion, the review maintains that
the latter text is more helpful in answering the research questions, promoting
appreciation of the ongoing school improvement debate and opening up
avenues for further investigation in varying contexts.

This article provides a critical review of two texts, School Development Planning and
Planning Matters: The Impact of Development Planning in Primary Schools, authored by
Davies and Ellison (1992) and MacGilchrist et al (1995), respectively. The latter text also
appears in an abridged form (MacGilchrist et al 1997) as a chapter in a book edited by Preedy
et al (1997).

The review aims to contribute towards answering the following two critical research
1. What does the selected literature reviewed suggest may be key factors
promoting or inhibiting the effectiveness of development planning in primary
and secondary schools?
2. To what extent are the factors identified in the literature applicable to the
management of educational institutions in different national and cultural

Development planning has, since the promulgation of the 1988 Education Reform Act in the
United Kingdom, become topical. Many research articles and books have been published on
the concept and most have advanced claims about the centrality of development planning to
effective school management (Maden & Tomlinson, 1991; Cuttence, 1997; Rogers, 1994;
Luis & Miles, 1992). Consequently, school heads and teachers in the United Kingdom have

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Daniel Tau

been attempting to use planning as a means of making sense of school reforms that resulted
from the introduction of the aforementioned Act (MacGilchrist, 1995).

School development planning is generally viewed as a significant aspect of educational

management. A preponderance of the literature that shares this view of school development
planning includes Maden and Tomlinson (1991) who define it as a bottom-up approach to
change, which enables schools to accommodate and respond to “top-down” reform in a
coherent way. To this end, school development planning assists schools to introduce changes
successfully (Rogers, 1994) by providing an overarching vision to ensure an integrated
growth of various aspects of the school (O’shea, 1990).

On the other hand, Cuttance (1997) presents a simpler view of school development plans as a
statement of the key programmes and activities that the school wants to change or improve.
According to Davies & Ellison (1992), such a statement provides an opportunity for forward
planning at the level of the whole school by strategically combining development needs
arising from the school’s aims and values with local and national imperatives. Therefore,
school development planning is a means to an end and a process for enabling a school to
improve the quality of teaching standards of learning (DES 1991 a). In the final analysis,
school development planning could be seen as a strategy for managing development and
change towards making schools more efficient and effective (DES 1989a).

In Botswana Tau (1997) observed that whilst schools in the Gaborone region were practicing
development planning, the application varied significantly across schools and often to the
detriment of schools’ development. Tau attributes confusion in the application of school
development planning to lack of shared understanding of the concept.

The foregoing claims and, in particular, the situation in Botswana have motivated the author
to critically review the two selected texts with a view to assisting schools better benefit from
school development planning.

Notwithstanding the existence of other texts on school development planning and other
related aspects of educational management, the present review is limited to the two texts.
These texts were selected because of their sharply contrasting approach to development
planning. For example, the text by Davies and Ellison (1992) represents a practical handbook
for educational managers and teachers on how to develop and implement development plans,
while MacGilchrist et al’s (1995) text is the result of an empirical research directed at
contributing to the school improvement debate with particular focus on planning as a strategy
for school improvement. Although the conclusions reached here are with reference to the two
texts, they could provide a useful framework for analysing and understanding other school
development planning texts, especially because this review also makes judicious reference to
other texts in its analysis of the claims made in the two selected books.

This review, inter alia, covers an introduction to and purposes of the texts, indications of why
the texts are relevant to the research questions and brief summaries of how the authors went
about with their investigations. The review discusses and evaluates the authors’ main claims
and explores their applicability to different national and cultural contexts before synthesizing
the submission.


The main purpose of Davies and Ellison’s (1992) text is to practically assist schools carry out
the process of development planning and, hence, the book deliberately

...sets out to provide the guidance necessary to enable schools to undertake

the major elements within the school development planning process. It takes

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Daniel Tau

the reader through a discussion of the nature and dimensions of planning

followed by an examination of the cycle of activity that is needed in order to
create a plan... The book puts forward an outline format for a school
development plan… (Davies & Ellison 1992: ii)

Based on Bolam’s (1999) typology of study or intellectual projects as extended by Wallace

(2002), one concludes that this text is largely a “knowledge for action” intellectual project. It
seems to be “developing theoretical…knowledge with practical application for a positive
stand-point towards current practice and policy, to inform improvement efforts inside the
prevailing ideology.” (Wallace 2002:9).

This conclusion should be understood against the fact that Davies and Ellison wrote this book
following promulgation of the 1988 Education Reform Act, which made it more or less
mandatory for schools to come up with development plans. The book clearly embraces the
ideology of the Government in place then; hence, its intention was to assist the schools to
religiously conform to statutory requirements.

The text also has elements of the “reflexive-action” intellectual project for the simple reason
that it implores educational managers to re-examine and reflect on their current practice of
development planning with a view to improving it.

On the other hand, the purpose of MacGilchrist et al’s (1995) text is to contribute to the
school improvement debate with particular focus on planning as a strategy for school
improvement. The text seeks to explore and answer the questions; “Does planning make a
difference?” and “Is it a process that enables schools to improve or it is an idea that in theory
has appeal but which is practically a different matter?” (MacGilchrist, 1995: Preface).

Unlike the first text, the latter is a research report, which clarifies the school improvement
debate and opens up further questions that might be explored by other interested parties.
Hence, in terms of Bolam’s (1999) typology of intellectual or study projects as extended by
Wallace (2002), this text qualifies for a hybrid of three intellectual projects; the knowledge
for understanding, for action and for critical evaluation. It attempts to guide teachers and
heads by what the authors call “systematic research and sensitive evaluation” and reflects the
researchers’ desire to contribute to the theoretical knowledge of understanding of school
development planning. Accordingly, the text possesses elements of “knowledge for
understanding” intellectual project. Equally evident is the desire by the authors to contribute
knowledge for guidance and improvement of management practice, which are clearly
elements of “knowledge for action” study project. Finally, the text takes a critical value stance
and seeks to point to what is wrong with school development planning by evaluating through
theory and research, which is characteristic of the “knowledge for critical evaluation”
intellectual project.


The foregoing purposes of the authors and the description of the texts put their relevance to
the research questions guiding this critical review beyond question. The text by Davies and
Ellison (1992) makes a lot of assumptions about school development planning and professes
to provide an ideal framework for the process. However, it fails to adequately discuss how
varying national and cultural contexts would impact on the development and implementation
of development plans. The text by MacGilchrist et al (1995), on the other hand, is a research
report which departs from a sceptical point regarding claims made by other authorities on the
efficacy of school development planning. In their view, some of the claims about school
development planning, and the purposes thereof, are potentially in conflict with one another.
Hence, they set out to use research to unravel issues surrounding the process and draw from
their research findings support for the claims they make about factors that promote

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effectiveness of development planning. However, while the two texts deal with issues that are
pertinent and relevant to the research questions set out above, their contrasting approaches or
methodologies to the same issues make the texts very interesting.


