Minister aims to improve higher education standards

Théophile Mbemba, higher education and universities minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has given stern instructions to members of newly appointed university management committees on the need to improve standards in higher education.

At a meeting with the new managers at the Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de la Gombe he explained the government’s vision of the quality of university education, reported La Prospérité of Kinshasa.

President Joseph Kabila wanted to see a “great pool of intelligence, expertise and the rise of new Congolese”, to make a greater country.

Mbemba did not mince his words in criticising the casualness that had taken over the country’s universities and higher education institutions, said La Prospérité. “I am amazed to see someone who cannot read or write succeed in obtaining a degree,” he told the audience.

He branded such sloppiness as "criminal" and the academic authorities that permitted it as "reckless", reported La Prospérité. He said universities must educate students for success and prepare them to accept failure if necessary.

To obtain good results in the higher education sector, Mbemba identified three major principles that the new management committees must scrupulously observe, and that he was convinced would establish order and restore a climate of trust between students and their institutions, said La Prospérité.

First, they must give priority to good academic, scientific, administrative and financial governance. Second, they must guarantee educational quality. Last, every university must respect the academic calendar – the year must start on 15 October and end on 31 July.

He ordered that there must be no graduation ceremony for students who achieved their degrees on their second attempt, a practice which would be made punishable. “Graduation ceremonies will only take place for those who succeed the first time,” he insisted.

Example of UPN – Could do better

Meanwhile, at the Université Pédagogique Nationale or UPN, the new rector Professor Emmanuel Pèlerin Kimwanga Nkeny announced to his management committee measures under his strategic plan to improve conditions of study, work and educational quality at the university, as inspired by President Kabila’s vision, reported Le Potentiel of Kinshasa.

Kimwanga said he would “instil awareness of the strengths and weaknesses in the university community to make it competitive and efficient, and combat mismanagement, bad governance and anti-values by making the campus secure by building an enclosure wall”.

Among his chief measures and priority actions were a clean-up operation of the campus, construction of classrooms, a big library, the creation of a modern restaurant, and clarification of the rules and information covering the academic, administrative and financial systems.

Kimwanga told his audience: “Our first aim is to improve, above all, the quality of our product – that’s to say, the student,” reported Le Potentiel.

He spelt out the advantages of UPN, especially those contained in the legal decree that defined its ambitions and direction by designing education programmes in a wide range of areas of national life through eight faculties.

It also benefited from good teaching and administrative staff and high-class facilities, including a postgraduate school and three modern research centres, he said.

But the benefits were in constant danger of being reduced by challenges – described by members of academic departments who spoke at the meeting – such as lack of infrastructure and equipment, scant provision of activities and initiatives, insufficient library funding and weak monitoring of decisions.

Other problems, said Kimwanga, were “some professors who handed over their duties to research managers or assistants; insalubrity and lack of respect for the environment; persistent cases of cheating, corruption and falsification of results when teaching and assessing students; and ignorance of official regulations and the academic rights and freedoms that govern all universities in the world”.

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.