An 'old men's club' image, exclusionist rules against younger members and lack of sustainable funding are among the characteristics of science academies in Africa, with more transparent member selection criteria being needed. This was the gist of a debate between students, academics and administrators at a conference of the Regional Initiative in Science and Education, or RISE, in Johannesburg this month.
It was inspiring to see the next generation of African leaders beginning to emerge through science, said Philip Griffiths, chair of the Princeton-based Science Initiative Group, SIG - leading scientists who share a passion for fostering science in developing countries. He was speaking at the close of a four-day Regional Initiative in Science and Education conference held in South Africa this month.
Challenging developments in South Africa, particularly in universities, have led to confusion around position-taking on political and other issues. Every now and then events in society bring position-taking to a point of crisis, and one such crisis is unfolding in the 'resolution' of the crimen injuria case against four former Reitz hostel students from the University of Free State who were at the centre of a racism controversy nearly three years ago. Who is to take responsibility? asks CRAIN SOUDIEN in an article in the South African Journal of Science.
South African, Zambian and Zimbabwean universities have signed a memorandum of understanding for the exchange of staff and students, a leading Zimbabwean academic said last week.
Senegal's President Aboulaye Wade has dismissed the rector of the troubled University of Thiès, Professor Pape Ibra Samb, and appointed in his place Professor Cheikh Saad Bouh Boye, dean of the medical faculty of Ucad, the University Cheikh Anwar Diop of Dakar.
Germany's Academic Exchange Service, DAAD, is providing funding of CFA46 million (US$94,000) for bursaries for African masters students, reported Sudonline of Dakar.
Scientists from West and Central Africa met to discuss setting up new academies to promote science and technology so development of the continent could be better managed, reported Le Soleil of Dakar. The meeting was convened in Senegal last month by the Network of African Science Academies, Nasac.
Erasmus Mundos has financed a new White Paper, disseminated last week in Brussels, which envisages European universities joining a strategic partnership with African universities to enable the latter to acquire the capacity to take leadership in developing their countries. The partnership is to be funded by the EU and its member states. The title of the White Paper is Africa-Europe Higher Education Cooperation for Development: Meeting regional and global challenges.
Although strides have been made, women academics are still losing out to male colleagues at South African universities, especially at the senior level. Pervasive patriarchal attitudes, the lingering effects of apartheid and a woman's childbearing responsibilities are the major challenges faced by female educators as they climb the career ladder, and statistics show their situation hasn't improved much this past decade.
New plans for broadening the two-way street between African and European universities were unveiled at a conference in Brussels last week, where 150 delegates from both continents debated closer ties in higher education. The conference focused on a newly published White Paper on bridging arrangements between institutions and greater cooperation between scholars in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.
UN experts are calling on universities to help them map the impact of HIV-Aids on higher education institutions and how this is being addressed.
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe last week cancelled a trip to Ecuador to receive an honorary university degree in civil law after opposition to the honour mounted at home and abroad.
In a bid to link higher education funding to society's long-term economic goals, Kenya plans to review courses offered by the country's public universities, putting emphasis on science and technology - a shift that could see dozens of popular courses scrapped. And Higher Education Minister William Ruto said only science and technology students at public universities would in future be assured of government funding.
Kenya plans to launch a multi-million dollar e-learning university next year, potentially increasing higher education access and easing an admissions crisis plaguing public universities. The National Open University of Kenya will enable students to pursue their degree dreams through online learning, a trend already practiced on a small scale by private universities.
To Egypt's over-stretched public universities it is a godsend but to private universities the results of the 'gap year', in which far fewer secondary school leavers are attending universities, is a major problem.
A week-long strike over salaries at the University of Botswana has effectively ended, with staff returning to work on 21 September and a number of strategies planned to address the situation. Unresolved issues between university staff and management have been outstanding for most of 2010.
Zimbabwe is set to cut back on nursing students' funding and intakes at institutions of higher learning, after all vacancies were filled, a senior official said in a statement. In a related move the state is considering loosening its strict controls over bonded students in its cadetship programme.
At the end of August, government leaders from China and South Africa announced that they would advance bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, including higher education and scientific research. The partnership follows a series of collaborations that have been set up following the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000 and the formulation of the Chinese government's 'Africa Policy'.
The mountain came to us, literally and figuratively. The who's who of South African higher education came to Cape Town to share, enlighten and challenge 87 women from 14 African countries and America on various aspects of this expansive subject. I have a photograph to prove it - a group shot of delegates attending the annual HERS-SA Academy for women in leadership in higher education, against the backdrop of Table Mountain.
African universities have few female students opting for 'hard sciences'. And despite the availability of funds, attracting female science lecturers is even more challenging. These were among concerns discussed recently in Cape Town by senior women from universities in Botswana, Mauritius and Tanzania attending the HERS-SA academy. The consensus was that the problem boils down to a shortage of role models.
In a bid to catch up with technology, address a host of registration-related challenges and offer students improved service, Zambia's first state university, the University of Zambia or UNZA, has introduced online student registration and payment.
Tunisia has launched a EURO 436 million science and technology strategic plan to boost research and promote innovation and a knowledge-based economy over the next five years, 2010-14.
In a predictably cerebral speech containing strong echoes of his hallmark African Renaissance theme, former South African president Thabo Mbeki has argued for the central role of the university in development and highlighted the "self-definition of the African intelligentsia" as one of the most important tasks of student leaders. He was addressing the African Student Leaders' Summit held in Cape Town earlier this month.
University of Cape Town Vice-chancellor Max Price lamented the dearth of student activism, at the inaugural African Student Leaders' Summit held in the city from 6-10 September. The aim of bringing student representatives from across the continent together, he said, was to contribute to the rise of the next generation of leaders, who will help develop solution's to Africa's many challenges and take advantages of its significant opportunities.
The Commission for Africa, established by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004, has called on the donor community to increase funding to Africa's higher education system, saying there has been no improvement in resources channeled towards the sector in the past five years.