Africa Features
Leading South African social scientists are calling for greater engagement in shaping the mitigation policies being produced by the government to manage the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Soft-spoken Tawana Kupe celebrates his first year as vice-chancellor of South Africa’s University of Pretoria facing the massive challenges presented by COVID-19, but said they will not detract from his vision to put the once-proud Afrikaner institution at the centre of the African continent’s renaissance.
Against estimates that COVID-19 containment measures will result in an immediate decline in African GDP growth from 3.2% to 1.8% in 2020 – with further adverse impacts if the pandemic is not contained – universities are being challenged to consider their roles in mitigating socio-economic impacts.
Since the first case of the coronavirus disease in Sub-Saharan Africa was diagnosed in late January by medical researchers at the Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology of the College of Medicine at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, universities in Sub-Saharan Africa have been proving their capacity to assist in the global response to the pandemic.
Professor Rhoda Wanyenze was stepping out her office at Uganda’s Makerere University in March when a news item on the television caught her attention: more people had died of the novel coronavirus in China and Italy, and authorities were saying the pandemic was quickly making its way to Africa.
While some African universities are forging ahead with end-of-semester exams using alternative online methods, others are still considering their options. At the root of the issue are resources and preparedness.
Safi Mukundwa is still pained when she thinks about her family members killed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi that left her orphaned and alone. But she is also grateful for the government’s support, which put her through a university degree, and helped her to stand economically on her own.
Higher education leaders in South Africa are looking to move to a European model for open access publishing of scholarly articles as soon as possible, according to the body that coordinates the country’s public universities.
Somalia’s universities, slowly recovering from decades of civil war, are now having to resort to online teaching to ensure the continuation of teaching and learning in an age of COVID-19.
Nigeria’s universities have been struggling to shift their activities online following the 20 March federal government shutdown to restrict public gatherings and curb the spread of the coronavirus. Among the reasons is poor internet infrastructure and a lack of reliable electricity supplies.
As part of its contribution to government efforts to fight COVID-19, South Africa’s Central University of Technology has established a ZAR1 million (US$55,000) research and innovation grant to boost its development of much-needed medical devices, healthcare supplies and equipment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted efforts by South Sudan tertiary education leaders and ministers within the newly-formed South Sudan unity government to restore the country’s universities, many of which were devastated by the years of civil war that may now have ended.
The Uganda Law Society has called on the Uganda Law Council to crack down on universities producing ‘half-baked’ lawyers after questions related to the quality of legal training in the country persisted.
One of South Africa’s most outspoken academics, Professor Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, has called for a national solution to tackle ‘professional students’ on campuses throughout the country – some of whom he claims are permanent organisers for political parties.
Top South African academics have blamed the ongoing strife at several universities on a longstanding failure to address the issue of student funding, and in particular, the “missing middle” – students who do not qualify for funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
English has been the medium of instruction in Rwandan universities for over 10 years, but despite attempts to promote English in higher education, proficiency remains an ongoing challenge for both learners and lecturers.
A new report by the African Union Development Agency has called on African universities to raise their profile as sources of innovation and work on linkages with firms to explore possibilities for the commercialisation of innovations, but are they ready?
“In the absence of policy – because there is definitely a policy vacuum in terms of entrepreneurship at university – what is it we need to know [to] inform the development of policy?” asked Dr Norah Clarke at the recent launch of the National University Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Baseline Report in Johannesburg.
The United States is reaching out to empower Africa’s youth and build partnerships with African universities to enhance their role as instruments of national development. Should Africans be worried about the motives behind such overtures and their longer-term implications?
“Open for business” is the mantra that Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has coined for his ZANU PF-led administration, also known as the “new dispensation”, but as universities ready themselves for the start of the first semester, the big question is: will they have any “clients”?
Competition for jobs among university graduates in Africa is expected to intensify in the near future, a factor that will force new graduates to accept jobs that are not aligned with their skills, education level or even areas of specialisation, according to a new report by the African Development Bank.
In late January in Djibouti City, members of the African academic community were among the parties which approved a new universal declaration aimed at promoting ‘balanced and inclusive education’ as a conceptual and practical framework for redesigning education systems. What does the new declaration mean for African universities?
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-backed ‘Futures of Education’ initiative has called for the democratisation of knowledge and a clear commitment by higher education and knowledge producing institutions to an agenda that primarily values equality and sustainability.
The sanctions for plagiarism at Rwandan universities are tough. But with the aid of plagiarism-checking software, some universities are tackling the problem head-on and winning. University World News conducted a survey among some universities to find out what they were doing to curb the problem.
Higher education institutions in Zimbabwe have set themselves a target of June this year to put in place over 10 policies that are considered critical in paving the way for the full-scale internationalisation of the country’s higher education.
Kenya’s second president, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (1924-2020), who died on 4 February in Nairobi, oversaw a kleptocracy that looted the economy for 24 years and persecuted a generation of dissenting academics and students. But he also introduced free primary education, built many secondary schools for girls and presided over an increase in the number of fully-fledged public universities in Kenya from one to six.