Davies and Ellison’s (1992) text consists of ten chapters sequenced as follows:

Chapter 1 is largely introductory and looks at the nature and dimensions of school
development planning.

Chapter 2 discusses the management of planning as a staged and cyclical process.

Chapter 3 addresses the content of school development plans.

Chapter 4 examines the roles of various stakeholders in the process of school development

Chapter 5 focuses on the format of the school development plan.

Chapter 6 & 7 present a primary school case study by providing information on which to base
a whole school development plan for a typical primary school.

Chapters 8 & 9 present a secondary school case study. Chapter 8 presents a review of the
work of the school whilst chapter 9 presents a development plan which is informed by the
review on chapter 8.

Chapter 10 has the conclusion which consists of key points that schools are advised to reflect
upon to assess their process of development planning.

The text by MacGilghrist et al (1995) is based on a research undertaken in nine primary

schools of three Local Education Authorities in the United Kingdom. Chapter five (pages 43-
57) of the book shows the main features of the research, whose findings informed the book
under review. These key elements, including research ethical considerations, sample selection
criteria, sources of evidence, data collection techniques, data analysis are outlined under the
following sections of this review.

Ethical Considerations
The researchers opted for non-participatory observations so as to maintain an as objective as
possible perspective. Confidentiality and anonymity were upheld. Parents had to consent to
the use of their children as subjects. The investigation confined itself to the formal life of

Sample Selection Criteria

Whilst the sample selection criteria were determined by the research team, the size of the
sample reflected funding available. The focus on primary schools was meant to build research
data for this level of schooling. The criteria for selection of schools were to ensure those
selected provided as wide and as varied a sample as possible. Variation in size, type, status,
catchment area and organization were all considered vital. The sampled schools were
representative of urban, sub-urban and semi-rural settings and had been involved in
development planning for varying periods.

Sources of Evidence
The main sources of data were head teachers and class teachers. To enhance validity of data

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other sources were used such as governors. Documentary evidence came in the form of school
development plans. Two classroom observations at each school were drawn on to verify the
head teachers and class teachers’ accounts. External sources of evidence were also drawn on
to cross check the validity of data obtained from schools as well as to provide wider context
for understanding the data. The variety of respondents facilitated triangulation of accounts.

Data collection Techniques

The researchers employed a combination of qualitative and quantitative data collection
techniques. Semi-structured interviews were used alongside classroom observations, analysis
of sample plans and questionnaires.

Each interviewer operated within the confines of a code of practice devised to minimize bias.
The code included preparation of respondents, adherence to questions and their wording, use
of agreed probes and prompts, and recording of responses.

Interviews of various sources were conducted between 1992 and 1994. Classroom
observations were carried out in four faces between 1992 and 1993. A survey of the 135
LEAs in the United Kingdom was conducted through a questionnaire.

Data Analysis
The chosen analysis techniques ranged from detailed content analysis of interview responses
to qualitative and quantitative analysis of the LEA data, documentary evidence, classroom
observations and where appropriate pupils’ work. Statistical Package for Social Sciences
(SPSS) was used to facilitate analysis of coded data and to help with exploration of the
complex triangulation possibilities.


The section hereunder presents and evaluates the authors’ main claims seriatim. Commonly
held claims are however presented and evaluated simultaneously.

Common claims
The first shared claim relates to the need for effective development planning to be based on
information gathered through what the authors have variously called review (Davies and
Ellison 1992) or audit (MacGilchrist et al, 1995). This claim finds support in the literature on
development planning. Whilst Davies and Ellison (1992) do not make much reference to other
authorities as evidenced by their direct reference to only four sources for their whole book,
MacGilchrist et al (1995) used numerous authorities to back their claims. Roberts (1994:6),
DES (1989a: 14), Rogers (1994:37) and Holly and Southworth (1989:46), all of whom have
propounded models of development planning, have identified this review stage as crucial in
their models. They have variously called it needs assessment, audit and/or review of current
practice, which they agree leads to a common vision for the future.

The literature cited is mainly based on European and other Western contexts. The claim’s
applicability there is thus beyond question.

The second shared claim relates to the need for development planning to have internal and
external worth by ensuring that there is internal and external accountability. Unfortunately,
there is no clear-cut opinion on this claim. The aspect of the claim that a development plan
provides a coherent picture of the school’s activities and enables staff to plan and prioritise
their work tends to take motivation of the teachers and people for granted. It assumes that
once a development plan is in place, staff would have the same interpretation of it and act in
unison. In my experience, different people, depending on their level of operation, their value
system and micro-political orientation look at and act on plans differently. A leader does not

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normally get to see this in advance but during implementation or post implementation.
Unfortunately “no one can exert absolute control over anyone else” (Wallace 2002:5).
Equally doubtful is the aspect of the claim that a school development plan can act as an
effective basis for external audit. External audit usually comes to schools in the form of
inspections. In Botswana the inspectorate’s agenda is always a guarded secret. Schools have
no way of knowing what is expected of them, as such their development plans are inward
looking and do not help them to prepare for inspections. In this case, this claim would have
little or no applicability to the Botswana context, whereas the claim that says development
plans serve as basis for resource bids may be sustainable. It would be easy to attach values to
activities and projects in a plan and justify those with relative ease to the powers that be.

The third shared claim relates to the process of developing and managing a development plan.
Davies and Ellison (1992) stress the cyclical nature of the process and that each stage has to
be followed to the letter (page 11). Similarly, MacGilchrist et al (1995) are emphatic about
the need for a plan to have the characteristics of their “corporate plan”, if it is to be effective
and have “discernible improvements in learning opportunities for pupils” (page 205). The
latter authorities stress the above despite their earlier misgivings about how planning was
portrayed. They had observed that “the development planning process, itself, is portrayed as a
rational approach to the management of change; a sequential process, the different stages of
which form a planning circle…” (ibid p. 9)

One wonders if this is not hypocrisy by the latter authorities. They have seemingly taken an
about-turn without much justification. Whilst it may not be easy to challenge the validity of
their contentions about the characteristics of the corporate plan, it would be naïve of them to
imply or conclude that a school development plan should necessarily bear the characteristics
of their ‘corporate plan’ if it is to be effective. The fact that there are numerous models of
development planning such as those propounded by Holly and Southworth (1989), Des
(1989a), Rogers (1994) and Roberts (1994) in addition to theirs and the one advanced by
Davies and Ellison (1992) is evidence enough that there exists a diversity of thoughts on this
topical subject. Schools have staff capable of applying their minds to development planning
and deciding on approaches and models that suit their particular contexts. What they mainly
or only need to bear in mind, in my view, are principles of development planning. A blueprint
can only serve to undermine the professional integrity of teachers. One cannot agree more
with Roberts (1994:10) when she observes that:

The intention is not for schools to follow these guidelines slavishly…They

are suggestions, prompts and reminders, but not dictates…They are intended
to frame development planning, not to provide a step-by-step painting by
numbers approach.

