A program recently developed by young analysts at the World Bank hopes to expand access to higher education for students in Benin.
eLearning Benin allows students to access approximately 20 distance learning programs from universities around the world as an alternative to brick and mortar institutions within their own country.
“The benefits of this project are multifaceted," Senior Economist at the World Bank's Benin office Boulel Touré said. "Not only does it allow students to pursue useful degrees at prestigious universities such as Harvard, Yale, and MIT, but it also allows students to supplement their studies with specialized training programs, particularly in areas for which training is not available in Benin, but for which there is demand in the job market."
Higher education in Benin is distinctly polarized: The country's rapidly growing private universities are often only accessible to students from wealthy backgrounds. Resources for public universities, meanwhile, are struggling to find the resources to keep up with the demand.
While conceptually logical, eLearning Benin faces challenges of its own. In order to access the worldwide offerings, Beninese need to be able to access the electricity and technology to connect with the Internet. The World Bank is hoping that its separate investments in connectivity infrastructure will eventually dovetail with eLearning Benin's needs and bridge the gap.
Developed through the Youth Innovation Fund, the program gives young World Bank staffers the resources to enact programs of their own in their host countries. Therefore, several of the staff who developed eLearning Benin are from Benin.