South African university leaders have recognised the value of social media in communicating with academic communities and others. However, as with any public engagement, social media communication requires an informed approach, and sometimes, a thick skin.
Over the last two decades, there has been intense debate about the value of humanities and social science degrees against those of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – with the latter coming out on top, owing largely to perceptions of improved graduate employment prospects. But now scholars in the humanities and social sciences are fighting back against allegations of academic freeloading.
A recent report in Uganda calling for prospective higher education tutors to train in mainstream industry and “appreciate society and employer needs” before being licensed to teach at universities revisits the perennial question: what is the role of a university?
The move by the National Universities Commission of Nigeria to unbundle the national curriculum for mass communication into seven different university degree programmes has been widely welcomed by academics and media and communication practitioners alike.
Canada’s University of Ottawa is helping to build capacity in African universities through a dozen African partnerships and by founding an innovation network, but it also sees an opportunity to strengthen its bilingual mission in a continent where French-speaking populations are growing fast.
In an age of e-learning, access to a reliable and stable internet connection remains an ongoing challenge at the University of Rwanda, the country’s only public university, made up of nine campuses and 30,000 students. University World News spoke to a member of management to find out how the university is coping with current demand and how it plans to improve its connectivity in the long term.
African universities have been relatively late in joining the ‘anti-fake news’ movement which confronts the rising tide of false information. But it’s not too late to join, according to experts.
Africa should end the lip service it pays to South-South cooperation and collaboration in higher education, and African universities should enter into reciprocal partnerships in order to harness scarce human resources.
Research suggests that what is more important when employing international students than the students’ academic and professional skills and knowledge is whether or not they conform to Japanese customs.
South African researchers could be priced out of the mainstream of global scholarship under new, expensive plans for open access publishing being considered by the government in Pretoria.
At university graduation ceremonies, the Uganda Higher Education Students’ Financing Board, is frequently described in positive terms as the single biggest sponsor or 'parent' of students. However, recently it has attracted criticism that it has been hijacked by the rich.
The aim of the African Research Universities Alliance or ARUA to increase Africa’s contribution to global research output and its commitment to strengthening the continent’s research base are 'fundamental' to nurturing and supporting the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in Africa.
Ahead of next week’s African Research Universities Alliance conference – Africa and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Defining a role for research universities – University World News canvassed the views of a selection of experts in higher education on the state of readiness of Africa’s research universities for the next 'revolution'.
Traumatised students and academics are struggling to cope at South African universities plagued by a 'rape culture' and the failure to overcome the legacies of past and present discrimination. In response, a new network has been established among universities in the country’s Western Cape province with the goal of addressing inequality within the post-school system and society at large.
For several weeks up to 300 people from African countries have been camped outside the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Pretoria, South Africa, demanding to be sent home to their countries of origin as they fear for their lives in South Africa following an outbreak of xenophobic violence in August and September that left several people dead.
From space science and robotics to circular economies and food security – scientific research can contribute significantly to keeping countries sustainable and at the cutting edge of technology. And when countries recognise that they can better achieve this through partnerships, they stand to take research and innovation to new heights.
African women vice-chancellors have a unique perspective on gender-inclusive higher education. A group of them is to discuss strategies to boost the number of women studying and teaching science, technology and innovation-focused subjects, and ensure their entry into leadership positions.
The introduction of a new national open access policy requiring public higher education institutions in Ethiopia to ensure that publicly-funded research is deposited in a national repository and that all research complies with international data standards has been welcomed by the sector.
Aline Umutesi lost her parents and all her siblings during the 1994 genocide that took place in Rwanda when she was seven. She could not understand why it was important to reconcile with those who had orphaned her – until she went to university and participated, in her third year, in a course on unity and reconciliation at the Centre for Conflict Management at the University of Rwanda.
An executive order by the Ugandan president to “move” the salaries of academic scientists to “desired levels”, excluding lecturers in the arts and humanities, has reignited tensions in an age-old debate.
Nigerian students in Benin are at the receiving end of an unstable economic situation and fractured political relations between the two neighbours. Three weeks after the Seme-Krake international border was abruptly and indefinitely closed by Nigeria – a move ostensibly aimed at curbing rampant smuggling – it was announced by Benin that all English language courses in private universities were suspended.
Five years after a new national ICT policy was unveiled in Uganda, bringing with it hopes of a revolution in higher education teaching and learning, there are concerns that institutions have failed to grasp the opportunities offered by online learning.
The African Development University in Niger's capital, Niamey, is the result of the vision of a young man, Kader Kaneye, who started dreaming 12 years ago about how to empower youth in his country through quality higher education. He will be sharing his experience at the 14th eLearning Africa conference, to be held in Abidjan in C^ote d’Ivoire from 23 to 25 October.
As South Africa faces catastrophic unemployment rates, the South African Technology Network (SATN) and various stakeholders are partnering to ensure that graduates “are no longer job seekers but job creators”, according to SATN CEO Dr Anshu Padayachee.
