Africa Commentary
Despite a lot of local data, there is a dearth of accessible African datasets and challenges around local languages. However, broadband connectivity, 5G and the internet of things are spreading and will make data collection for powerful AI analytics in education in Africa possible.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Education is considering the digitalisation of school-leaving and university exit exams to counter corruption and cheating in the sector. But a national strategy is necessary to address challenges associated with a digital exam, such as the availability of infrastructure and IT facilities as well as security needs.
In an open letter to President Kais Saied, an academic calls on the Tunisian leader to take steps to undo the damage done to the country’s reputation following xenophobic and racist attacks on black Sub-Saharans, some of them international students. He believes the great forefather Tunisian Hannon can provide guidance.
South Africa, the continent’s largest producer of scholarly output, has a responsibility to work with African countries and the Global South to move beyond the empty rhetoric about epistemic decolonisation and lead the process of dismantling the Global North’s hegemony and bibliometric coloniality.
South Africa has announced 17 National Contact Points for the various funding pillars of Horizon Europe, the European Union’s flagship multilateral research programme, the biggest of its kind in the world. The NCPs will support researchers with the expertise to place their scholarship in the international domain.
Women’s under-representation in scientific publication means that their perspectives, expertise and contributions are being overlooked. On International Women’s Day, 8 March, it is important to emphasise the barriers that women scientists continue to experience. The failure to tackle these is undermining Africa’s development and progress.
Given South Africa’s fractured schooling system and the diverse socio-political contexts of students, how do institutions level the playing field? Institutions of higher learning have to assist the process by moving beyond the traditional paradigm of distancing ourselves from the deficiencies of basic education and step up efforts to equalise opportunities.
Active maintenance is required to defend collegiality, a distinctive feature of university governance that has a global dimension. International research is finding that collegiality is often taken for granted and sometimes even forgotten about, and that islands of collegiality are at risk of being perverted.
Only 3.3% of nearly a million school-leavers in Ethiopia passed their final examinations with 50%. The shocking result is the outcome of two decades of challenges and will affect the intake in public and private higher education institutions. It has now prompted Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education to devise a national strategy in a bid to halt the decay.
A new definition of higher education internationalisation can create an opportunity for South Africa to become an ‘active and self-determined’ contributor and partner in the global field of internationalisation of higher education instead of merely replicating dominant concepts and definitions from the Global North.
As the movie industry celebrates artists and their creativity and cinematic flair during its award season, Ousmane Sembène’s cinematic contribution has received attention. January marked the birth, 100 years ago, of the Senegalese novelist and filmmaker hailed as the ‘father of African cinema’.
Managing ethnic diversity in Ethiopian public universities is not an easy task, but it is worth investing in because the benefit of managing diversity goes beyond higher education and contributes to the political and social stability of a country that has been gripped, in recent times, by internal strife.
Although education is held in high regard by Ethiopians, political parties seldom use it in electioneering. This may explain why 18 months after a change in government its 2018 educational roadmap is still in place. However, challenges during the last year may require a rethink of some of the plan’s priorities for higher education.
After nearly five decades, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education is planning to reintroduce something similar to what was formerly known as Ethiopian University Service. In different formats, compulsory service is an established practice across the continent. In Ethiopia, it is argued, it may be a mechanism to rebuild national unity.
Quality assurance agencies and networks in Africa have to work in synergy in pursuit of the harmonisation of quality assurance systems, the mutual recognition of qualifications, and enhanced mobility of academics in Africa. Efforts to advance quality assurance awareness and capacity-building activities have picked up steam.
Humour in Africa is certainly heavy, moving and defying boundaries and national states and even local cultures, affecting the social and psychological health of the society and illuminating the social and political space in Africa. But why is there a paucity of discourse on humour studies?
Despite making notable progress in their quest to become research-oriented institutions over the past seven years, universities allied to the African Research Universities Alliance, or ARUA, largely remain undergraduate universities, in what could be a reflection of the general state of institutions across the continent.
Community service is a critical tool for decolonising African universities and can turn universities into real partners for development, but until the obligations of this key mission are enshrined in policy or law and adequate funding is provided, it will remain largely voluntary.
The first summit of university leaders from Africa and Europe has resolved to launch new types of long-term collaboration. Based on the draft African Union-European Union Innovation Agenda, this includes, among others, long-term funding and the need to draft a comprehensive strategy of research infrastructure investment in Africa.
