Africa News
Many Rwandan students who were enrolled in Chinese universities during the COVID-19 lockdowns are now back home and are studying online. Although they face challenges, they say they are determined to honour their scholarships and complete their studies.
While the date on which universities in Algeria will resume academic activities is as yet undecided, industry leaders, union and student representatives are unanimous: there is no question of a lost year.
Academics have responded with dismay to the news that Nigeria’s Minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed and the leadership of the Senate have decided to reduce capital projects across national departments by 20%.
African universities will be critical in overcoming the financial fall-out from the coronavirus crisis, and in building the resilience of African societies for future challenges, General Secretary of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, Jan Palmowski, has told University World News.
Despite the impact of COVID-19, academics are hopeful that the salaries of professors who teach science in all Uganda’s public universities will be almost doubled with effect from next year, in accordance with promises made by the state president.
Academics from several universities throughout South Africa have demanded an immediate halt to formal online learning at universities, warning that continuation would result in an “academic disaster” and compound the effects of the pandemic.
As the coronavirus epidemic continues to gain ground, the Algerian university community is investing in the fight against the pandemic by all means at its disposal.
The fusion of online and in-person teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses in institutions of higher learning could yield the same learning outcomes for students as traditional, in-person classes but at a significantly lower cost, a study has confirmed.
African students in India are the subject of racial profiling and are being blamed for spreading the coronavirus. It is so bad that most of them are unable to go out and shop for essential supplies.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a range of opportunities to explore the digital space and pursue greater collaboration at all levels, but it also exposes and will likely entrench deep-seated inequalities in the higher education system, according to higher education experts.
Barely a month after the country went into lockdown to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, some private-sector universities in Rwanda, citing a lack of funds, have suspended academic and administrative staff and reduced the salaries of others.
The adoption of e-learning as an innovative means to continue teaching and learning during the national lockdowns affecting many African countries has been rejected by a number of student organisations, which argue it is unaffordable, impractical and elitist.
Egypt’s higher education authorities have cancelled the final exams of the second semester in different universities in the country to help stem an outbreak of the new coronavirus. The step comes more than a month after Egypt shut down all schools and universities as part of precautions to contain the spread of the potentially fatal disease.
The range of containment measures imposed by national governments to counter the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically affected research, teaching and learning in African universities – in some cases leading to their suspension. In these unusual circumstances, what are the implications for academic freedom?
South Africa’s tertiary education sector has delivered a resounding response to the coronavirus pandemic.
African students in Guangzhou, China, have been thrown out of their homes, forcibly quarantined and refused entry into public areas as xenophobic hostility towards Africans escalates in the wake of warnings by Chinese President Xi Jinping of “new difficulties and challenges” related to a possible “second wave” of the pandemic.
Students confined on campus in Burkina Faso because of the COVID-19 outbreak have demanded that they should be entitled to free meals and that adequate healthcare facilities should be provided.
Tunisia’s Education Minister Mohamed El Hamdi has insisted that the baccalauréat examinations will take place as scheduled, in spite of the closure of schools due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
Recently published government regulations which call for telecommunication companies to provide free access to educational websites to support online teaching and learning are currently the subject of intense negotiation between mobile network operators and universities. How much room for manoeuvre do the regulations actually give service providers?
Kenya’s shuttered universities face the twin challenge of rolling out online learning for thousands of students and finding money to pay salaries and meet their financial obligations at a time when major revenue streams are shut.
Egyptian students currently based in Northern Cyprus may soon be reunited with their families following an initiative by the government of Egypt to repatriate an estimated 10 million of its citizens who are either working or studying abroad.
Student unions have appealed to the government to allow Mauritanian students in neighbouring countries to return home and have accused the Mauritanian government of relinquishing its responsibilities towards citizens stranded at the country’s borders, which shut on 22 March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Diminished high-level research funding and fewer face-to-face conferences and collaboration – these are some of the potential consequences from the coronavirus pandemic as it affects higher education in Africa. But there may be a host of benefits too.
North African student unions and academic communities have launched several civic engagement and social responsibility initiatives, ranging from fundraising and awareness campaigns to consultancy guidance and medical initiatives, in an effort to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Zimbabwe government has made available an initial ZW$33 million (U$S1.3 million, according to the official exchange rate) in seed capital to state universities to make personal protective equipment to ameliorate a national shortage of the materials needed to fight the coronavirus.
Universities in South Africa have committed themselves to completing the 2020 academic year and are working with three possible scenarios in the uncertain terrain presented by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.
Two telecommunication companies – MTN Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda – are offering free access to online learning materials for all students from the University of Rwanda and the Rwanda polytechnics in a move aimed at helping the higher education sector keep functioning in spite of the closure of universities and schools on 21 March.
Morocco’s Broadcasting and Television National Company is partnering with the Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research to offer tele-education for students without access to the internet as universities shut down campuses to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
International students based in Northern Cyprus, many of whom are African, are receiving food aid packages and meals from support groups and non-governmental organisations that have teamed up with local municipalities and businesses to ensure they have enough to sustain them until the national lockdown due to COVID-19 is suspended.
With the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic disrupting learning and other activities, Amnesty International has called on the Ethiopian authorities to disclose measures it has taken to rescue the 17 Amhara students from Dambi Dollo University in Western Oromia who were abducted by unknown people in November 2019 and who are still missing.