These observations by Roberts (1994) resonate with the contention by Wallace (1994) that
planning must be flexible to take account of changing circumstances contrary to the stance
taken by the texts under review, which leave little or no room for flexibility. The prescriptive
nature of the model proposed by Davies and Ellison (1992) would not earn it credibility in
schools that believe in generating their own knowledge through reflective practice,
irrespective of their national contexts. MacGilchrist et al (1992), in their theoretical model to
school development planning, start by stressing complexity of effective school development
plans. This arguably has potential for switching off educational managers and teachers alike
from the outset.

The next claim that an effective development plan is that which is owned by all stakeholders
of the school is plausible in my view. Whilst Davies and Ellison (1992) part of the claim does
not appear to be backed by empirical evidence, MacGilchrist et al (1995) have arrived at their
claim by gathering empirical evidence. ILEA (1985) and Fullan (1985) both in Holly and

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Daniel Tau

Southworth (1989) share the claim.

Generally people find meaning and feel their worth to an organisation if they are genuinely
involved in the operations of the organisation. This would apply to various national and
cultural contexts, including Botswana where Tau (1997:83) concluded that “School
development planning thrived in schools that had open and nurturing cultures and genuinely
involved staff in decision making process.”

The final claim shared by both texts is that development planning tends to be effective if the
written plan is accessible to all stakeholders. This is another plausible claim because people
will only know what they are supposed to do if they can see the plan, use it with full
understanding and can contribute to its revision from time to time. People’s comprehension of
language in all contexts is variable. Hence accessibility of the plan should include ensuring
that the language used is simple and clear enough to all stakeholders of the school.

Davies and Ellison (1992) make two claims that will be discussed simultaneously. One is that
if a plan is to be effectively implemented at the classroom level, it must be constructed
through a bottom-up process, which involves all staff. A seemingly contradictory claim is that
if development planning is to be effective, it has to be executed at three distinct levels of
strategic, tactical and operational planning. The understanding with the latter is that strategic
planning would first be executed at the highest level (governors and head) followed by
tactical planning and finally operational planning where general staff come in to align their
operations with the strategic and tactical framework decided for them. The issue between
these two claims lies with who “calls the shots.” In a bottom up approach the “shots” are
called from the bottom and in the latter they are called from the top. These claims are
conflicting to say the least. The apparent conflict might be indicative of the complexity that
characterizes development planning which MacGilchrist et al (1995), Luis and Miles (1992)
and Hargreaves and Hopkins (1991) have variously noted. The choice between the top-down
and bottom-up approaches in management can also be problematic when decisions made at
either level are unacceptable to the other. As Wallace (2001:12) rightly observes that “there is
a strong propensity for unintended consequences to arise when action at one system level is
taken to affect people at another.”

Coming to MacGilchrist et al (1995), they have stated that development planning is likely to
be effective if it recognizes the complexity of the school as an organisation, the culture
prevalent therein and complexity of bringing about change. This claim is supported by
Hargreaves and Hopkins (1991) and Luis and Miles (1992). The sentiments in support have
been expressed following studies of varying contexts. Whilst the claim cannot be challenged
directly, it is unclear how many schools would be able to give due recognition to the needs
implied herein. Just how practical is the need to unravel complexities of school management,
cultural orientation, effectively integrate change management strategies, and develop and
implement a school development plan? Is this manageable or are we suggesting managing the
“unmanageable”? One is tempted to view development planning suggested here as a
complex education change process that some managers may not cope with. In this regard,
Wallace (2002:2) has cautioned that “managing complex educational change effectively is a
humble, largely backstage process of coping with complexity over which control is inherently

Whilst this claim may inspire teachers to stretch their imagination and intuition as they
embark on development planning, it might prove cumbersome across national and cultural
contexts to implement its intentions.

The other claim that development planning is effective where it is well led and the leadership

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is shared is most welcome. The claim has support of Roberts (1994), Holly and Southworth
(1989) and Rogers (1994) and Tau (1997). The application of this claim to various contexts is
seemingly unquestionable.

One significant and arguably acceptable claim to me is that the greater the sense of control
over and confidence in the planning process, the more effective the process. Anecdotal
evidence shows that where ever there is proficiency over a process it is more likely to be
effectively executed. It would thus not be surprising for development planning to be more
effective where stakeholders know what they are doing and are able to follow the process
through. The only snag in Botswana is that teachers are centrally employed and transferred
willy-nilly. Teachers are often moved to other settings whilst they are in the process of
mastering different management approaches of their schools. They do not often find the same
approaches to management at their next schools. This may thus work against teachers’ efforts
to gain knowledge of and control over school development planning or any aspect of
management, for that matter.

The final and valid claim made by MacGilchrist et al (1995) is that development planning is
more effective where it encourages and supports teachers’ own learning and impacts on
pupils’ progress and achievement. Schools are about teaching and learning and any
management process geared towards improving them will be appreciated and thus found
credible. In support of this, Rogers (1994) and Holly and Southworth (1989) stress the need
for development planning to be expressed in terms of improvements sought in teaching and

In conclusion, my overall view of the Davies and Ellison’s (1992) text is that it represents
personal views and experiences of its authors. Their claims regarding factors that promote or
inhibit effectiveness of school development planning are not based on empirical research.
There is also very little reference to ideas of other competent authorities. The text does not
therefore help much in terms of getting one closer to answering, in a convincing manner, the
research questions of this critical review. MacGilchrist et al’s (1995) text on the other hand
comes up with claims that are based on empirical evidence and analysis of literature of
several texts. The latter claims do help one to appreciate the ongoing school improvement
debate and open up avenues for further investigation. That said, there are doubts regarding
their claims because they are based on evidence obtained from a small and narrow sample.

The claims made by the two texts regarding the first research question on factors that promote
or inhibit effectiveness of development planning are that the process should be based on
review or audit of current practice or situation, the process should demonstrate internal and
external worth, it should have sequential stages all of which should be observed, it should be
owned by all stakeholders and that the written plan should be accessible, flexible, concise,
understandable, usable and clear to all stakeholders. Davies and Ellison (1992) also came up
with two other independent claims viz: for a development plan to be effective it should be
constructed through a bottom-up approach and that there should be three distinct levels of
planning. MacGilchrist et al (1995) on the other hand claims that an effective plan is that
which recognizes complexity of schools, their culture and the complexity of bringing about
change. They also state that a plan should be well led and such leadership should be shared,
that there should be greater sense of control and confidence over development planning and
that the process should support teachers’ learning and achievement of pupils.