Knowledge matters in education, but some kinds of knowledge matter more. And knowledge that really matters, is powerful. In this article, researchers ask questions about the nature of the knowledge that matters in one specific field, namely that of health professions education.
This commentary has been triggered by a question raised in the University World News article on why the tradition of imparting critical thinking is waning in Africa. The totality of ‘environments’ within which universities operate and to which they aspire to contribute as well as the political, sociocultural and economical contexts need to be interrogated along with historical precedents.
African governments, business enterprises and universities have a shared responsibility to raise the research capacities and productivity of universities and countries. The research ecosystem depends on the availability of adequate funding, motivated researchers, robust facilities, dynamic collaborations, strong intellectual property policies, effective dissemination and translation of research results into products and policy, and for social impact.
Some tertiary education institutions take a short-term approach to attracting private funds, while a more effective method is known as advancement. This is a holistic, longer-term process whereby an institution positions itself strategically and engages judiciously with its external environment to ensure sustainability.
A visual redress praxis has emerged during the past decade as a transformation priority on the campuses of Stellenbosch University, South Africa. The university has prioritised changes in its visual culture, the renaming of buildings and architectural representations of various university spaces. This is a reflection on the politics of visual redress.
The findings of an inquiry at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University by Justice Sisi Khampepe into institutional racism are expected to be released soon. It followed an incident during which a white male student urinated on the belongings of a black student. Two similar incidents have since taken place. In this article, staff responses are considered alongside the implications and opportunities of the probe.
The Ethiopian higher education sector is currently undergoing promising reforms towards substantial autonomy for public institutions. While weighing the pros and cons of the new plan may be left to the government and public institutions, private institutions should examine the impending consequences and prepare themselves for a more competitive tertiary landscape.
The responsibility for designing and implementing a vision for African universities that aspire to be effective, relevant and responsive to the development needs of society and the economy does not rest on vice-chancellors alone, but should be shared between university leaders and governments.
The lack of incentives and the unrealistic demands levied on private higher education institutions in Ethiopia have the potential to derail these providers from contributing to national development and the future of higher education. The existing limitations and restrictions should be tackled.
It has been a daunting exercise to keep track of and neutralise the well-oiled and well-funded propaganda machinery of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, writes the Global Ethiopian Scholars Initiative in response to claims by Dr Kiros Guesh about the devastation of higher education in Tigray.
COVID-19 has forced universities to re-evaluate their telos – their value and purpose – undergirding their teaching and research functions, business models, governance and institutional cultures, and external engagements. It comes at a time of fierce epistemological and ontological contestation, writes Paul Zeleza, former vice-chancellor of the United States International University Africa.
Investing time and expertise to negotiate a transparent Framework Research Agreement is highly recommended to address the challenges associated with contracts, including intellectual property negotiations, and where the intention of both the industry partner and a university is that of a long-term research collaboration with several projects.
Enriching African higher education students with 21st-century skills such as creativity, criticality, communication, collaboration, leadership, flexibility, analogy, and digital skills can be achieved when they are brought together virtually or physically to share new ideas and knowledge and collaborate to build one another’s expertise.
One of the most serious threats facing higher education and the scientific enterprise in South Africa is the rising tide of xenophobia in the halls of academia. At the root of the problem is the lack of understanding of what a university is, and is not, writes the President of the Academy of Science of South Africa, Professor Jonathan Jansen.
The inclusion of higher education in the Sustainable Development Goals is welcomed, but much more needs to be done to promote access to higher education, including differentiating institutions, reducing institutional inefficiencies and targeting financial support at those students least able to pay fees.
Given the growing influence of China among Africa’s youth, colleges and universities in the United States need to re-examine their recruitment strategies to make them more inviting, inclusive and affordable for African students, most of whom require full or nearly full financial support.
Universities cannot pursue internationalisation for internationalisation’s sake but must consider it in relation to global geopolitical trends to be responsive to challenges. At the International Education Association of South Africa’s recent conference, it was also highlighted that internationalisation needs to be more equitable, inclusive and transformative.
The South African Council on Higher Education or CHE, which oversees quality assurance of higher education qualifications, has recently released its report on doctoral degrees. With this experience and expertise, the CHE could consider working with other countries in Africa to address the challenges of quality doctoral education.
