With being based in the Computer Science dept, it’s quite rare for me to have to travel for work, other than just across to the other side of town to visit a different campus. This week however I was invited to attend a training workshop over at Axum University to find out about some English language training software that has been donated to the University there, and has also been made freely available for Mekelle Uni to install too. The training had been arranged by the previous VSO English Language Improvement Coordinator (ELIC) at Axum, and has been taken over by the new VSO volunteers who arrived a few weeks ago, so was also a good opportunity to get to meet the new volunteers.
Four of us from the Uni (plus driver) set off on Sunday morning. What I thought was a very optimistic start time (7:15am) for a Sunday, turned out to be only 15 mins short of our actual departure – very unusual for such good timekeeping here.
The ELIC centre at Axum looked very well organised, with a computer lab set up and a very clean (dust free) room. The software used for the training was from a company based in Hong Kong, Clarity English and one of their directors, Andrew, had come over to do the training and has donated the software to both Axum and Mekelle Universities. There are a range of different programs for different aspects of learning English and all seem very easy to use, though staff and students would need little introduction in how they can use the software and get the most out of it.
Out of the 8 programs (CDs), two were of particular interest to me. Firstly was a training for the IELTS certification. I’ve been asked by the Computer Science department here to help set up an IELTS certification centre, as an income generation scheme for the department. So will be good to be able to offer students facilities to train and test themselves before taking the exam. Secondly, there was some test/quiz authoring software. Although this had fewer options than the quiz module in Moodle, it had a much clearer and cleaner interface in terms of authoring, so would be much easier to get teachers trained up in how to create their own quizzes than it would be with Moodle.
The software looks good and will be great if we can find some computer labs where it can be installed for students access, all need to ensure is that the labs have headphones with mics available to get the most out of the software.
Whilst in Axum we also had chance to visit a few of the historical sites too, though most I had visited on my previous visit last year. Our route back to Mekelle took us via Adigrat – I’ve never taken this route back before, having always gone through Abi Adi. The Axum – Adigrat – Mekelle road is well paved almost the entire way, so although further than via Abi Adi, it’s quicker and more comfortable.
We stopped off at the Yeha Temple, which, according to our guide, at 2500 years old is the oldest building in Africa, and was the centre of the Yeha empire (before the Axumite empire). We were told that ibexes were then common in the area and can now only be found in the Simien mountains. I’m sure this will be related to that fact that as they held some religious significance, ibexes were sacrificed in the temple (although obviously I could be wrong!) – we were shown the area in the temple where it’s believed the sacrifices took place.
In a small museum next to the temple we were shown some carved rocks and pottery that had been found in the surrounding area by farmers, although a problem is that when farmers find historical items, they are often sold on to collectors.