The implication of the foregoing is that the opposite of the above factors would inhibit
effectiveness of development planning.

As stated in the above overall evaluation, the claims are not all convincing, mainly because

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
Daniel Tau

one text has no empirical research basis and the other is based on evidence of too small a
sample of the same type of schools.

The claims are based on educational developments and research carried out in the United
Kingdom. They do not all find support in the setting of their origin. Their applicability to
different national and cultural contexts thus remains suspect.

Based on the foregoing, one would do well to suggest that the study by MacGilchrist et al
(1995) should be replicated in other national and cultural contexts, probably with an enlarged
sample of schools. Such would enable would-be researchers to put the claims by the authors
to test and in the process verify their validity and applicability to varying contexts.

Cuttance, P. (1997). Monitoring educational quality, in Peedy, M. Glatter, R. and Levacic, R.
(Eds) Educational Management: Strategy, Quality and Resources. Buckingham:
Open University Press.
Davies, B. and Ellison, L. (1992). School Development Planning. Harlow: Longman.
DES. (1989a). Planning for School Development, Advice for Governors, Head-teachers and
Teachers. London: HMSO.
DES. (1991a). Development Planning: A Practical Guide, London: HMSO.
Hargreaves, D. & Hopkins, D. (1991). The Empowered School: The Management and
Practice of Development Planning. London: Cassell.
Holly, P. & Southworth, G. (1989). The Developing School. Lewes: Falmer Press.
Luis, K.S. & Miles, M.B. (1992). Improving the Urban High School: What Works and Why.
London: Cassell.
MacGilchrist, B. Mortimore, P. Savage, J. & Beresford, C. (1995). Planning Matters: The
impact of Development Planning in Primary Schools. London: Paul Chapman.
MacGilchrist, B. Mortimore, P. Savage, J. & Beresford, C. (1997). The impact of
Development Planning in Primary Schools, in Preedy, M., Glatter, R. and Levacic, R.
(Eds) Educational Management: Strategy, Quality and Resources. Buckingham:
Open University Press
Maden, M. & Tomlison, J. (1991) Planning for School Development. Stoke-on-Tent:
Trentham Books.
O’shea, A.T. (1990). Planning and Implementing School Development. Department of
Education: Northern Ireland.
Roberts, I. (1994) Process Guidelines for Development in Schools, Ministry of Education:
Rogers, R. (1994) How to Write a School Development Plan, Oxford: Heinemann.
Tau, D. R. (1997). A Study of the Implementation of School Development Plans for a Sample
of Secondary Schools in the Gaborone Region of Botswana. Unpublished Masters
Dissertation: University of Bath.
Wallace, M. (1994). Planning for Change in Turbulent Times. London: Cassell.
Wallace, M. (2001). “School Renewal on a Grand Scale: Managing Complex Initiatives to
Restructure Local Provision of Schooling in England” Paper Presented at the Annual
Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle.
Wallace, M. (2002). Managing the Unmanageable; Coping with Complex Educational

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
Daniel Tau

Change. Inaugural Lecture given at the University of Bath

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009
Stanslaus Tichapondwa Modesto

Project management in distance education

Stanslaus Tichapondwa Modesto

Botswana College of Open and Distance Learning

The article focuses on project management practices in distance education
organizations. Two aims are objectified, namely, to establish:
a. the level of awareness that DE practitioners have about project
management; and
b. whether organizations have in place any strategies for project

The One-Shot case study design is used. Treatment is given to a single group
by having them participate in a project. Observation of participants will then
be made to assess the effect of the treatment. Data are sourced from the
summary of a case study about course development at the Botswana College
of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL), and responses to a
questionnaire circulated to 40 professionals in the same organization. These
are drawn from different departments. Analysis of the case study showed that
lack of knowledge of how to manage a project compromises quality of
product, and can be costly in terms of time and resources. Results from the
questionnaire corroborate conclusions from the case study. From the
findings, it is concluded that DE providers do not have strategies in place,
and do well to come up with policies and procedures on project management.
One of the recommendations is that such organizations should expose their
professionals to courses dealing with fundamentals of project management.

When an open and distance learning (ODL) institution is set up, expectations are raised.
Usually, the institution is expected to fill in the gap that conventional organizations are unable
to fill in many areas of learning. Primarily, there will be demand for programmes from
individuals, the general public, the private sector, corporate organizations, and non-
governmental organizations. The institution would be caught up in a situation where it has to
be seen to be responsive to national needs, but at the same time offer quality and credible

For an emerging organization, this often presents a challenge of significant magnitude mainly
because while it has more than enough problems in addressing its strategic plan, the
increasing demand for service from various societal quarters does have a constraining impact.
The constraint is not only on the capacity to develop courses, but also on general management
and supporting learners. The institution will find itself in term ‘a state of flux’ where priorities
are destabilized and human and technological resources get stretched beyond limit. Despite
that, the organization has to create the right image by offering quality programmes. It is often
noted that professionals appointed to co-ordinate distance education (DE) programmes,
struggle to run successful projects although prior to their assignment to new responsibilities
they had been successful classroom practitioners and administrators in conventional
institutions where the face-to-face mode characterizes educational praxis. Put differently, the
problem is the lack of informed procedures in handling projects. This observation provides a
context for this study, which seeks to answer these two questions:
a. What is the level of awareness of professionals within the organization about
project management?
b. What strategies does the organization have in place to handle new projects as

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they are introduced?

The major assumption for researching into the questions is that professionals whose
awareness about project management is enhanced are likely to handle projects more
successfully. Based on that, the present study sets out to achieve two aims, namely to:
a. establish the extent to which DE practitioners within BOCODOL are aware
of the potential of ideas about principles of project management, and
b. establish whether BOCODOL has in place strategies for project management
in order to offer quality programmes in response to increasing demand

A scenario experienced at the Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning

(BOCODOL) is summarized later for further discussion.

Project Management! What is the fuss all about anyway? DE is not at all a new phenomenon.
For decades, ODL projects have been undertaken, successes have been recorded, and new
organizations have emerged. So what is the point about project management? Incidentally,
every DE practitioner manages projects. It is just that some do not recognise it that way. We
all work on tasks that are unique and involve people who do not usually work together. In the
present section, theoretical views about that field of enquiry are posited to provide the basis
upon which the investigation is conducted, and through which the methodology, findings,
conclusions, and recommendations are examined.

What is Project Management?

According to Lewis (2002:2) “a project is a multitask job that has performance, time, cost,
and scope requirements that is done only one time”.