In an ambitious closing plenary of the 24th annual International Education Association of South Africa conference entitled ‘Around the globe in 60 minutes’, leaders from eight member associations of the Network of International Education Associations reflected on how the current global, regional and national geopolitical and economic contexts were impacting on the internationalisation of higher education.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s universities are in a stranglehold of politicisation and neocolonialism, teaching Western theories and approaches that favour the privileged who work in “political and economic neoliberal enterprises” at the expense of the everyday needs of the Congolese people, according to humanities researcher and expert in community development Mapenzi Manyebwa.
There are concrete steps that colleges and universities can take to dismantle systemic racism and be more inclusive in faculty hiring, all of which require that academics think more deeply about the origins of bias and have the courage to push for change.
Intellectual dependency fostered by teaching methods used in many African universities promotes a culture of intellectual laziness that is ultimately detrimental to the development of Africa, a continent that needs citizens who are creative, innovative and critical in order to address its challenges.
Moments of leadership transition reveal much about the governance systems and processes in an organisation. The more robust the institutional arrangements are, the more seamless the transition. Since leadership is custodial and not permanent, effective transitions also entail learning from those you are replacing and sharing insights when you are replaced.
The Ethiopian government and its international partners have been implementing several initiatives to enable technical and vocational education and training, or TVET, to improve the qualifications and enhance the employment prospects of refugees in the country. But, to sustain these efforts, more needs to be done.
Being a university administrator can be a generative intellectual space because every day you encounter diverse people and situations outside your own expertise and even comfort zone that requires critical thinking and pragmatic solutions. You are always in a state of praxis that is intellectually invigorating.
There is an urgent need for a long-term private sector engagement strategy that could have a substantive impact on the Technical and Vocational Education and Training system’s development. Such a strategy should address the interests of the government, education providers, industries or employers and other stakeholders.
Local universities could play a significant role in the socio-economic transformation of their immediate and extended communities. Inyathelo, a non-profit trust, has commissioned a working paper on anchor institutions to build on an initial conversation on the potential of South African universities to serve an anchoring role within their communities.
Water is at the heart of all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals – the basis of all life on the planet. This places significant pressure on researchers to find solutions to the challenges that threaten our survival. In these efforts, the voices of women should also be heard and this requires adequate investment in women scientists.
A major challenge facing universities in Africa is supplementing government funding of higher education with other sources of income. Private philanthropy can help institutions, which is why the establishment and strengthening of advancement offices are becoming increasingly important. What are the skills and human resource needs of these offices?
Institutional cultures reflect and reproduce prevailing and intertwined national and global contexts, challenges, and opportunities. The United States International University Africa institutional culture also exhibited the complexities and contradictions of its history, location and aspirations.
Are there distinctive changes in the relationships with partners in the Global North and partners in the Global South as a result of the COVID pandemic? The International Education Association of South Africa at its conference in August will explore questions related to the challenging local and global contexts that are impacting on internationalisation.
A range of interventions, driven by the ministry of education with political support from within the government’s corridors of power, is expected to bring about meaningful changes to Ethiopia’s 70-year-old public higher education system, which has been organised along divisive ethnic and political lines for way too long.
An integrated approach to youth development programmes could be more effective in achieving their objectives. Ethiopia’s Kefeta project is aiming to improve student employability by also including a focus on civic engagement, social and economic development, health services and access to funding.
The plan to create jobs for 80% or more of graduates annually requires higher education institutions to equip students with subject knowledge and additional attributes, competencies and skills demanded by the labour market, but challenges inherent in the wider socio-economic ecosystem also need attention.
The Copyright Amendment Bill will have a devastating knock-on effect on the South African book publishing industry and undervalue the work of academic authors. The bill will extend copyright exemptions to allow course packs to be made without authorisation or payment – in other words, free for students.
Uganda’s Makerere University, which marks its centenary this year, is well known as the oldest university in East Africa and as a cradle of political elites. Some of its halls of residence have long nurtured different traditions. What do they say about cultural influence?
Ethiopia has a unique ‘model’ of deploying its intellectual diaspora – academics, researchers and high-level professionals – by integrating their competence, experience, knowledge and networks with that of nationals to help resolve societal questions in their home countries and advance knowledge-generation.
It is high time, amid the growing importance of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, or TVET, that the funding constraints affecting this sector is addressed with proper policy direction and a commitment to implement the schemes that have already been identified.
In response to the demand for specialised technical skills across the African continent and greater people, labour and qualification mobility, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania on 24 May agreed to adopt a Regional TVET Qualifications Framework, a leap forward for regional cooperation in technical and vocational education and training.
