Africa Analysis
Instead of seeking medical treatment abroad, African leaders need to reduce dependency on foreign health systems by building and sustaining high-end university hospitals in their own countries to advance public health – as a matter of national security.
Paul Richards’ 2016 book Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic provides a powerful reminder of the limits of epidemiology and bio-medical fixes, as well as coercive state measures such as lockdown, in the long-term control, management and elimination of diseases like COVID-19.
The benefits of open education resources or OER in terms of issues of cost and accessibility have been well documented globally, even before the pandemic crisis. Now, educators, institutions and civil society organisations are exploring OER as a critical component of the global education recovery strategy.
Remote teaching right now is the lesser of two evils. The prime evil would be the complete collapse of the public higher education system and all that it stands for, followed by its replacement with a profit-driven system that serves only those who can pay.
In the face of dwindling government funding and the need for income from international student patronage, appropriate marketing strategies are crucial for increasing the revenue base of universities in Africa.
Africa is still being viewed through a colonial prism with an emphasis on the continent’s vulnerability rather than its capacity to contribute to concerted global efforts to defeat the coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that African universities and research institutions have the commitment to respond to the emerging needs of society and industry, but without greater investment in research and development such a response will never reach its full potential.
Used in conjunction with learning management systems, messaging apps like WhatsApp can enhance the remote teaching and learning process.
As the first term of online teaching starts this week, staff of South Africa’s Stellenbosch University reflect on its careful preparations for a fully online delivery mode and the need to address unforeseen challenges with resilience, creativity and empathy for the stress felt by both staff and students.
Flipping the classroom is still a dream for most rural higher education institutions in South Africa and as much as we’d like to hope, the COVID-19 outbreak can never be the agent to bring it to pass.
Africa’s leading universities are stepping up to the plate, assisting governments through research to contain the pandemic, and finding other channels through which to deliver on their mandates.
Leading in times of crisis requires a strong people-first approach, one that involves students and staff, especially those most disadvantaged, a desire to connect with others, reorganisation to face the crisis head on and, above all, a vision that goes beyond the crisis.
A new Afrocentric teaching model, which foregrounds the use of digital technology in its methodology and delivery and the importance of partnerships in meeting the higher education needs of the continent, provides a powerful teaching and learning model, particularly during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Despite the many threats COVID-19 is posing to the continent, this may be a momentous opportunity for Africa to take significant steps in improving its ICT profile in collaboration with development partners and the private sector.
Despite massive investment in national ICT infrastructure in Uganda, online learning has not been embraced by universities and schools during the lockdown, which suggests that barriers to online learning are more than simply infrastructural.
From online learning inequities to economic disaster, COVID-19 presents severe challenges to the African higher education system and could seriously impact future government support for the sector, but it could also bring about much-needed changes with regard to distance learning.
Internationalisation as we know it is under review, if not under threat. The coronavirus pandemic provides us with an opportunity to think the world of higher education internationalisation afresh, casting a critical eye on the concepts, models and practices to which we have grown accustomed.
Malawian developmental economist and public intellectual Thandika Mkandawire died on 27 March 2020 in Stockholm, Sweden. Dr Steve Sharra pays tribute to a renowned transdisciplinary intellectual who provided penetrating insights into complex global problems.
COVID-19 has forced African universities and higher education institutions to fast-track their plans for the future, and while the challenges are considerable, a unified front – and sound strategic planning – is the best chance we have.
It is vital for each sector, including higher education, to start reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 and assessing its possible consequences, otherwise recovery of the sector may be too slow, too late.
With growing pressures on finances which the long-term impact of COVID-19 will make worse, we need to rethink the use of textbooks and make learning more sustainable. Using open textbooks could contribute to fostering a more equitable and learned society in the Rainbow Nation.
Supported by University of Geneva academics, InZone has developed a community of higher education learners among the 190,000 refugees in the camp at Kakuma, Kenya, who are now trying to prepare their community for the dual threat of the pandemic and food shortages.
The sudden (and necessary) move to online teaching is gaining huge traction as a fait accompli, without consideration of both the losses and gains that migrating to online facilitation and other modalities will incur for the sustainability of the academic project in all countries.
COVID-19 has effectively exposed the limitations of unilateralism. Against this backdrop, there is an impending danger that higher education may once again be sidelined as a luxury that African countries can least afford when it should continue to garner support on a priority basis to help overcome human-made problems and natural disasters.
Protracted student protests in South Africa over the past few years gave universities an opportunity to explore online education as an alternative to contact teaching and learning, and have put them in a better position to deal with current shutdowns necessitated by the need to contain COVID-19. Here, an academic from the University of Cape Town shares her experience and that of her colleagues in the process of “going online”.