A project should, therefore, have performance indicators, a definite starting and ending point
(time), a budget (cost), and a clearly defined scope or magnitude of work to be done (PCTS).
Typically, a project involves several people on an ad-hoc basis, and more often than not,
management takes place with a limited set of resources. A simple example of a project is the
preparation for a graduation ceremony in an institution. A number of tasks have to be
performed, and the cost for each will be determined. Preparation and the actual event of
graduation have to be expedited within a given period of time. The scope includes all the
activities put together, and the time they take for successful staging of the ceremony after
which there will not be another graduation until another group has to graduate. Juran (cited in
Lewis, 2002) has referred to a project as a problem scheduled for solution. On the basis of this
definition, Lewis (2002:4) defines project management as “facilitating the planning,
scheduling, and controlling of all activities that must be done to achieve project objectives.
Those objectives include performance, cost, time and scope”.

It should be borne in mind that success in project management is not a given. The Standish
Group ( has found that only about 17% of projects meet the original
PCTS target, 50% must have the target changed, and the remaining 33% are actually
cancelled. Cancellation has cost implications, as part of the budget is completely lost. Lientz
and Rea (2001:xvii) put it even more graphically thus:

Studies repeatedly point out that 30% to 45% of projects fail prior to
completion. Over half of all projects overrun their budgets and schedules by
200% or more…Failure and problems continue despite improved tools and

Thus, if the failure rate of projects can be that high, it stands to reason that DE practitioners
should learn about principles of project management if only to develop awareness of what

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makes for a successful project, and what can be done to reduce the acknowledged failure rate.
It is assumed that systematic accessing of that wisdom would lead to informed approaches to
projects on hand. The key to project management is to get a team. When the team is in place,
get the team members all going in the same direction by clarifying the mission of the project.
Steps in Managing a Project

Define the Problem

Develop solution options

Plan the Project

What must be done?

Who will do it?
How will it be done?
When must it be done?
How much will it cost?
Why do we need to do it?

Execute the Plan

Monitor and Control Progress

Are we on target?
If not, what must be done?
What else did we learn?

Close Project

What was done well?

What should be improved?
What else did we learn?

(Adapted from Lewis, 2002: 15)

That is quite a feat, which involves several phases.

The following are the steps that can be followed in managing a project.

In addition, one can also access steps identifiable in the project management process on

The actual steps of managing a project are fairly straightforward. However, accomplishing
them may not be. For the simple reason that the distance education practitioners find
themselves overwhelmed with numerous other tasks competing for attention, the application
of the above flow chart is likely to increase the success rate for a given project. It is, however,
noteworthy that a typical project is executed in a team setting as briefly explained below.

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In the words of Hayes (2002:2):

Essentially, the message of teamwork is delegation and empowerment. Team

working is all about passing responsibility over so that members can get on
with what they have to do without continually having to refer to higher levels
in their organization.

Most projects in a DE organization will involve an ad hoc group of people working under a
Project Manager. Team members are stakeholders, and their stake should be appreciated as it
gives guidelines on the politics that inevitably surrounds projects. For example, in a project to
evaluate delivery of a programme, your team members might include representatives from the
learner support, course development, finance, research, learners, media, and probably a few
others. Each will have a different stake and without their contribution, the success of the
project will be limited. Members are known as the visible team. A visible team refers to
project participants who can be seen physically, named, talked to, negotiated with, begged to
do certain things, and cajoled.

In there is discussion about the opposite team, namely,

the invisible team. As the term sounds, the invisible team is the range of factors that cannot be
seen physically, but nevertheless impinge on the outcome of the project. Examples are
numerous, and from the researcher’s experience, the following apply:
i. Burnout by team members
ii. Ignorance about the project
iii. Resistance to new ideas
iv. Negative attitude
v. Lack of training in DE principles
vi. Inadequate self-concept
vii. Competing projects
viii. Limited resources
ix. Conflict of interest
x. Poor leadership
xi. Lack of organizational policy on project management
xii. Lack of experience
xiii. Poor communication
xiv. Personality conflicts

Often, the invisible team has the potential to derail a well-intentioned project, and the project
leader and the team members are well advised to take cognizance of these when embarking on
the project.

It is noteworthy that in every project there are three basic elements, namely, the needs of the
task itself, the needs of the team, and the needs of the individual. Often these needs are in
conflict. Sometimes the temptation is to let the short term needs of one element overshadow
the others. This often produces a backlash later, which disrupts all three elements. The project
manager should strive to have them overlapping as much as possible, in order to produce
better results from project team members.

As Baume, Martin and Yorke (2002:19) put it; principled project management achieves four
aims, namely: stimulating developments in learning and teaching; securing the widest
possible involvement of stakeholders in the take up; implementation of best practice; and
establishing a clear link between quality assessment results and funding. Essentially,
therefore, best practices in project management ensure quality purveyance of DE services.
The pursuit of quality has taken centre stage in ODL organizations, notably those that interact

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more closely with the Commonwealth of Learning. Towards that end Tau and Thutoetsile
(cited in Koul and Kanwan, 2006:26) make the following observation applicable to any
distance education provider:

It must be noted that the commitment to quality assurance principles and the
pursuit of excellence by the staff have to be entrenched in the culture of the
organization and are not dependent solely on loyalty to the institutional

This observation serves as a reminder that ODL organizations must strive for quality service
by putting in place operational policies and procedures about project management.

The One-Shot Case Study design (cf. Tuckman, 1972:104) was preferred. In the design,
treatment (X) is given to a single group. Observation (O) is then made on the participants to
assess the effect of the treatment. In the present study, 40 project participants were observed
during a period of twelve months after which they were also requested to complete a
questionnaire in situ. Participation in the project constituted the treatment, while their
responses to the questionnaire served as the dependent variable. Sampling was based on the
capacities served by the participants in the conduct of the distance education project. Course
developers (8), course tutors (12), administrators (10), people from the finance section (4),
people from the Information Technology section (4), and course editors (4) were identified.
Data were thus collected at two levels. Firstly, data were collected from general observation,
leading to the drawing of conclusions, and secondly from responses to the questionnaire.
Results were not classified according to a particular group simply because the objective was
to obtain a general picture about the way project management is perceived in the organization,
rather than getting minor details of what each section thought. The questions (see table on
views about project management) sought data on the level of awareness (Q1–Q8), that is, the
extent to which participants were aware what project management is. Q9–Q14, on the other
hand sought to establish whether the institution had any project management strategies in
place. All the 40 participants responded because the survey was conducted in situ.

The first source was a narrative description of the project, while the second source was
feedback from the questionnaire circulated to participants. Data were then analysed and
conclusions drawn. The narrative description of the project is treated first.


