Africa Features
Many Rwandan lecturers struggle to teach the young about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. As the 100-day period during which a million people were killed is commemorated, experts consider the importance of education and how best to integrate the history into teaching and learning at university level.
Ongoing attacks on infrastructure since the start of the armed conflict in Sudan in mid-April, including on universities, hospitals, libraries and research centres, have intensified calls from academic and human rights circles for the need to safeguard higher education institutions during military clashes and to rebuild the sector in war-torn areas.
Artificial intelligence and chatbots like ChatGPT have taken the world by storm. In the higher education environment, many students find them useful to do research and write essays, but they also warn that awareness of proper use is crucial to combat cheating.
The Clean Shores Great Lakes project is a timely and necessary intervention in Tanzania to tackle growing concerns about marine plastic pollution and the devastating impact it has on fish and marine organisms. The academic who is leading the project explains what is being done.
The Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology in Kenya has been integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into its daily activities to encourage sustainable agriculture, the use of renewable energy and climate change mitigation. Its efforts have been recognised globally.
Many enthusiastic Nigerian university student entrepreneurs find themselves at a crossroads: the businesses they started to alleviate the financial burden of tertiary education are threatening their academic success. In fact, the pressure to run a business can cause more stress and anxiety.
The effective provisioning of transport to students can contribute to students’ academic performance. The opposite has been experienced by students on several university campuses in Nigeria where a shortage of vehicles and drivers coupled with a fuel hike are affecting students’ ability to study.
South Africa’s Stellenbosch University aims at achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 and, in doing so, positively contributes to the fight against climate change. In pursuit of this goal, carbon footprint reporting – obtaining information from the different departments and divisions – is one of the biggest challenges.
The role of science in planetary sustainability was emphasised and applauded when the four winners – three of them working in developing contexts – were named in the International Champions of the Frontiers Planet competition. The prize hopes to mobilise and inspire scientists, and funders of science, to scale up their efforts in advancing planetary health.
Law students of the University of Abuja in Nigeria have been helping prison inmates to access the justice system, reducing the high rate of pre-trial detention in correctional centres and have increased awareness about the pre-trial and trial rights of citizens – while, at the same time, learning practical legal skills.
Seasoned don Dr Papias Musafiri Malimba was recently appointed deputy principal for academics and research at the East African Christian College in Kabuga, Kigali. As a former minister of education and a deputy vice-chancellor, Musafiri Malimba brings a wealth of experience in the management of education, especially higher learning education, to the table.
Cardiovascular research output from African researchers over the past 50 years remains low, despite marked progress. The annual number of journal articles increased from four publications in 1971 to 3,867 in 2020, according to a study based on data of publications related to African authorship.
A new Central University Library of Mali, serving higher education institutions across this Sahel and Sahara country, will house thousands of ancient Islamic texts, including some removed from Timbuktu in 2013, to save them from destruction at the hands of Islamist militants.
Education, health and financial access are increasingly digital, and not having the skills or access will only increase gender inequity. Access to digital technologies is now a basic human right, says Professor Margee Ensign, the vice-chancellor of the private United States International University-Africa in Kenya.
The new cutting-edge Biomedical Research Institute unveiled by Stellenbosch University near Cape Town, South Africa, shows that the African continent is perfectly willing and able to help, not just itself, but the rest of humanity as well, says the institution's vice dean of the faculty of medicine and health sciences.
Students who are members of the Climate Students Movement have been working across country and regional borders to create awareness about climate change, in particular during April, which they observe as Sustainability Month. The movement mobilises student groups to push higher education institutions to become ‘brave climate leaders’.
Well-structured mentorship models that use project-based learning can help bridge curriculum and training gaps for graduate students pursuing bioinformatics and other scientific courses, and help to cultivate well-trained and highly competitive bioinformaticians, trials in Kenya revealed. Africa’s high burden of infectious diseases calls for capacity-building in bioinformatics.
Academics from the diaspora of Cape Verde, which numbers an estimated 1.5 million people compared to 587,925 inhabitants of this Atlantic archipelago, are complaining that their talents and expertise are being overlooked by local political and academic leaders. Indeed, many claim they struggle to see their overseas qualifications recognised.
A study has revealed that COVID-19 did not bring about a serious increase in mental health issues at two South African universities. The findings suggest that, in the face of ongoing adversity on South African university campuses in recent years, COVID-19 may be just one more stressor local students face.
New legislation about dealing with mental health issues is expected to also improve mental health facilities and care on Nigerian campuses, something which is currently missing in the higher education system. Universities, experts say, have a role to play in tackling mental health challenges in society.
“Higher education in South Africa is not in a good space right now, but the sector has to take responsibility for itself. We can’t wait on the government. We need to move from complaining to reforming,” said Dr Sershen Naidoo, a coordinator of the Higher Education Reform Experts – South Africa project.
At the age of 80, Rob Jeffrey obtained a PhD from the University of Johannesburg for research the university described as “an independent economic analysis of the electricity generation industry in South Africa and an assessment of the best course of action that the country can take to develop its electricity generation resources”.
