Czech academic heads new regional university

A new university has opened in northeast Burundi, committed to promoting higher education and research for rural development in the long-suffering Great Lakes region. "Building peace, prosperity and hope is the important message of our university," said the first rector of East Africa Star University, Czech philosopher Dr Marek Hrubec.

"I have always been aware of the importance of eradicating global poverty, mainly problems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Thus, I know many people who are involved in these issues, not only in theory but also in practice," he told University World News.

"Therefore, it is not a surprise that I end up at a university in East Africa. I am happy that I can help here."

Hrubec will act as secretary of the senate of East Africa Star University, which is chaired by the University President Samuel Ndikumana.

The university, in Cibitoke province about 70 kilometres from Burundi's capital Bujumbura, received official recognition via a ministerial order in February, with support from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the National Commission for Higher Education.

Hrubec said he had previously focused on education and research in philosophy and social science in Central Europe, and especially on global studies in the Academy of Sciences and at Charles University in Prague.

"My research team and I analysed many social, economic, cultural and political aspects of globalisation and I gave lectures on these topics in the European Union, United States, India, China and many other states."

A regional institution

As its name implies, East Africa Star University will offer higher education to students from across the East African Community, whose member countries are Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

"We also are aware of conflicts in Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly in wastern Congo, and we will pay special attention to Congolese students as well," said Hrubec.

"The place of the university says something. We are on the boundaries of three states, in the northwest of Burundi just several kilometres from the DRC and Rwanda. However, we are not limited by that territory. Even if we have an East African focus which shapes our identity, we are open to other parts of Africa and other parts of the world as well."


One of the university's objectives is to become a centre of excellence, conducting research and offering high quality education based not only on "the contemporary usual stock of knowledge" but also on research. "That is why the word 'Star' is in the name," Hrubec said.

"We do not want to produce just narrow specialists but also human beings who are aware of interactions between local, national, regional and global problems.

"Students and graduates should be human beings who keep in mind the importance of social, political and cultural justice, who know the philosophical idea that human beings need mutual recognition in social, economic, political and cultural relations in order to realise good lives," Hrubec explained.

"To make a long story short, that is why our university is based on values of justice, equality and prosperity."

"Hopefully, it can help bring well-being and peace to this region. People learned from disasters here in Burundi, Rwanda and around. They faced colonisation, exploitation and oppression which led to land disputes, conflicts, ethnic clashes, genocide and civil wars.

"Now they really deserve a better life."

From the 1994 Rwandan genocide which claimed some one million lives in just 100 days, to the Congolese wars in which nearly five million people have died since 1996, and the Burundi civil war that lasted more than a decade, Africa's Great Lakes Region has suffered greatly.

Courses tailored for needs

The university began admitting students last August, in anticipation of receiving official approval, and began teaching some courses in February including in public health, economics, sociology, psychology and information technology.

"Step by step, we will open more and more subjects of study in order to establish five faculties," Hrubec told University World News. All programmes have to be officially authorised.

"Subjects of study reflect the most important needs of people in the developing countries of East Africa. Of course, these needs are not only in Sub-Saharan Africa where there is a high concentration of needy people but also in other developing corners of the world," said Hrubec.

"The global poor need to solve problems of nutrition and rural development, for example. That is why we offer nutrition studies and rural development studies.

"We are aware of the importance of the establishment not only of a faculty of medical science but also a faculty of agricultural and bio-technical sciences. And later we will establish a faculty of social science as a critical school of social research and education."

Future prospects

"The global age requires a global communication and cooperation," said Hrubec. "Thus, we plan to open other relevant subjects of study and other faculties. We will also focus on research, especially in connection with East African needs and possibilities."

"We have already started establishing cooperation with several universities and research centres in the European Union." He said the new university would also be happy to cooperate with Arab institutions and planned to communicate this year with universities in the United States, China and Brazil.

"We have to have visions, dreams, but realistic ones as we are aware of many obstacles to our work both now and in the future. At the same time, of course, we are optimistic about our projects.

"As expressed in the famous sentence: be realists, ask for the impossible! And especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, many things seem to be impossible in the beginning of any project," Hrubec concluded.