It all started with rationalizations about avoiding re-inventing the wheel for the proposed two
diplomas in Business Management and Human Resources Management. Suitable material to
be adopted off-the shelf were, therefore, required to start offering the programmes. After
enquiries with several distance education providers in the SADC Region, the College
identified study material from INTEC College as the most suitable. However, analysis of the
materials revealed three issues, namely, that:

• the course materials could not be adopted in their original form

• there was need to adapt them to the situation in Botswana, at least for Part 1
• for Part 2, the materials were found to be inadequate, so new study units had
to be originated.

This marked the beginning of a course development task that, among other things, called for
performance of many related tasks required to urgently meet one of the strategic goals. A
Steering Committee comprising in-house stakeholders was put in place with representatives
from different departments. Planning meetings were scheduled in order to map out best ways
to ensure delivery sooner than later. The targeted date for the delivery of the adapted or

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customized course (Part 1) was set.

Planning meetings started with enthusiasm as well as scepticism as typical characteristics.

The few voices with some relevant background in course development were drowned in the
sea of common sense rather than professional sense that characterised the weekly sessions. In
some cases, ideas that could have been of some use were tacitly thrown out of the window by
popular sentiment and whims. Schedules were made with characteristic enthusiasm. In a
single day, writers were trained to start the writing process, and thereafter were expected to
report regularly to Programme Development Co-ordinators mindful of the targeted date.

This was followed by a period during which delays by writers became too prolonged to
sustain. Many writers dropped out, and in a number of cases without informing course co-
ordinators about their decision. Initially, resources had been expended in the training process,
and engaging new writers at times meant re-training, but in most cases there was no training
(due to pressure for time) as people with qualifications considered to be relevant were
speedily taken on board to continue with the work. In some cases there was anxiety on the
part of co-ordinators regarding how to handle course content in areas where expertise was
lacking. Meanwhile, enquiries about the resumption date for the diplomas were coming thick
and fast from prospective clients, and stakes to meet the deadline were raised even higher.
The co-ordinators’ situation reflected a new state of affairs where they were overwhelmed by
units from writers, requiring immediate attention.

The editors identified weaknesses that needed attention by the co-ordinators, who in turn
referred such work back to writers. Further delays were experienced, and the anxiety
escalated. The original deadline was shifted, and new schedules were drawn up. Steering
Committee meetings became frequent and long. Some team members started excusing
themselves from meetings, citing commitment to projects of comparable significance.
Essentially, this reflected a dramatic decline in the enthusiasm and focus that typified the
early days of the project.

The project team got worried about the recurring failure to meet deadlines, and appointed a
subcommittee to establish factors which were leading to the failure to follow schedules and to
implement suggested solutions. The meeting identified six specific challenges:

• unplanned activities and failure to prioritise tasks

• overdependence on part-time staff and lack of control over them
• deficient professional authority
• deceptive reporting by course co-ordinators
• poor monitoring and evaluation of course development processes
• laxity and low level commitment

Despite the findings, the process went on with diminishing enthusiasm much in evidence. To
compound the situation, new tasks and responsibilities to be handled by the same participants
were forthcoming. Team members who had expressed scepticism right from the beginning
dutifully reminded the Steering Committee that they had warned them against being over-
ambitious. Writers continued to drop out, re-scheduling remained the order of the day, and the
target date was not met. It was further shifted to the future. Some progress was made, but not
good enough to meet the new deadline. This was shifted further by two months when the first
four out of seven courses were ready for distribution to learners.

Reference is also made, though briefly, to a comparable project conducted at the Zimbabwe
Open University (ZOU). In 1997 projects to originate several degree programmes were
undertaken. A case in point was the B.A. English and Communication Studies degree. After

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Stanslaus Tichapondwa Modesto

constituting the Steering Committee and training writers, challenges similar to those at
BOCODOL were experienced. Writers reneged and dropped out; there were delays in
submitting study modules; important deadlines were missed; and there was re-training and re-
scheduling on a frequent basis.

The following conclusions can be drawn from the Case Study:

• Previous experience in conventional schools is a useful starting point for

team members to make basic decisions at the beginning of the project, but
does not guarantee quality results
• Scheduling target dates is of no consequence when team members lack
knowledge about how to manage targets
• Enthusiasm spurs the team members on, but is of limited value if not
supported with ideas about project management
• When some team members are sceptical about the project (a negative
attitude), that can lead to loss of motivation by the enthusiastic ones
• Resisting progressive ideas can impact negatively on attainment of project
• Investing more time to train writers is a safeguard against dropping out and
delays in performance
• Re-training part-time writers and frequent re-scheduling are costly both in
terms of time and the project budget
• Prolonged delays from writers, being obliged to engage in too many projects
at the same time, and the lack of specialism in the area being co-ordinated
can result in high levels of anxiety for staff and increasing loss of interest in
the project


The following are the results from the questionnaires filled in by the 40 members drawn from
the organization. Analysis falls into two parts, namely, responses that show the level of
awareness that members have about project management and the strategies at the disposal of
the organization in running projects.

Views about Project Management (N = 40)

Question Yes % No % Not sure %
1. Does your organization have a strategic plan? 90 0 10
2. Are you familiar with what the Strategic Plan requires you to do in
75 10 15
your department?
3. Do you have a common understanding of strategic goals with
15 65 20
members from other departments?
4. Are there times when you are required to do some tasks (projects)
78 5 17
that are outside your annual work plan?
5. Do the tasks referred to above interfere with your scheduled work
85 0 15
6. Does the doing of such projects disturb you from meeting the
85 0 15
deadlines of your already scheduled work plan?
7. Do projects bring conflicts among members of different
95 0 5
departments in the organization?
8. Are you well-informed about steps to be followed in project
15 35 50
9. Does your organization have a policy on how to manage a project? 0 87 13
10. Is there any systematic planning whenever there is a new project
13 17 70
to be done in your organization?
11. Do the different departments in your organization have a shared 7 80 13

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understanding on how to work on new projects?

12. Should there be regular inter-departmental interaction on how to
68 5 27
manage projects in the organization?
13. Do you personally need to learn any project management skills so
77 10 13
as to deal more effectively with the situation at your work place?
14. Is project management in any way linked with time management? 90 0 10


The first 8 questions are concerned with the extent to which respondents are aware of the state
of flux in a distance education organization.

Although the highest percentage of staff (see Q1) is aware that the organization has a strategic
plan (90%), only 75% (see response to Q2) are aware what they are expected to do in their
departments. On the other hand, 65% claim that there is no common appreciation of strategic
goals among staff from different departments.

The limited awareness confirmed by the statistics thus shows the lack of understanding that a
project has performance, time, cost, and scope requirements (referred to in the literature
review section). This also confirms the observation already made that the lack of awareness of
project management principles results in the constant changes of target dates and overrunning
the budget.

