University experts move tropical veterinary education into the 'virtual' age

A groundbreaking initiative –spearheaded by the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, in partnership with seven sub-Saharan African universities – will combat neglected animal diseases that affect poor farmers by providing advanced training for vets using online learning.

The African Universities Veterinary e-Learning Consortium (AUVEC) will be launched next month to build up the African animal health sector. AUVEC will offer new courses using a blend of traditional teaching and e-learning for undergraduate and post-graduate vet students, as well as providing extra training for vets who need to be able to study while working, often in remote parts of rural Africa.

The University of Edinburgh and the African Virtual University (AVU) based in Nairobi will provide key support in sharing knowledge and expertise and will set up the infrastructure needed for the initiative.

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine has a thirty year track record in world-class teaching and research collaborations with partner institutions across Africa. Now the power and reach of e-learning is being harnessed to drive new collaborations.

Says Dr Mark Eisler of CTVM: "The AUVEC consortia puts African vet schools in the driving seat through building capacity in e-learning delivery. E-learning opens education to women and rural vets as well as allowing vets to study while they work – vital for the communities they serve".

This new partnership offers a route to poverty alleviation through enhancing African veterinary services. However the challenges confronting African vets remained massive "On paper, Malawi has a strong public veterinary sector", says Ben Chimera, Deputy Director of Veterinary Services in Malawi, "but in terms of actual numbers, we have only five qualified vets and four of these are in education. There is only one active vet who is doing the actual work."

"Malawi's shortage of qualified vets is an extreme situation but other African countries face a similar situation, with falling numbers of vets in the public sector. And those who are qualified have to cope with the demands of a rapidly changing animal health sector. AUVEC – a new e-learning partnership in international animal health will help address the problems," says John David Kabasa, chair of AUVEC and Dean the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Makerere University, Uganda.

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The University of Edinburgh is recognised as a leading practitioner of e-learning and e-health and recently won a prestigious Queen's Anniversary Prize for its 'virtual hospital' –a web-based learning environment that allows the University's medical and veterinary students to hone their clinical skills on 'virtual patients'. The Virtual Hospital initiative is led by Professor David Dewhurst, Assistant Principal for e-Learning and e-Health.

** Membership of AUVEC:

  • Addis Ababa University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ethiopia
  • Makerere University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Uganda
  • University of Nairobi, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Kenya
  • University of Pretoria, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Republic of South Africa
  • Sokoine University of Agriculture, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Tanzania
  • University of Zambia, School of Veterinary Medicine
  • University of Zimbabwe, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences
  • Department of Animal Health & Livestock, Malawi
  • African Virtual University
  • University of Edinburgh, School of Veterinary Medicine


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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