New partnership puts university teaching in the spotlight

African universities need a systematic change in teaching and learning approaches to help lecturers deal with growing student numbers and inadequate facilities, and to produce graduates who can make meaningful contributions in today’s knowledge-based economies.

This message was a key driver of discussions at a pedagogical leadership training session aimed at lecturers in the social sciences from five countries in Africa, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 8-14 July. The session marked the start of a three-and-a-half-year pilot training programme for higher education lecturers that aims to catalyse systematic change in teaching and learning at all levels in African universities.

The programme, known as the partnership for Pedagogical Leadership in Africa or PEDAL, is to be implemented by the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) with funding from the United Kingdom’s Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform.

Participating institutions at this stage include the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, the University of Ghana, Uganda Martyrs University, the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Kenya’s Egerton University.

“This programme aims to transform teaching and learning in African universities through innovation,” said Beatrice Muganda, director for higher education at PASGR.


Muganda, who leads the implementation of the programme, said that the uptake of PEDAL could result in more innovative teaching and learning methods, assisting in the development of higher-level thinking, greater innovative capacities and in the better application of content-specific knowledge and skills in different contexts.

Muganda said PEDAL will eventually extend its reach to other universities. The target, she said, is to train over 1,000 university teaching staff who will use this initiative to deliver social science programmes to benefit over 7,000 students.

Some of the courses targeted in the training included research and public policy, gender and development studies, refugee and migration studies, economics and development studies.

Paul Effah, president of Radford University College, based in Ghana, said there was a need for university lecturers in Africa to be better equipped so that learning becomes more rewarding.

“Most of our university lecturers have knowledge in technical skills but that does not necessarily translate into good teaching,” said Effah.

Effah, who is also the former executive secretary of the National Council for Tertiary Education in Ghana, told University World News there was a need for lecturers to master the art of science through pedagogy. He urged university academics to make use of emerging technologies in their teaching, and strive to grow their teaching through research so that they become nationally and globally competitive.

According to Khaemba Ongeti, associate professor in the department of curriculum and instruction at Moi University’s School of Education in Kenya, “poor pedagogy” has been a problem affecting the presentation of content in African universities.

Ongeti said there was a need to close the gap between academia and industry and argued that PEDAL would create a more learner-centred approach to teaching, which is key to the development of competitive learners.

Anne Adams, director of academic professional development at the UK’s Open University, told University World News that the desire to transform African universities inspired by initiatives such as PEDAL indicates that there are opportunities to improve education on the continent.

Using available resources

She reiterated the importance of university lecturers using available resources as a way of competing with institutions of higher learning in the Global North.

“The passion for innovation in higher education driven by African PhDs is immense and this could help Africa leapfrog some European countries in terms of modern teaching and learning methodologies, especially those enhanced by technology,” said Adams.

Senior lecturers who attended the training programme said it inspired and challenged them to become innovative in teaching to develop social scientists who can connect with the social realities and assist in meeting the challenges of sustainable development.

Kwame Asah-Asante, a senior lecturer in the department of political science at the University of Ghana, said the programme provided new perspectives on teaching philosophies, curriculum development and innovative assessment.

“This programme challenged us to think critically to deliver to our students. It prepares us for the next moment in our academic life which is centred on improving teaching methodologies to help students become useful graduates.”

Growing critical thinkers

Estellina Namutebi, lecturer in environmental governance at Uganda Martyrs University, said that the training would help university lecturers facilitate the development of graduates who were critical thinkers, knowledge explorers and problem-solvers. She noted that there was a need to bring all stakeholders together to share knowledge and perspectives on improving teaching and learning in African universities.

Namutebi said rigidity in the mindsets of stakeholders such as governments could be a drawback to the success of the programme. “But we shall work to educate policy-makers and ensure they understand this transformative education programme.”

PASGR’s executive director, Professor Tade Aina, emphasised the importance of pedagogy for lecturers, particularly those facilitating postgraduate programmes and who are concerned with building the capacity of research-oriented scholars.

“We are building the next generation of researchers and policy-makers,” said Aina.

However, Aina said there was a need for increased internal funding for research projects at African universities to enable sustainable growth. He said over-reliance on external funding is often not sustainable and at times can come with conditions unfavourable to the African agenda and its development needs.