Statistics regarding awareness of some aspects of project management are overwhelming. For
example, in response to Q4, 78% confirmed that the organization requires them to undertake
projects that are additional to the normal ones for the annual plan. With only 15% who are not
sure, an overwhelming 85% concur that the additional projects interfere with their scheduled
work plan (see response to Q5). A further 85 % argue that additional projects make them fail
to meet scheduled deadlines. Except for only 5%, respondents are unanimous (95%) that the
introduction of a project brings conflicts among members (cf. Q7). Response to Q8 is
probably the most revealing about project management awareness. As many as 35% admit
that they are not well-informed about steps that should be taken in project management, while
an overwhelming 50% are not sure what project management entails.

Questions 9 to 14 sought to establish whether the organization has any strategies in place for
handling a given project.

Question 9 shows that the organization does not have a project management policy in place as
confirmed by 87% of the respondents. The response to Q10 shows that the majority of
respondents (70%) are not sure whether the way projects are managed passes the test of
systematic planning. In fact 17% categorically say there is no systematic planning, a pre-
requisite for project management as discussed in the literature review. In terms of inter-
departmental common understanding (Q11), a total of 80 % of the participants say there is
none, while 13% are not sure of the existence of such an organizational strategy. The
commonly held view as to whether there should be regular interaction among members (Q12)
is that 68% think this would be an important organizational strategy. The need to learn more
about project management strategies (Q13) is supported by a high percentage of 77%.
Regarding the connection between project management and time management (Q14), 90% of
respondents concur that their time is adversely affected, and quality, which is an important
aspect of project management is compromised.

Conclusions about the level of awareness and organizational strategies can be drawn from the
foregoing results. It is from the conclusions that implications are drawn and recommendations

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Regarding the level of awareness, it can be concluded that firstly, although most participants
acknowledge that the College has a strategic plan, there are others who are not sure about it.
As long as even the smallest percentage is not familiar with requirements, and as long as there
is no common understanding of strategic goals, the members will lack unity of perception
relative to project management. Secondly, there is awareness that during the year, staff find
themselves obliged to undertake additional tasks. Thirdly, additional projects inevitably have
a destabilizing effect on work already planned, resulting in failure to meet deadlines.
Fourthly, where there is no shared understanding, misunderstandings and conflicts arise.
Fifthly, the majority of staff either has no knowledge of project management or their
understanding is limited.

Regarding strategies at the disposal of the organization, it can be concluded that where the
organization does not have a policy in place, there can be no systematic approach in managing
a project. Further, there is no strategy on how best to work on a given project. The third
conclusion is that there is a need for members to come together to share ideas about project
management. Fourthly, it can be concluded that individuals would benefit from being taught
skills about project management. Finally, where there is no systematic management of a
project, the individual’s time for other responsibilities, as well as that for the project itself, is
interfered with.

What argument is there in support of consciously developing project management skills to

professionals when results were achieved without such knowledge? (cf. BOCODOL Case
Study). Although the majority of respondents (77%) say that they personally need to learn
such skills, they managed to deliver! The main point, nevertheless, is that what was achieved
was achieved at a cost as demonstrated in the Case Study. The cost was in terms of time taken
to complete the project and the unplanned-for budget in re-training writers when others
dropped out. The overarching implication is, therefore, that if the project team had the
requisite knowledge, they would have delivered in a shorter time, with minimum re-
scheduling and re-training.

The case study shows that competing tasks create pressure, which leads to anxiety and loss of
motivation, a point corroborated in the response to one of the questions in the questionnaire.
Team members claim that such a situation interferes with planned deadlines. This implies that
for successful project management to occur, an organization should prioritise its projects, and
desist from acquiescing to every request for service when resources are inadequate. The risk
for compromising quality is real.

In response to one of the questions, only 15% are aware of steps to be followed in project
management. From the case study it is clear that the few team members who are
knowledgeable tend to be overshadowed by the majority who are not. This finding is an
important contribution to all organizations pre-occupied with distance education. Basically, it
raises awareness that the absence of a shared understanding of principles of project
management eventuates in all manner of negative repercussions. For a fact, the few who are
knowledgeable get frustrated, while the many who are not, tend to be sceptical and resistant to
innovative ideas. They proceed through trial and error, which is costly in terms of time,
money, quality and personal relationships. This is clear case when ignorance becomes a
serious overhead expense to the organization, and the invisible team (alluded to in the
literature review) interferes with effective management.

From one of the questions, 87% admit that the organization does not have a policy on project
management. This implies that an organization without a policy will handle projects by
intuition and on the basis of common sense as confirmed in the Case Study. It is, therefore,

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strongly recommended that ODL organizations do well to come up with clear policies and
procedures on project management, and expose their staff to short and certificate awarding
courses in the area. The benefits are bound to be phenomenal, considering that there is
willingness by professionals to learn (77%); and that there is awareness that if they learn
about project management they will be able to manage their time better (90%).

It does not look like common practice to worry about project management in many
institutions. The point is that DE organizations should make it common practice. This
becomes imperative in view of the systematicity implied in the project management steps
proposed earlier. A course in project management is, therefore, a sine qua non. In addition to
courses about project management, a strong recommendation is also made that organizations
should start exposing their staff to courses in the area of change management, time
management, and quality assurance, which are demonstrably synchronized with project
management, and the core business of an ODL organization.

In conclusion, the lack of awareness and the lack of policies on project management in one
organization (cf. the case study) is not a peculiarity of that organization alone. In the brief
allusion to ZOU and BOCODOL, it was demonstrated that the challenges are shared. That
scenario can be extrapolated to similar organizations worldwide. Having a sound knowledge
of what project management is; the phases of a project; characteristics of a winning project
team; and quality assurance becomes mandatory. That means drawing from ideas detailed in
the literature review, it is possible to build up one’s capacity to manage a project with
increased efficiency. At the heart of successful project management is the spirit of teamwork.
Typically, a project team is consciously delegated and empowered to stir progress aware of
the importance of time, cost, and product quality.

Baume, C., Martin, P. & Yorke, M. (2002). Managing Educational Development Projects.
London: Kogan Page
Hayes, N. (2002). Managing Teams: A strategy for success. London: Thomson Learning
Koul, B. N. & A. Kanwan (eds.). (2006). Perspectives on Distance Education: Towards a
Culture of Quality. Vancouver: Commonwealth of Learning
Lewis, J. P. (2002). Fundamentals of Project Management. New York: American
Management Association
Lientz, B. P. & K.P. Rea (eds.). (2001). Breakthrough Technology Project Management. San
Diego: Academic Press
Mochal, T. & Mochal, J. (2008). Highlighting 50 Essential Project Management Lessons.
Retrieved December 17, 2008, from
Trends Report. Retrieved March 12, 2008, from
Tuckman, B. W. (1972). Conducting Educational Research. New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich Inc.
Wittingham, I. (2007). My Approach to Project Management. Retrieved March 27, 2007,

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009

Notes for contributors

The DEASA/SADC-CDE International Journal of Open and Distance Learning (IJODL) is refereed
journal. The IJODL welcomes original articles which report on empirical and theoretical distance
education and also accepts papers in other related areas as well as book reviews. The journal publishes
two issues in a year. All articles published by the IJODL are peer-reviewed anonymously by at least
two referees.