The foundations for e-learning are already in place in some universities in Tanzania, and it offers an effective solution to the problem of institutional shutdowns. However, a paradigm shift away from conventional teaching modes is still needed if the full potential of e-leaning is to be realised.
A vice-chancellor of a private university in Ethiopia shares his experiences and lessons learned after his institution and its management urgently rallied to respond to an immediate nationwide shutdown of all educational institutions prompted by efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 has shut down universities across Africa, creating major disruptions to teaching and learning. However, in the absence of the bricks-and-mortar lecturing experience, there are opportunities for both academics and students to further develop their skills. This requires seeing technology not as an old foe but as a new ally.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Higher Education’s directive regarding the promotion of academics in the university system is a timely attempt to standardise procedures across the sector, but there are some new promotion criteria that may cause problems and deserve a second look.
Beyond the traditional focus of higher education internationalisation – student, faculty and programme mobility – internationalisation is deeply rooted in all aspects of the work of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, which serves as a model for African higher education sectors looking for their own strategies to take ownership of internationalisation.
Let us be honest … the deep transformation around knowledge, pedagogy and institutional culture is eluding us, except for pockets of productive work in some of our universities in South Africa. A new, emancipatory imagination for higher education looks like a bridge too far.
In the context of diverse ethnicities and cultures among student populations, Ethiopian universities should design their management systems and teaching methodologies to facilitate the free flow of ideas and development of democracy-friendly dialogues.
A recent survey in Ethiopia offers insights into the way in which private higher education institutions have become viable alternatives to public sector institutions and can play a complementary role, especially when the public sector comes under strain owing to external factors such as public unrest or internal weaknesses.
There’s a body of historical African examples that universities can use to teach a more inclusive mathematical sciences curriculum.
It is time to focus on creating an enlightened cadre of African intellectuals, scholars and professionals who fully recognise their history but are confident in navigating the international landscape in the national and continental as well as global interest.
Despite much talk about the increased focus on higher education in the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, they barely reference it. For Africa, it is better to focus on local and regional policies that recognise the crucial role of higher education in development to leverage funding.
Africa is the fastest growing continent and, with a middle class that has tripled in size over 14 years, it is set to become the fastest growing source for international students. Already the competition, whether for courses abroad or online learning, is hotting up.
Debts accrued as a result of student loans and difficulties finding graduate-level jobs in Ghana create a disincentive to go to university, especially for students who genuinely need loans. The system needs reforming so that loans encourage students into programmes which lead to graduate-level jobs.
The Ethiopian government’s recent move towards liberalising the telecommunications market may contribute to an improvement of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and the creation of a digital society – with a range of positive implications for the higher education sector.
Collaborative research and exchange programmes designed between Chinese and Tanzanian academic institutions are likely to improve the relevance of training courses for African students in China.
Social work education in Ghana is often based on Western models which are imposed on the country through teachers, textbooks and consultants, even though they are not culturally relevant or effective. Indigenisation is needed to make social work education, practice and research culturally relevant.
The formation and diffusion of ideology, particularly as it relates to the development of citizenship and state formation, is still a fundamental function of universities, which we neglect at our peril, particularly at a time marked by the rise of populist and autocratic regimes around the world.
The euphoria in South Africa around the national pass rate means nothing if it hides problems such as declining mathematics performance. Universities need to be shouldering some of the responsibility for arresting the worrying decline in mathematics performance.
As African institutions seek to lead the research agenda on issues that affect the continent, they need sound research governance infrastructure and competent research managers. A fellowship programme is helping to improve the research management and administration skills of university leaders to enable their institutions to better compete and collaborate internationally, win international research funding and transfer knowledge and technology to their communities.
A new approach to the design of course curricula and pedagogy in order to better prepare students for life after university emphasises ways of thinking rather than subject knowledge.
A firmer institutional policy framework and greater financial resources are needed if the inclusive education initiatives started at Ghana's Komenda College of Education are to grow.
For too long African universities have been copying the way things are done in the West. They need instead to study the curricula, teaching methods and systems in other regions and adapt them to ensure that higher education produces skills and knowledge relevant to Africa.
Students are part of the driving force needed to ensure that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development becomes a reality, which means universities should be recognised as key collaborators in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to official policy in Ethiopia, providing “equal opportunities and participation for all, with special attention to disadvantaged groups” remains a major priority of the education and training system. Despite these good intentions, as well as mounting institutional and government support, the Ethiopian higher education sector is struggling to close the gender gap when it comes to women in higher education leadership.
In the 21st century, to attain Agenda 2030, Africa must emphasise a pragmatic educational philosophy, powered by technology and the needs of society.
