Barriers to Learning: The Difference Distance Learning can make in Namibia
This paper will address the barriers to learning, including innovative structures and strategies put in place to overcome such barriers, with specific reference to rural distance education students in the Namibian context. Access to quality learning has been compromised for many years prior to the country’s independence in 1990. Distance education, having been around for a long time, has seen changes, innovations and vast improvements that contribute to enhancing quality learning. If we are to find means to improve the situation, it will be vital that everyone understand the importance of education- that it is not merely a means to obtain status in society, but rather, that it is the responsibility that society owes to itself. // The Polytechnic of Namibia, through its Centre for Open and Lifelong Learning (COLL), has recently fulfilled this responsibility to the rural society of Namibia when it established a network of Regional Centres across Namibia that has the function of coordinating and facilitating all the necessary instructional and support services to address the needs of distance education students throughout their learning process and to give them the academic tools they need to overcome unnecessary barriers in order to succeed. There are various drawbacks on the part of those who would like to pursue their studies through distance learning. Despite the fact that decentralisation of the support services has taken place through the establishment of the Regional Centres, all areas in Namibia are not covered and students face limitations due to factors like distance from the Centres, and affordability. // Making studying through distance education possible for more Namibians will require funding to students who are economically disadvantaged. eLearning is one way to bridge the gap and ensure easier access to education. Students become more pro-active in their pursuit of studying towards their desired qualification once the facilities that support their learning are brought closer to them. // The support services on offer through COLL, and in particular through the Regional Centres, ensure that barriers such as distance and affordability are overcome. Students, prospective students and the public should be educated about the facilities on offer, and how these can support their learning. They can then be encouraged to pursue studying on distance, knowing they have a good chance to succeed. In this case study, the strategies implemented to establish a well-functioning Regional Centre with good logistics and reliable infrastructure as an integral part of the delivery of Open and Distance Learning (ODL), including the support provided to rural distance education students are put forward.