Higher education strategy takes another step forward

Chad is implementing a two-year national strategy for higher education, scientific research and vocational training launched in 2021 with the aim of increasing the number of students in higher education and of linking human resource development programmes with the labour market.

The last step in this direction was announced on 20 September by the OPEC Fund for International Development which provided an US$11 million loan to Chad to support Phase 2 of the (i)Institut Nationale des Sciences et Technique d’Abéché(/i) (INSTA), or Abéché National Institute of Science and Technology.

An inclusive quality education is the cornerstone of social and economic development. Better and sustainable infrastructure, including higher quality housing, academic and social facilities, will allow students to focus on their studies and education.

“We are pleased to support Chad’s development ambitions in the education sector and [to promote] Sustainable Development Goal 4 – quality education,” the OPEC Fund Director-General Dr Abdulhamid Alkhalifa was quoted as saying at the signing of the loan agreement in Vienna, Austria.

The INSTA project is in line with the 2019 report Vision 2030, the Chad we want, which called for dealing with deficits in access to education and encouraged initiatives to revitalise scientific, technological and vocational training in order to reduce youth unemployment and match the country’s specific developmental needs.

INSTA project

The INSTA Project aims to increase Chad’s research output and to mitigate the shortage of competent biomedicine professionals in hospitals, health centres and colleges of medicine.

The project will include the expansion of the institute’s facilities and allow an extra 600 students each year to complete a comprehensive education in technical sciences and biomedicine. In Phase 2, six student dormitories and a canteen will be constructed and equipped, complementing other facilities, including a 1MW solar energy station.

Phase 1 of the INSTA project was also co-financed by the OPEC Fund and is currently in the final stages of implementation. It includes the construction and equipment of academic facilities.

“The low supply of science and technology skills is particularly acute,” was stated in the 2019 report, Chad – Skills development for youth employability project.

In Chad, the problems of higher education and research relate to the quantitative and qualitative shortage of university lecturers, training that does not align to the job market, the massification of the workforce in the face of lacking infrastructure and equipment, the low development contribution of research performed, the weak capacity of university governance and the glaring lack of digital technologies, thus preventing the promotion of teaching face-to-face and-or online.

Challenges facing science education

Professor Juma Shabani, the director of the Doctoral School at the University of Burundi and the former director of development, coordination and monitoring of UNESCO programmes with a special focus on Africa, told University World News: “The importance of enhancing science education is justified by the need for Chad to train a critical mass of qualified human resources in science and technology and to promote quality scientific research in order to contribute effectively to the implementation of sustainable development goals at the national level.”

Expanding further, Abdelwahid Mahamat Foye Ilias, IT system analyst at Chad Innovation Hub, told University World News: “The enhancement of science education within the higher education system in Chad is a must.

“Hence, our ‘old’ higher education system consisting of traditional courses that we use to offer has to be reviewed and, this time, the lights must be on improving science education in almost every field of study, starting with the ICT sector,” said Ilias.

He added that, because of the uncertainty associated with change, it should be introduced over a period of two to three years.

“To promote the development of the higher education system in Chad, the responsible ministry must seek to understand how the world is communicating knowledge now, and not just stick to the traditional way of teaching.

Students must be given “competence-driven” subject combinations and, by doing so, we should come out with specialised graduates in various fields, Ilias indicated.

Shabani suggested that, to meet higher education challenges, the government of Chad should invest in the development of ICT infrastructure to promote the use of online teaching and video-conferencing platforms, especially in order to involve regional and international experts in teaching and research and to ensure sustainable access to virtual libraries and laboratories.

Shabani’s suggestion is supported by Chad’s Vision 2030 which stated that improving access to ICT will significantly contribute to the country’s development. Innovations supported by ICT are numerous and concern key sectors of the economy.”

Statistics showed that, out of Chad’s population of about 17.2 million, only 2,237,932 (13%) have access to the internet.

In addition, Chad is ranked by Trading Economics at 178th position out of 195 countries when it comes to internet speed.

Chad is ranked at 195th position out of 233 countries when it comes to data cost, according to worldwide 2022 mobile data pricing report.