Regional education experts are meeting in Abuja on the ECOWAS Academic Mobility Programme (AMP), which is designed to boost access to education in areas of strategic importance to the region, including by providing scholarships at Masters and PhD levels.

The Programme also seeks to increase the knowledge base of the region by promoting research, exchange of ideas, information and academic materials among universities and other institutions of higher learning.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the three-day meeting on 17th March 2015, the ECOWAS Director of Education, Science and Culture, Prof Abdoulaye Maga, further explained that the AMP would provide opportunities for lecturers to fully utilize their skills; improve the quality of education delivery in Member States, and promote individual development/learning among the scholarship awardees.

In her remarks, the Head of ECOWAS Education Unit, Mrs. Rachel Ogbe, noted that higher education in the region faced a number of challengesincluding limited university enrolment opportunities for prospective students, predominance of enrolment in Arts subjects to the detriment of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Other are inadequate infrastructure including ill-equipped libraries, insufficient use of modern technologies such as ICT and the internet, human resource quality gap, impediments to teacher and student mobility due to language barriers.

She also mentioned the paradox of lack of skilled labour and so-called “brain-drain,” from the region.

The AMP will be financed by the ECOWAS Commission and managed by the Association of African Universities (AAU), under the Commission’s supervision.

Established in 1967 with headquarters in Accra, Ghana, the AAU is a reference organization and a forum for consultation, information sharing and cooperation among African institutions of higher learning. It boasts a vast experience in the management of regional academic programmes.

The Abuja meeting is being attended by experts from the AAU, the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), a specialized ECOWAS agency, the National Commission of Nigerian Universities (NUC) and the ECOWAS Commission among others.

It is a follow-up to the extraordinary session of ECOWAS Ministers of Higher Education and Scientific Research held in November 2014 in Abuja, and the meeting of experts and higher education officials, held in October the same year.