Prospective agricultural students can now study online to obtain their agricultural degrees.
A lack of teaching at local agricultural colleges, problems at South African universities, and a lack of development in online education, created a gap for the establishment of Agricolleges International, a computer cloud-based institution which will provide online education in agriculture.
According to Howard Blight, chairman and founder of Agricolleges International, a one-year diploma in agriculture can be obtained once a student has the necessary state accreditation. The company is already working on this process.
“We want to give hope to thousands of students who otherwise could not obtain tertiary education, partly due to the problems at our agricultural colleges, but also because of a lack of affordability.”
According to Blight, the cost of a diploma at Agricolleges is set to start at R29 000 annually.
Initially, the courses will be offered in South Africa, with Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia also in the pipeline.
“While some universities have to turn away thousands of prospective students due to a lack of facilities, this is also where many university students will have to get by with fewer resources in the midst of increasing costs.
“Diploma level courses through Agricolleges will make provision for the industry’s need for young trained staff at an affordable price for students,” said Blight.
Students will receive course content online and there is already an agreement with the Stellenbosch University to design an e-learning curriculum.
Course material will be approved by the SU Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, under the watchful eye of Prof. Danie Brink, acting dean. Other universities’ agricultural faculties will also be consulted.
“The lack of training for uneducated, unskilled and semi-skilled workers hinders the chances of building the agriculture sector. Thus, Agricolleges bridges the gap in agriculture education.”
Students will not only receive training through course material, but will also learn from each other. Practical training will be done in centres for excellence.
These centres will be established at existing agricultural schools and colleges, while practical experience will be gained with the cooperation of mega-farmers and at the facilities of e.g. irrigation companies, chemical companies and warehouses.
The company already has the support of successful stakeholders in the agricultural industry, with people like Philé van Zyl, director of tomato giant ZZ2, already on board.
“The days when a student starts farming as soon as he leaves school is long gone – the industry has changed completely and as a result, the way in which education is provided. This model of e-learning means it is accessible and can be expanded internationally,” said Van Zyl.
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