South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande warned the country’s vice-chancellors not to talk to the president behind his back – but the serious discussion at the inaugural National Higher Education Conference focused sharply on the theme “Reinventing South Africa's universities for the future”.
Despite low levels of investment in research and the country’s limited researcher capacity, South Africa’s research performance is disproportionately high and the country clearly “punches above its weight in this area”, according to a new report on the state of research in South Africa.
With assistance from the federal ministry of education and international donors, Nigerian universities are taking advantage of alternative energy production technology, and the unbundling of the electricity production and distribution in the country, to generate their own electrical supply from a variety of sources.
Working closely with partners in industry, government and communities, the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing at the Central University of Technology in South Africa is using its social and technological innovations to help solve societal problems in Africa and beyond.
South Africa’s Higher Education Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande has been urged by the country’s vice-chancellors to keep the Budget vote for the recently merged higher education, and science and technology ministries separate to avoid the latter being gobbled up by the former.
Academics and other higher education stakeholders are calling for the reinvestment into the under-funded higher education sector of monies received by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board for the sale of application forms for the common entrance examination or Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination.
The need for university lecturers to possess the pedagogical skills that can empower students to acquire 21st century skills and take responsibility for their learning in a process of co-construction of knowledge was highlighted at the opening plenary session of the Partnership for Pedagogical Leadership in Africa (PedaL) West African hub training which took place in Accra, Ghana in August.
Higher education stakeholders have welcomed a set of new Japanese initiatives aimed at promoting research and development capacity in Africa as well as entrepreneurship and innovation skills among African students.
Researchers from the University of Greenwich in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute have created a first of its kind credit scheme to cushion smallholder farmers in Kenya’s dryland areas from frequent droughts.
Some of South Africa’s top vice-chancellors and sector leaders have outlined the most pressing challenges facing the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Dr Blade Nzimande who last week marked 100 days in office in a period marked by national outrage over the recent deaths of two female students.
In a bid to align itself with government policy, the University of Rwanda is set to increase its intake of government-sponsored students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM-related courses to 90% over the next 10 years.
A recent World Bank policy report has recommended a review of the national tuition fees policy applicable to Kenyan universities – to address both financial sustainability and equity of the higher education sector.
The heads of 26 public universities, along with the Commission for Gender Equality, have called on South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa to act decisively in addressing violence against women amid growing national anger over the horrific murders of two university students.
A recent call for applications by the Nigerian government-funded Tertiary Education Trust Fund for its new intervention fund dedicated to funding applied research under its National Research Fund programme has met with mixed responses from the academic and research community.
Cape Town is firmly entrenched as the design hub of South Africa since it was awarded World Design Capital status in 2014. Professor Chris Nhlapo, vice-chancellor of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, believes the institution is at the forefront of the design-thinking energy that pervades the country’s legislative capital.
As Algeria moves to replace French with English in universities, in neighbouring Morocco lawmakers have passed a draft education law that will pave the way for strengthening French in pre-university education, overturning decades of Arabisation and raising concerns about threats to cultural identity.
Outspoken South African academic Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of one of the country’s leading institutions, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), said he would have like to have seen greater ethics among student leaders during the #FeesMustFall protests which effectively kicked off on the Wits campus in 2015.
A four-year leadership training programme aimed at vice-chancellors, principals and deans of 54 African universities has proved popular among university leaders and a third phase is planned, according to its organisers.
Political parties should be banned from university campuses in South Africa, according to a number of leading academics and senior administrators who attended a recent academic round-table discussion on the book Rebels and Rage: Reflecting on #FeesMustFall by University of the Witwatersrand Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib.
Following her graduation from the University of Rwanda in 2014 with a degree focused on business and administration, 29-year-old Christine Mulisa hoped to land a job in her field within a few months.
What kind of leadership values and skills should African business schools be imparting to their students as we encounter the fourth industrial revolution (4IR)? This was one of the key questions considered by African business school deans who met for the Association of African Business Schools annual conference from 6-9 June in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
As government authorities in Botswana envisage seeing their country becoming an education hub for Southern Africa, both private and public colleges within the country are slowly but steadily transforming themselves into universities, with four colleges evolving into fully-fledged universities over the last 19 years.
The South African Technology Network has partnered with the Department of Higher Education and Training to launch a Staff PhD Capacity Enhancement Programme designed to raise the number and quality of PhDs coming out of universities of technology and previously disadvantaged universities in South Africa.
African universities need to “run faster in innovating technologies to compete globally”, according to Professor Crispus Kiamba, former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology in Kenya and current faculty member of the School of the Built Environment, College of Architecture and Engineering at the University of Nairobi.
Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa have failed to equip the region’s fast-growing youth population with market-driven skills needed for prosperous and equitable societies, and the region’s countries are not reaping the rewards of their investment in tertiary education, according to a new study by the World Bank.
We need to move beyond talking about the fourth industrial revolution and translate this into action. If we don’t embrace it, we’ll ultimately fail.