NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania— The Ministry of Higher Education in Mauritania expects to start a television channel specializing in broadcasting educational material to university students. The first of its kind in the country, the channel will start broadcasting its material at the onset of next year on Arabsat, the Arab satellite television network.
“The channel will broadcast some live university lectures,” said Aslamo Weld Al-Taleb, university professor and member of the committee supervising the channel. “In addition to other interactive lectures around the clock, presented by a group of distinguished professors of different literary and scientific disciplines from the University of Nouakchott.”
Creating the new channel seems like a lifesaving procedure to revive the deteriorating university education system in the country.
“Amidst the absence of university professors in most of the lectures, the educational channel will force professors to give their lectures on time and prepare the material very well, since the lectures will be aired live on TV,” said Mohamed Weld Abdullah, a master’s degree student in history. He added that “university students and researchers will benefit a lot from this channel, which is considered an educational leap in the country.”
Seidi Bouy, a master’s degree student in mass communications, believe that the educational channel would give students a chance to listen again to lectures that they might be having difficulty understanding. He said the channel would be similar to educational channels in other neighboring and Arab countries, such as Egypt.
Many students also hope that the channel will help cut down on the use of private lecture notes and other “study aids” that professors and others often sell to students to augment their salaries. “The TV channel will save students the cost of private lessons and the burden of chasing the professors and begging them for more lessons, which the channel will provide live on air,” said Abo Mohammad, father of three university students.
Seidi Weld Al-Ghouth, an economist, agrees with Abo Mohammad. “The channel will fight private lessons and the summary notes which professors sell to students, because it will provide lessons for students free of charge,” Al-Ghouth said.
Mauritania suffers from a lack of higher-education institutions. The country only has three universities affiliated to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, of which two are located in Nouakchott: the University of Nouakchott and the University of Sciences and Technology. The Islamic Studies University in Al-Oyoun city, eastern Mauritania, was established in 2011 and has athe Faculty of Sharia in addition to other emerging faculties. (See a related article: Mauritania’s Only Medical School Graduates Its First Class).
During the past few years, five private universities were established in addition to branches of some international universities’, institutes, and technical high schools. But the number of higher-education institutions is still limited compared to the increasing numbers of students who wish to continue their university education after getting an undergraduate degree, since master’s and Ph.D. degrees are hardly available in Mauritanian universities. These universities also offer limited disciplines and are thus unable to fulfil the aspirations of the new students.
“The new educational channel offers a new path for media content in Mauritanian TV channels,” said Hamoud Amer, researcher in Mauritanian mass communications. “ Political, cultural and recreational content usually dominates media content, he aid. The He hopes the channel could carry seminars, competitions, or educational events, such as announcement of exam results or the graduation of university classes,” he added.
However there are still fears in the academic circles that that the channel could be chaotic or limited by the biases of those who run it. Seidi Weld Gedo said these concerns about nepotism and political influence would hinder the channel from carrying out its role. “We must conduct transparent tests and competitions for lecturers in the channel to ensure the quality of the educational material presented.”
Teachers and professors’ unions emphasized the necessity of involving a variety of educational organizations in the effort. The unions “should be involved in the educational channel project in order to build it on sound basis,” Ahmed Weld Al-Zein, a history professor at the University of Nouakchott said.
The television channel is still a blank screen, but many people have an opinion about it. Once the blank screen goes live, no doubt the discussion will become even more intense.