Manuscript submission
Manuscripts should be submitted in electronic form in MS word to

Manuscripts should be between 3000 and 7000 words, including the list of references. The first page
should contain the title page and the details of the author (s) i.e. name, affiliation, address, e-mail,
phone and fax numbers.

The second page should contain the abstract of between 100 and 200 words maximum. The third page
should be the first page of the manuscript. The font for the manuscript should be double spaced Times
New Roman size 12. All pages should be numbered.

Authors should ensure that tables and captions to illustrations are typed out on separate sheets and not
included as part of the text. However, it should be clearly indicated where these should be inserted.

These should be supplied as one complete set of artwork ready for reproduction.

The journal uses the American Psychological Association (APA) Manual writing style 5th Edition or as
updated. All in-text references should give the author’s name with the year of publication in brackets
e.g. ‘Kuhn (1962) writes...’ or ‘statistics may be defined as s study of ways of giving meaning to raw
data (Burton, Carrol & Wall, 2001) ...’ Full references that conform with the APA style should be listed
at the end of the manuscript.

Authors shall normally receive edited proofs before publication to confirm and approve the final
version of their manuscripts. However, this step may be omitted in case of delays in the processes.

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009

44th Distance Education Association of Southern Africa Annual Conference

18 – 20 September 2009 Maseru, Lesotho

Call for papers

Conference Theme
New Frontiers of Sustainable ODL Scholarship in the SADC Region

The Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA)’s general objective, as stated in its
Constitution, is to ‘enable members to share information and expertise, collaborate in research; develop
quality distance education courses; identify areas of need through research and organize relevant
professional development activities”. Through its linkages, both professional and informal, with other
regional and international ODL organizations and statutory bodies, DEASA has become a key driver of
ODL initiatives to further develop knowledge sharing and collaboration in the region. Cognizance to
its role in the transformation of SADC educational landscape, DEASA is working hard to bridge the
gap identified by ODL research and publication in the region. DEASA is striving for creation of
knowledge through capacity building in research and dissemination of information.

1 Digital scholarship
i On-line publication;
ii Open educational resources
iii Copyrights.
2 Leadership for sustainable ODL Scholarship
3 Praxis of ODL Scholarship
4 Life histories on ODL Scholarship

5 Guidelines on Submission of abstracts

Abstracts for the conference should not be more than 200 words, and should include the following:
• Title
• Name of Author(s)
• E-mail and postal addresses
• Telephone, cellphone and fax numbers

The abstracts chould indicate the specific sub-themes that will be addresses in the paper/report, and
should, for instance, describe the purpose of the study, methodology used, results obtained and
conclusions. The title of the paper shuould not be more than fifteen (15 words).

Abstracts should be typed using 12 New Roman style font and Single line spacing.
Full Paper Length
The full papers should be 10 – 15 pages; 12 New Roman style font; One and half line spacing and
strictly in APA Style
Submission of abstracts: 31st May 2009
Notification for abstract acceptance: 30th June 2009
Submission of full paper (electronically): 31st July 2009
Abstracts must be sent electronically to:
E-mail: OR E-mail:

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009

Dr. D.M. Mohapi Dr. J. P. Mutangira

Institute of Extra Mural Studies (IEMS) Department of Adult Education
National University of Lesotho (NUL) University of Swaziland
P.O. Roma 180 Private Bag 4, Kwazuleni
Tel. (266) 22 328159; 22 322038 Tel: 268 5185003
Fax (266) 22 310433 : 268 5184011
Cell: (266) 22 58760903 Cell: 268 6120054

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009

DETA 2009 Conference

3 - 5 August 2009
University of Cape Coast
Cape Coast, Ghana

The Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, University of Cape Coast and
the University of Education, Winneba in Ghana and the South African Institute for Distance Education
(SAIDE) invite you to attend their conference on Issues and challenges in education in Africa – the
need for a ‘new’ teacher

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to take part in a pan-African Conference addressing the challenges
of education in Africa.

• This is the first call for papers. Submit an abstract of 500 words before 1 May 2009. Please
see the website for details.
• Closing date for Early bird registration is 1 June 2009 – Register now and save $50!

Register online at or send an email to

Visit our website for more information at
See you in Ghana!

Johan Hendrikz: University of Pretoria, South Albert Koomson: University of Cape Coast, Ghana
DETA 2009

International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009

The National Association of Distance Education and Open Learning in South Africa (NADEOSA) is
pleased to announce its annual conference and AGM scheduled for 17th and 18th August, 2009.

The AGM and conference will take place at the Unisa Sunnyside Campus in Pretoria under the
auspices of the Department of Teacher Education.
The conference theme will be:
The changing faces of Distance Education and Open Learning.
In a period of growing convergence between the use of distance and traditional education
methodologies in the pursuit of open education ideals, this conference will be of interest to all
educators and education managers who aspire to provide quality educational experiences in ways that
are both flexible and cost effective.
The conference theme will be explored through the following sub-themes:
• The integration of ICTs and social networking technologies
• Learner support and assessment
• Research
• Ethics.
A cocktail function will be held on the 17th at which the winners of the
inaugural NADEOSA Exemplary Practice Awards will be announced.
The Nadeosa Exemplary Practice Awards will alternate with the Nadeosa Courseware Awards.
The 2009 Awards will focus on “Initiatives to encourage retention, throughput and active student
In view of the themes of this conference and awards process, NADEOSA would like to urge the active
participation also of staff involved in Distance Education and Open Learning management and
This announcement should be considered as a second call for papers.
Titles and abstracts can be emailed to

15th July 2009 Abstracts of not more than 250 words deadline
31st July 2009 Early bird registration (Payment must be made by due date to qualify)
3rd August 2009 Powerpoint presentation and full paper deadline
13th August 2009 Final registration deadline

Conference Fees
Early bird registration fee (including payment) for members R995.00
Late registration and fee for non-members R1300.00
Individual members (paid up) R600.00
Exhibitions R1500.00

Registration Form


International Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Volume 2 April 2009

All conference correspondence and enquiries should be addressed to : or tel. no:
(011) 403-2813.

Payment can be made to: NADEOSA - Standard Bank, Braamfontein 00 4805 A/C no. 002357410
with proof of payment being sent through to: or fax: 011-403-2814.

Please ensure that your accounts department includes name of delegate in proof of payment.

We look forward to your participation in the 2009 NADEOSA conference.