It is a busy Friday inside Kiziba Camp in Rwanda as refugees are attending different activities. Francine Izabayo sits inside one of the classrooms revising courses. She is a refugee student and attends all her classes inside the camp. It is a campus within the camp known as Kepler Kiziba.
When Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, there were many women with a university education in the country’s leadership, but two decades later, women were playing a much smaller role in political decision-making. Educated women leaders were replaced by populists, which is why education veterans Dr Fay Chung and Dr Hope Sadza decided to establish the Women’s University in Africa.
Kenya’s 35 public universities and their constituent colleges are reeling under debts in workers’ pensions, income tax deductions and other statutory staff remittances but, currently, neither the vice-chancellors nor the government is providing a roadmap on how to salvage the almost insolvent institutions.
Higher education and research institutions in Burkina Faso are under threat from a jihadist insurgency, as the country’s military government struggles to maintain security in several regions. In addition to killings, higher education classes in universities and colleges in the north and east of the country have been suspended.
Universities in Africa must train a pipeline of interdisciplinary ocean scientists with the knowledge, skills and expertise to meet the growing needs of the Blue Economy and to tackle challenges emerging from global warming as well as overfishing.
When most people see snail slime, “Eew!” is usually the thought that runs through their minds. Others might even flinch at the sight of a snail near them. When it comes to Dr Paul Kinoti, however, snails might have just earned him international recognition among trendsetters in research.
Imagine joining a university, spending thousands of Kenyan shillings, and logging countless hours with the hope of one day securing a certificate that will earn you an employment opportunity. Now, imagine getting the same certificate without having to spend all that money and any time in school.
To what extent does higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa promote the public good? In their exploration of the public good role of universities, researchers in a special edition of the Journal of Higher Education in Africa touched on colonialism, commercialisation, elitism and corruption as obstacles.
Affordability, visa red tape, language barriers and mindfulness on climate change were among the barriers to overseas study discussed at the recent Reinventing Higher Education Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. ‘Global Classrooms’ and immersion in the international culture at home were among the solutions discussed.
Many African universities still don’t acknowledge the role of mathematics as a foundation stone of modern society and a model for rational inquiry and creativity in human development. The lack of proper laboratories at many higher education institutions in Africa is evidence of this attitude, mathematics researchers say.
The University of the Free State in central South Africa has produced its first carbon footprint report for 2022, with data collected from the institution’s operations in 2021. Carbon reporting is seen as a critical aspect of the university’s efforts to combat global warming and achieve environmental sustainability.
On the sidelines of the recent Reinventing Higher Education conference held in Cape Town, South Africa, two academics flesh out what upending the ‘unidirectional gaze’ that characterises existing North-South research collaborations might practically mean for universities, institutions and academics in the Global North.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought greater awareness of the benefits of blended tuition in Africa and beyond, the focus is turning away from the technical stability of learning management systems to concerns about how to support people to get the most out of these edtech platforms.
More and more Somali academics who left their country to study abroad, or who immigrated, are returning to home soil, even though salaries are dismal compared to those in especially Western countries. But it is not the money that draws them, it is the desire to give back to their communities.
Universities in Zimbabwe are slowly catching on to a modular learning system which was first introduced online at the University of Zimbabwe when COVID-19 hit the country. While administrators are praising the system for increasing retention and pass rates, students and lecturers have mixed feelings.
Nigeria’s presidential election in which a former two-term governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, emerged as the president-elect, may have been one of the most competitive political battles in the country’s history – and one in which the youth, including students, made their voices heard.
“Calm your inner Luddite, hold on to your inner sceptic,” is one of the messages for educators contemplating ChatGPT and other large language models, from Dr Roze Phillips, a futurist who straddles the worlds of work and academia. “Trying to outsmart AI is not a viable strategy.”
Kwanele Nyembe, the student who was crowned South Africa’s National Poetry Slam champion during the Poetry Africa Festival in October 2022, has his eye set firmly on the first prize at the 2023 World Slam Poetry competition in Brazil later this year.
Extreme climatic events such as heatwaves and flash floods have resulted in major disruptions and challenges for universities across Africa. Extreme heat events, due to global warming, have been associated with low student turnout, low academic performance and health risks for academic staff and students.
“AI will not replace people – but the person using AI might replace you,” says Pieter Geldenhuys, futurist and director of the Institute for Technology, Strategy and Innovation. He has teamed up with North-West University in South Africa to run a course to upskill people in new artificial intelligence technology.
South Africa lags behind the world in turning its scientific discoveries and research findings into commercial products. Official estimates suggest only 7% of the intellectual property-generated research is commercialised, a paltry figure compared with the international benchmark of 40%.
Millions of young voters, including students, are registered to participate in the Nigerian election. Amid a renewed interest in politics, students who have been badly affected by university strikes and insecurity during the past few years, may express their dissatisfaction at the polls.
