In the week before striking lecturers at the University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, voted to return to work, police used brutal force to break up a demonstration of angry students who were demanding resumption of their courses.
More than 100 unemployed civil service graduates in Morocco who were demonstrating peacefully against lack of work were injured when police used force to break up their march to the education ministry in the capital Rabat, said Libération, published in Casablanca.
Protests and strikes have disrupted medical studies at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkino Faso as well as courses at the University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, during the past few months - and there are fears they will continue and result in wasted academic years.
The research capacity of African universities is being hindered by the emergence of serious bottlenecks, according to one of the continent's distinguished education leaders. Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr, Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, suggests that the most significant human element is absence of sufficient highly qualified academics. A "pandemic of enrolment explosion" had taken place in recent years without commensurate growth in faculty numbers.
Irish President Mary McAleese has launched an unprecedented initiative that brings together all nine universities in the Republic and Northern Ireland with universities in four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The four involved in the Irish-African Partnership for Research Capacity Building are Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi.
Tertiary education enrolment ratios in Sub-Saharan countries continue to lag far behind all other regions of the world, with only one in 20 young Africans entering formal study after school, according to Unesco's Education For All Global Monitoring Report 2008. But participation rates are rising and there was a dramatic hike in student numbers in Sub-Saharan Africa in the six years to 2005: from 2.1 to 3.5 million. Mauritius has the highest gross enrolment ratio in the region, 17%, followed by South Africa, while Nigeria's tertiary student numbers nearly doubled to 1.3 million during the six-year period.
The poor electricity supply in N igeria is proving a major impediment to the operation and growth of information and communication technologies in the nation's universities. Only a trickle of daily electricity production dribbles erratically into the country's 93 institutions, rendering ICT systems dysfunctional. Universities resort to diesel-propelled generators, but they are expensive and environmentally unfriendly. So now there are attempts to find alternative energy sources such as solar energy to accelerate ICT provision.
In a policy about-face, the South African government is considering re-creating teacher training colleges that it closed a decade ago. Teacher programmes at colleges were either shut down or incorporated into universities. A teacher college campaign is being driven by South African President-in-waiting Jacob Zuma, backed by political parties and teacher unions - but not necessarily by universities - in the face of drastic teacher shortages in schools as teachers immigrate, die of AIDS or leave the profession.
A dearth in leadership in higher education in South Africa – and the world – can be attributed to gendered institutional cultures that “prevent us from seeing the leadership potential that exists in half the population, our women”. So said Dr Mamphela Ramphele, author, business women, former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town and an ex-managing director of the World Bank at an “Institutional cultures and higher education leadership: Where are the women?” conference held in Cape Town. Although more than half of university students and staff in South Africa are women, only three of 23 universities are led by women who comprise just 17% of deputy vice-chancellors and 21% of deans.
The Catholic Church of Nigeria and the National Universities Commission are at loggerheads over the legal and academic status of seminaries and institutions affiliated to Nigerian universities. The disagreements have led to both sides placing advertisements in newspapers over the past two years, to try to win over public sympathy for their differing interpretations of the law and historical events on complex issues. These include affiliation approvals, quality assurance and the level of government intervention in courses offered by the country’s 93 public and private universities.
Kenya’s eight public universities have fully resumed normal academic programmes after the unprecedented violence that hit the country in January and February this year. For the University of Nairobi, the nerve centre of academic pursuit in Kenya, peace could not be more welcome – the institution lost two staff members and a student to the violence. The university’s public relations manager, Charles Sikulu, says none of the institution’s six colleges opened on 7 January as scheduled. The first to open was the College of Health Sciences, including all postgraduate students, on 21 January. The rest of the university’s students resumed learning on 18 February.
Students in South Africa have reacted with anger to news that universities have returned at least R50 million (US$6.2 million) in funding earmarked for study bursaries and loans to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, or NSFAS. The money could have helped secure a funded university place for some 5,000 additional poor students last year. But universities are not entirely to blame, says NSFAS Chief Executive Officer Pragasen Naicker – with growing numbers of bursaries tied to scarce-skills courses, and some bursary funding coming in late, it is extremely difficult to match all bursaries with needy students at all universities.
The European Parliament has pushed for more concrete collaboration between African and European Union researchers, amid concerns that grand declarations of altruistic intentions are failing to deliver cash or expertise. A formal resolution passed by parliament members, or MEPs, called for a “special emphasis” to be placed on research into AIDS in African countries within the EU’s ongoing seventh framework programme on research, which commands a huge €53.2 billion budget, nearly three times the total GDP of Kenya.
Academics and the council at the University of Malawi have been at loggerheads over a controversial quota system that the institution agreed to use this year when selecting students. At a recent meeting the senate decided not to implement the district-based quota system as is, with one member saying that it was overwhelmingly rejected by all but one person. The senate agreed to a quota system if it was to take poverty and disability into consideration – but not the districts students come from.
Academics and students have slammed the US government's inclusion of Nigeria on a list of high security risk countries, following last month's failed attempt to blow up a US plane by former London-based Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. They are concerned that the US action will undermine academic exchange between the countries.
After a week of mounting countrywide protests, South African university students will not be paying more for tuition next year. And they will be given extra time to write their end-of-year examinations. But the push for free higher education for poor students is far from over.
Photo credit: CNN
Photo credit: CNN
After three decades of false starts and failed attempts to relocate fully from Côte d’Ivoire to Ghana, the Association of African Universities expects to be in a new home in Accra by December 2016 – a modern headquarters that is being built at a cost of US$5.8 million.
Vice-chancellors of Nigeria's regionally controlled universities are being fired or resigning due to instability and excessive politicisation at the institutions. And industrial unions in these state universities are constantly at loggerheads with the authorities over issues of autonomy and failure to follow due process.
Kenya's public universities, long plagued by an admissions crisis, are in for a shock as they move to enrol tens of thousands of extra students to clear a backlog that has for decades forced students to wait for two years after high school to enter public higher education.
A new project to boost management of research at African universities has been launched. University Research Governance, started by Canada's International Development Research Centre, aims to focus universities on usable research outputs to enhance socio-economic development.
The International Atomic Energy Agency and the Swiss-based pharmaceutical firm Roche launched an initiative - Education for Cancer in African Regions, or EDUCARE - on 28 April to help tackle acute shortages of skilled cancer professionals in Africa. The project is being piloted in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
The deterioration of once-elite law schools in Egypt recently prompted Minister of Higher Education Hani Hilal to announce a ban on the creation of new schools for the next 10 years and a drastic reduction in the number of students to be admitted to the country's 15 existing institutions. His decision met with mixed responses.
Four of Namibia's long-standing teacher training colleges merged with the University of Namibia last month, pushing the institution's enrolment to more than 14,000 students. It is hoped that incorporation of the colleges will lead to an improvement in educational standards.