In the two weeks since the last edition of University World News – Africa was published on 12 March 2020, the entire face of African higher education has changed as, one-by-one, country-wide closures of schools and universities have been announced and have taken effect.
The South African Department of Higher Education and Training has asked all universities and colleges to participate in a survey to assess their capability to offer online learning should educational institutions be forced to extend their closure beyond the early recess.
As the coronavirus infections continue to spread, many African universities are galvanising their research resources and expertise to find a medical solution to the pandemic or limit its spread. But chances of a big impact in the short term are slim and greater investment in fighting pandemics in the future is required.
With a lockdown in force since midnight on Saturday 21 March, Rwanda’s universities are exploring online alternatives to teaching and learning to ensure the academic year is not disrupted. The African Leadership University seems to be ahead of the pack when it comes to preparedness to take learning online.
A Tunisian students’ union has roundly rejected a proposal by the government to move classes online and has called for a boycott of enrolment on online education platforms, raising questions about how feasible an option online education is in many African countries.
In the wake of closures that took effect at midday on Friday 20 March, a number of universities and higher education institutions in East Africa are revitalising existing e-learning platforms, while others are tentatively migrating into uncharted territory.
The Tanzania Commission for Universities has moved to regulate all honorary degrees conferred on its citizens by local and foreign universities, saying that such honours must be in line with the country’s Universities Act.
Schools and tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe shut down on Tuesday 24 March as a precaution to contain the spread of COVID-19 after parents and other education sector stakeholders contested their continued operation.
Ethiopia last week joined the wave of African countries closing their schools and universities across the continent, including neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan, as a preventive measure against the possible spread of the coronavirus.
Following the suspension of contact classes in Kenya, some universities have made provision for remote teaching and learning to ensure that students complete the remaining semester as scheduled, but students have expressed concern about potential delays to their studies.
The Federal Ministry of Education has directed all tertiary institutions in Nigeria to shut down and allow students to go home as cases of reported COVID-19 increased to 13.
Telecommunications companies are partnering with governments to help with the shift to online and distance learning as universities shut down campuses to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Classes at some universities around South Africa and in Namibia have been suspended and graduation ceremonies cancelled as the country moves to contain the spread of COVID-19. In most cases, there is a moratorium on work-related international travel.
Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday 12 March ordered the closure of all educational establishments with immediate effect and until the end of the holidays, scheduled for 5 April, as part of attempts to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Internet shutdowns are increasing in Africa, raising a number of concerns about freedom of expression as well as the impact on the performance of national and regional virtual universities. This was one of the findings in a recently released report published by digital rights advocacy group Access Now.
Zimbabwean students trapped in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, which has been in lockdown since 23 January, are receiving extra funds from their government to help them cope with their indefinite isolation.
Rwanda's Ministry of Education on Wednesday issued a statement urging all universities and higher education institutions to enhance awareness and take precautionary measures to prevent a possible coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Tertiary education in Sub-Saharan Africa is confronting probably the biggest challenge it will ever face: building up the human capital of a skyrocketing youth population, according to Lucy Heady, knowledge director for Education Sub Saharan Africa.
In what could herald a new era in its engagements with foreign universities and scholars, the German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD says it is exploring opportunities to make more use of virtual and digital technologies in its programme delivery. However, it has no plans to scale back its exchange and cooperation activities – or its longstanding commitment to the internationalisation of higher education.
The African Development Bank is to fund 191 scientific research projects in several Angolan higher education institutions, Maria do Rosário Braganca Sambo, minister for higher education, science, technology and innovation, has announced.
The Rwanda National Leadership Retreat, also known as ‘Umwiherero’, resolved last month to assess the quality of education in higher learning institutions and review the current accreditation and licensing requirements for new ones.
The training of senior medical students at the University of Zimbabwe’s College of Health Sciences has been plunged into disarray and stakeholders fear that a protracted standoff with students could severely destabilise the country’s already ailing health system.
A plan to promote ethics and professional conduct among the various branches of the higher education and scientific research sectors is underway in Algeria, partly aimed at reducing the extent of plagiarism in universities.
A number of universities and institutions of higher learning in Uganda have started tweaking their programmes this year to include an element of skills acquisition after the Ministry of Education and Sports approved a more ‘competence-based’ curriculum for lower secondary education last October.
Hopes that this week’s visit to Kenya by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier would provide some insight into progress towards the establishment of the long-awaited East African-German University of Applied Sciences remain largely unfulfilled.
Rwandan universities and higher learning institutions are working to align their programmes with the government’s emphasis on producing students with skills to drive national economic growth.
The institutions representing university heads in Cameroon and France have signed a five-year framework agreement to facilitate exchanges and other joint activities.
Kenyatta University, Kenya’s biggest institution by student numbers, has turned to commercial lenders to fund its operations, exposing the worsening financial condition of the country’s public universities.
The council of Sudan University of Science and Technology, one of the country’s largest public universities, has approved the withdrawal of honorary degrees awarded to four members of the regime of ousted Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir – including his former vice-president – and three senior members of his political party.
The Ugandan government is to come up with a multi-sectoral plan involving the ministries of health, education and foreign affairs to ensure that Ugandan students affected by the coronavirus lockdown in Wuhan in China are assisted, but an outright evacuation plan is not yet on the cards.