Institutional contexts, capacities and culture determine how a university handles crises. This was no different at the United States International University Africa as its management team navigated difficulties ranging from land grabs to COVID-19. But, along the way, there was some self-sabotage.
From 1994 until 2019, of the 398 articles focusing on Rwanda that appeared in a selection of leading journals, only 13 were authored or co-authored by Rwandan scholars. That is just 3.3%. This amounts to 25 years of post-genocide literature almost entirely devoid of Rwandan voices. However, a programme to tackle the exclusion is starting to bear fruit.
Doctoral education and training in any country is a lengthy and costly process. It is, therefore, imperative that policy-makers (including funding agencies) are informed about the return on such a (public) investment. Tracer studies offer invaluable information about qualifications and their contributions to knowledge production.
In the context of university claims to internationalisation, to improve rankings and to position themselves as research institutions, is the administrative myopia that downplays research and publications that fall outside the approved accreditation lists and research ecosystems. Bureaucracy appears to be trumping the expansion of knowledge.
The latest annual survey of philanthropy in South African higher education shows that third-stream income flow overwhelmingly went to historically advantaged institutions. The bias must be analysed and the challenges this presents to the system should be considered, according to research by Inyathelo, the South African Institute for Advancement.
How can the conditions be created to take the national Policy Framework for Internationalisation of Higher Education in South Africa forward, to ensure that the South African higher education system remains one of the most attractive to international students on the continent and that it stays engaged with the rest of the world?
Every university claims excellence as its mantra and mission. The gap between rhetorical claims for excellence and the reality is determined by what I have come to distil as the three Cs, institutional commitments, capacities and culture, undergirded by the alignment of academic, operational and service excellence.
The argument that Europe’s new immigration policy, which includes development cooperation, will result in ‘brain gain’ belies the fact that capacity development programmes are already skewed towards benefiting the Global North – by grooming talent in the South for employment in the North.
The introduction of university exit exams in Ethiopia appears to aim at systemic and institutional improvements, including tackling rampant academic dishonesty. However, the sector should guard against a romanticised perception of the benefits and assume that the introduction of an exit exam alone is unlikely to generate all the expected outcomes.
Schooling disrupted by COVID-19 and the pivot to online learning sparked concerns that new first-year students would need more than the one-week orientation programme at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand to find their feet. The Gateway to Success programme creates a holistic and seamless transition to university.
The urgent need for strategic measures to close the huge persistent leadership gap between men and women in African universities was highlighted at a forum marking International Women’s Day. Strengthening collaboration, tackling gender inequality throughout the education pipeline and mainstreaming gender in curricula were key issues.
Assuming the position of vice-chancellor at United States International University Africa confirmed what I already suspected: the financial models of many African universities were not just broken, but faced an unmitigated disaster that, if not threatening their survival, undermined their quality.
Book reviewing should be recognised by academic auditors as an actual measurable output, labour that is a direct, symbolic and critical investment in the scholarly community as a whole. Reviewing can also become a building block in developing a career, a portfolio and a global network.
The accreditation of private institutions depends on having permanent staff with the required academic qualifications, in particular PhDs, which are in short supply. Instead of circumventing regulations and instigating unethical competition, the private higher education sector should engage with the government to find solutions.
Developing better genomic infrastructure in African countries is a way to keep researchers on the continent, harnessing their skills for their own countries and regions. It is also crucial to get more African scientists involved in initiating home-grown research projects that focus on national priorities.
The belief among some African higher education experts that geographical bias is solely responsible for the rejection of African scholarly works by journal publishers is affected by their political views or ideological beliefs. It tells only a tiny fraction of the story.
As powerful institutions, universities must teach about the problems and changes in society. But this will require curriculum rejuvenation, with the help of academics, employers and policy-makers, to reconnect to these realities. Community service and soft skills, including cultural learning, should form part of a curriculum that matters.
The discipline of physical anthropology has a dark, often fraught past. It was misused to justify slavery and even genocide. A new book points out that modern academics struggle to find ways to balance the roles of sociology and genetics in their research, but an understanding of the past will help them.
Ethiopia’s two decade-old Higher Education Relevance and Quality Assurance Agency has recently changed its name to the Education and Training Authority with new mandates and responsibilities. While this change could have been driven by a genuine desire to extend its services, their realisation is expected to be hindered by a plethora of challenges.
The basic features of a new multilateral world order form the foundation for the joint agreement signed by the African and European unions, creating a window of opportunity for universities on both continents to strengthen their collaboration. It is up to universities to show that they are able to use this opportunity.