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Benefits of Digital Library in Vocational Education

By :- Simon Weldemichael

When I visited Wina Technical School during my stay in Nakfa last week, I was impressed with the work done to have a digital library at the school. The purpose of this article is to bring into light the initiatives of interested professionals in developing and expanding digital libraries in their places of work.

The development of information technology has an essential role in education. Mr. Kaleab Zemuy, a mechanical engineer who graduated from Eritrean Institute of Technology (EIT) at Mai Nefhi, has worked at Wina Technical School in various capacities for 13 years. He worked as a teacher of Auto-CAD for most of his time and is currently serving as head of the Department of Computer Lab. The school has a modest ICT lab, and Mr. Kaleab is engaged in designing a digital library website that is appropriate for technical and vocational education. He is currently developing Ketan Digital Library that is suitable to the needs of the students and teachers and conditions of the school. He has named the digital library ‘Ketan’ as a tribute to the place where Wina Technical School was located in its infancy during the armed struggle for independence.

During our conversation, Mr. Kaleb explained how a digital library can provide an added value in the learning process. It is indispensable for students and teachers to acquire broad knowledge. When asked about what led him down this path, he said since their school is in a far off place, learners and educators must find ways to access references within the premises of the school. In the absence of the internet, a digital library is the best alternative for the school, and for this reason, Mr. Kaleab has fournd it necessary to design a digital library information system that students and teachers can access without the internet.

Ketan Digital Library is designed to respond exclusively to the demands of vocational and technical schools. Its interface includes all courses given at technical and vocational schools, relevant video lectures, offline sites such as Wikipedia and Khan Academy, magazines and newspapers, school history and structure and reference area. The teaching materials are made available in the form of books, videos and audios. Mr. Kaleab said he has verified the practicality and efficiency of the application and it’s now ready for use.

We are living in a very fast changing world. To develop and update the application and to expand its outreach Mr. Kaleab has called on interested citizens to extend their help to the school. He said that they are operating under scarcity of ICT facilities, and they need help to transform their traditional library into a modern digital library.

A digital library, like a traditional library, is an important resource for the transmission of knowledge and skills. In Eritrea, Rora Digital Library is operating at national level to help equip educational institutions, from elementary level to higher education, with resources for students and teachers. Vocational schools are among those targeted by Rora Digital Library.

Mr. Kiflom Michael, director of Rora Digital Library, said, “We are working closely with technical and vocational schools. Considering the practical nature of the courses offered at technical and vocational schools, we provide them video demonstrations in various fields. To facilitate learning Rora Digital Library has been installed in three out of the five vocational schools, and we are ready to replicate what we have done in the remaining TVET institutions if they need our help.”

Wina Technical School is expected to develop its own digital library that assists students and educators to access it in a more interesting platform. According to Mr. Kaleab, the application took years to develop and it hasn’t still reached its final phase to make it accessible by various platforms. Although such initiatives are vital for development, the school needs to adopt the application that has already been developed by Rora Digital Library.

Rora Digital Library, which is operating in six regions of the country, has in its store around 80 TB of materials. Through the help of its dedicated members, it has the advantage of getting updated anytime. Eritreans living abroad always send facilities and teaching materials to the digital library to help expand its access throughout the country. Since its establishment in 2008, it has made a great stride to become a platform for Eritrean students to gain knowledge and experiences from scholars around the world.

Although Rora Digital Library is operating throughout the country, it gives priority to students in remote and disadvantaged areas. In this regard, Mr. Kiflom said, “We are working according to the policy of the government. Rora Digital Library is made closer to the far distant places. If you look at the distribution of our installations, you can easily understand that we are making positive discrimination, favouring people in far-off places.”

Students in TVET learn theory in the classroom and apply it in workshops under the guidance of a teacher. The availability of demonstrative videos and other references in digital libraries are vital for learners and educators.

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