In a week of ongoing drama in South African higher education, a group of 226 academics from the University of Stellenbosch has backed a management proposal to adopt English as the primary language, with Afrikaans and isiXhosa as ‘additional’ languages. This followed demonstrations at Stellenbosch and violent protests at some other universities, with multiple arrests.
The marginalisation of social sciences and humanities in African universities has radically stifled scholarship, according to CODESRIA – the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa. At a workshop in Nairobi, scholars from the diaspora and from Sub-Saharan Africa heard that this had narrowed the region’s view on development.
Recent weeks have seen some university students in Libya sit examinations. It is a sign that things may be improving after the worst 18 months in the history of higher education. The civil war has seen universities bombed, with education halted at some institutions and operations impeded at others.
When Amos Ngila, a second-year law student at Moi University in Kenya, phoned his father recently to update him on campus events, what he said was so shattering that his dad hung up. The news was that the law school had been closed down, there was an impending tuition fee increase and Ngila was yet to receive his student loan, more than a month into the semester.
Racial problems that have dogged South Africa’s prestigious Stellenbosch University have flared after the publication of a documentary about the discriminatory experiences of black students. The parliamentary portfolio committee on higher education and training is calling the university’s leaders to an urgent meeting, to table institutional transformation plans. Meanwhile, violence has marred the run-up to student elections on other campuses.
African higher education systems have become casualties of war, caught in the crossfire of Islamic fundamentalism that cuts across the spectrum of religious and political thought, according to Professor Sultan Barakat, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center.
If the conversation about university rankings is important, then the starting point would be to design a ranking system for Africa that encourages positive conduct – “precisely because we know that rankings are influential, for example in resource allocation”, said University of Johannesburg Vice-chancellor Ihron Rensburg at the Times Higher Education Africa Universities Summit held in the city from 30-31 July.
Banishing academic dishonesty could help Mozambique nurture original thinkers who are economically efficient and socially suited to develop the country. But this will only be possible if administrators work with professors and students to build strong measures to combat widespread plagiarism, which is hampering the production of quality graduates.
Africa largely missed the analogue technology revolution 50 years ago. Experts say the digital age will come to an end faster. There is a need to position Africa to catch up with information and communication technology and be viewed as a global player, said Thierry Zomahoun, president and CEO of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences.
African researchers should seek inspiration from indigenous knowledge and innovation systems in order to make headway in resolving development problems. The call was made by University of Rwanda senior lecturer, Dr Chika Ezeanya, during a general assembly of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, CODESRIA
African and European cooperation has produced a growing number of African graduates who have studied abroad. But the continent is not benefitting as much as it should from their world-class talent because, although the graduates want to contribute to capacity building in their fields, local conditions are not conducive, a recent study found.
In Uganda as elsewhere, recent graduates are learning a tough lesson – a university education is no guarantee of a job. More than half of people under 30 are without full-time employment, and the problem is particularly acute among degree holders. Now new initiatives are teaching graduates and students the entrepreneurial skills they need to survive.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural research capacity grew by 50% in the decade from 2000, but the quality and quantity of research is being constrained by underinvestment, inadequate human resources and poor infrastructure.
Ten South African universities collected a total of R659 million (US$55 million) in philanthropic income during 2013 from 4,355 donors, with nearly half from international organisations. But there were major disparities, a new survey has revealed – two universities attracted half of the funding while five received less than R23 million between them.
Various studies have found that well-educated people from developing countries are likely to emigrate, hurting their economies and depriving their countries of much-needed expertise in universities. Now Norwegian researchers may have found a solution to the developing world’s brain-drain conundrum.
The South African government’s extensive reforms to the skills development and training system over the past decade have failed to deliver adequate skills to business, according to a new report. The focus has been on building supply-side capacity such as sector skills councils and qualifications frameworks and grading, at the expense of actually producing graduates with the necessary skills.
The recognition – or not – of qualifications when a student moves from one country to another has long caused headaches in the academic world and hampered the mobility of students, especially in developing or middle-income countries. UNESCO believes there was a breakthrough for Africa last December when 16 countries signed an amended version of the ‘Arusha Convention’ on the recognition of qualifications across the continent.
After 10 years of being split under Armando Guebuza’s two terms as Mozambique’s head of state, under the new President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, higher education has been reunited with science and technology, and technical and professional education, in a newly established ministry. The ministry needs to institutionalise practices and coordinating structures, and to promote a more bottom-up approach with input from universities and other key stakeholders.
Dr Mohamed Abdelhamid Kharaba, an assistant professor of chemistry and physics at Egypt’s University of Alexandria, has been languishing in prison without trial for more than a year. Kharaba was arrested on 24 November 2013 and charged with crimes including murder during anti-government protests, and terrorism – accusations that he has denied.
South Africa’s senior academics are better rewarded than comparable staff in the public and private sectors, and they are relatively better paid than lower-ranked lecturers, a study by the vice-chancellors' association Higher Education South Africa has revealed. This is good news for retaining senior staff but bad news for building the next generation of academics.
The advanced technological skills required to run the Square Kilometre Array, or SKA – a mega-research project due to become fully operational in 2020 in South Africa and eight other African countries – are scarce in Africa. But efforts to rectify that are gathering momentum.
The Centre of Excellence in Scientometrics and Science, Technology and Innovation Policy – SciSTIP – outlined fields of research and how it will carry out its work at a scientific launch conference held at Stellenbosch University in South Africa earlier this month. A major aim is to produce comprehensive reviews of science and technology – the first in 20 years.
The World Bank is developing a comprehensive project to rehabilitate Mali’s struggling public universities, which have been drained of highly qualified teaching staff, lack degree diversification and are housed in inappropriate rental spaces in the capital Bamako.
After leaving Freetown, capital of Ebola-plagued Sierra Leone, for the airport by hydrofoil, I reflected on how I felt when undertaking this route at the start of my journey. It was night, and there was no electricity. We were disorientated by sensory overload: while trying to become accustomed to the darkness and warm, humid air, we were also contemplating getting used to frequent hand-washing and keeping a distance between ourselves, not touching each other or objects if at all possible.
The recent attack by Boko Haram insurgents on a higher education institution in Kano, northern Nigeria’s biggest metropolis, prompted President Goodluck Jonathan to order security agencies to protect university campuses. Ongoing confrontation between the Islamist sect and the military has compelled some students in the north to relocate to other universities in the country and elsewhere in West Africa.