African higher education institutions must be at the centre of the intensifying courtship between the world and the African continent, both in terms of articulating and developing as well as assessing and critiquing the discourses, policies, strategies and practices underpinning such engagements.
The launch of a new multidisciplinary academic journal after years of planning and commitment has opened up a valuable and much-needed academic avenue for scholars in science, humanities and social sciences in Namibia.
Strategic planning in African higher education casts more light on the intentionality of internationalisation in higher education but given that the implementation of even well-intentioned internationalisation initiatives is likely to suffer from epistemic dominance, more fruitful scholarship may lie in more critical and emancipatory perspectives.
South African universities are grappling with a number of challenges, many of which are inherently South African in character but are nonetheless important. However, the global environment for research and higher education has changed markedly and it is not clear whether our universities are giving sufficient attention to the broader international contexts in which they are working.
South Africa's Council on Higher Education is set to conduct a national review of higher education institutions that offer doctoral-level qualifications. While it is aimed primarily at assessing and assuring the quality of doctoral programmes, the review also presents an opportunity for institutional conversations around more innovative approaches to PhD education.
How can policy-makers in Ghana prescribe a postgraduate teaching certificate as the solution to a problem for which they have no data? If they had the data, they might find that the problem could be effectively addressed through a professional development programme or other means.
Academics should have the most power and authority on matters related to teaching, research and student assessment.
There is no way Ethiopia’s research output can grow to the levels expected of it without an increase in domestic funding from the government and other local sources.
Limiting the reliance on examinations for assessing students and moving towards more continuous assessment would help develop students’ employability skills and enable the creation of courses that respond better to the needs and issues in African society.
The number of doctoral programmes in Ghana is rising, but there is little oversight of their quality. Mechanisms are needed to raise the quality of faculty and students and ensure programmes have a clear mission and outcomes, and are geared to career opportunities.
The need to augment research output in Ethiopia through the active participation of the major actors in the broader research framework is clear. Equally important is the establishment of an effective and well-coordinated system that will help build better research capacity and facilitate improved output at a national level.
In this contribution to the ongoing debate on intentionality in the internationalisation of higher education, it is argued that internationalisation must be an intentional process but intentionality should not be part of the definition.

Recent research on the relationships between African cities and their higher education institutions has reaffirmed the importance of more academic research that has application potential for local government based on the principle of problem-based learning.
Revitalisation of the African academy and education system as a whole requires us to forge meaningful alternatives and possibilities to the corporate and neoliberal agendas – alternatives that are founded in social justice, solidarity and equity.
It is more important to fight the two dangers still facing higher education in developing countries – blind adoration of international standards and an overly inward-looking approach – rather than pursue a debate about the pros and cons of adding the word ‘intentional’.
The overarching body for all students in Ghana, the National Union of Ghana Students, will soon hold a unity congress to elect a single, united set of officers to steer the activities of the union for the 2019-20 academic year. Against the backdrop of a past marked by division and political interference, hopes are high for a united and representative outcome.
The reintroduction of a freshman programme in Ethiopian higher education institutions is aimed at improving the quality of students and boosting their social cohesion and success rates, but whether it will meet its objectives remains to be seen.
In the new knowledge domains of climate change, HIV and AIDS, and gender, countries in the Global South are showing they can punch above their weight – despite their distance from centres of knowledge production and additional national challenges.
Defining a phenomenon as contentious as internationalisation based on presumptions about intentions, however benevolent and appealing, will continue to render it vulnerable, if not outright irrelevant. Hence, the search for a more neutral, robust, 'intention-free', and inclusive definition of internationalisation needs to continue.
Higher education institutions and vocational colleges in Ethiopia need to familiarise themselves with the new national job creation plans and goals of government and should begin thinking about how they can create the graduates that are required for the future workforce.
To leverage the multiplier effects of partnerships to achieve development goals in Africa, governments, higher education and the private sector each have discernible but interrelated roles to play.
As Nigeria prepares to force lecturers to do industrial attachments, it is clear that the value of degrees is falling under closer scrutiny. To boost quality, it is important to take a broader look at how higher education is serving the interests of employers and driving innovation.
At the start of the northern hemisphere academic year, hundreds of thousands of African students head abroad for their tertiary education, convinced they are getting a better degree. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are African universities, despite the financial constraints, that are getting it right.
The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals are globally accepted and promoted, but are they the best fit for the development of Africa’s higher education sector?

There is no one model that fits all for higher education internationalisation. Local values, needs and priorities should direct the why, what and how of internationalisation, enabling African higher education institutions to break away from the feeling they are being coerced into copying a Western paradigm.