Distance learning the Gambian way
A distance learning course from the UK for biomedical students in the Gambia might be a blueprint for programmes throughout Africa, says Mareeni Raymond
In rich countries, aspiring scientists usually have the luxury of good training laboratories, supportive colleagues, and access to relevant academic courses. In contrast, in countries in which expertise is needed to help combat important diseases-HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria-such support may be sparse. In the Gambia, however, academics at the University of Westminster in collaboration with the Medical Research Council (MRC) established a course to give students there a chance to follow a career in laboratory science.
This west African country has just one university, which offers six degree courses and is developing a course for training medical doctors. But students wishing to study biomedical sciences have often had to leave the country for Ghana or Nigeria. Visitors from several UK teaching institutions visited the Gambia a few years ago. They decided to team up with local specialists to increase the opportunities for learning laboratory sciences, and so the University of