Universities as co-creators of knowledge have a fundamental role to play in the transition to net-zero and circular economies. One of the critical aspects of this transition involves the process of decarbonisation, which refers to measures taken by an institution to reduce its carbon footprint, primarily its greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce its impact on the climate.
Corrupted: A study of chronic dysfunction in South African universities tells an unpleasant but very important story – not only for South Africa, but globally – about how corruption can seep into academic institutions. Professor Jonathan Jansen’s book explains the emergence of chronic institutional dysfunction, rooted in a political economy framework.
More than 80% of medical students at three institutions in Rwanda displayed mild sleeping disturbances, according to a study. It suggests open discussions between medical students and academic staff to alleviate potential causes for the problem, including sleep deprivation.
A new higher education law establishes and extends the power of the National Council for the Assessment of Higher Education Quality to undertake quality assurance in Mozambique’s higher education. But there are concerns about government centralisation and human resource capacity within the system.
Student leaders are being recruited to roll out an online entrepreneurship training programme to their fellows. The programme, which uses the Telegram instant messaging app to deliver coursework, has already been piloted among a limited number of students at universities of technology in South Africa.
The government of Cameroon has introduced a student entrepreneur programme to promote entrepreneurship in its higher education system, including public and private higher institutions. The project aims, among other things, to strengthen the practical training of students to function in a business environment.
Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto Scholars’ Forum in Nigeria serves as an incubation hub where the best brains are being nurtured to take deliberate action on their personal development. Students who have joined the club have been able to turn their excellent grades into further opportunities.
Alumni associations, whose members comprise prominent politicians, religious leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and other professionals, have been stepping up to plug many of the infrastructural and other gaps in the Nigerian higher education system by raising funds for their alma maters. Several government-run tertiary institutions have been benefiting.
From suggestions to ban ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot, to adjusting curricula and assessment formats, the academic community in North Africa, as in other parts of the world, disagrees about how the higher education sector should respond to the latest text tool.
Changes in the seasonal temperature and floods in Yaoundé, Cameroon's capital, have made climate change tangible on the campus of the University of Yaoundé 1. It has been affecting anything from students’ dress code to the cost of food, and has reminded researchers of the role they have to play in addressing the crisis.
With a new grant from Global Affairs Canada, Context Matters is set to begin its second half-decade of studying literacy in Africa. Context Matters is a programme created by CODE, a Canadian NGO that focuses on early-grade literacy in Africa with special concern for girls’ literacy and gender equality.
Just over a year ago Professor Olusola Bandele Oyewole took over as the secretary general of the Association of African Universities, based in Accra, Ghana. Oyewole spoke to University World News about what he has been doing since taking office and what progress he has made in achieving the goals he set in 2021.
Universities will continue to play a significant role in addressing the impact of climate change, promoting sustainability and providing roadmaps towards mitigation and adaptation methods during 2023. Climatologists in Africa have drawn up their lists of priorities, given the region’s unique challenges.
Eight months ago, Dr Sylvie Mucyo became the first woman to lead the biggest polytechnic institution, Rwanda Polytechnic, that brings together eight regional polytechnic colleges. Created six years ago, Rwanda Polytechnic was mandated to offer technical and vocational education and training across the country.
The discourse about students’ knowledge and skills should be about how to bring the ways of knowing, valued by universities, closer to the ways of knowing that the world beyond values, says Chris Bradford, co-founder of the African Leadership Academy and the African Leadership University, and of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program.
Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, the vice-chancellor of the University of Fort Hare, survived an apparent assassination attempt earlier in January. He remains determined to stay at the institution, but is deeply frustrated about the lack of action from the authorities despite evidence relating to alleged corruption.
Political turmoil in Sudan since October 2021 has affected all sectors of society, including higher education, where academic freedom has been under threat, policy reviews have stalled and the brain drain has picked up pace. A new political agreement, signed in December 2022, has brought hope for the sector’s recovery.
Following a peace deal between the Ethiopian government and Tigray forces after two years of civil war, which appears to be holding, academics and students are counting the cost of damage to Ethiopia’s higher education system. One of the consequences has been parents sending their children to study abroad.
Youths are capable of leading the climate change conversation and can come up with brilliant initiatives regardless of age. What the youth need is space and a chance to show their maximum potential. However, most of the time, space and platforms are not given to them, says climate activist and masters student Elizabeth Gulugulu Machache.
Cameroon’s higher education sector has been facing a myriad of challenges, many of them set to persist in 2023, including limited funding, a nationwide lecturers’ strike, poor infrastructure, ill-equipped and insufficient staff, as well as the effect of the Anglophone armed conflict. Yet, there is a flickering of positive changes as well.
A few months after his election as the president of Kenya, in a context in which universities in the country have been staggering financially, William Ruto has initiated reforms that will impact upon the tertiary education sector and which reflect his political influences and aspirations.
Universities in Africa struggle to offer the academic background required to contribute effectively to the climate change discourse and activities aimed at addressing climate change, which is why many postgraduate students seek climate change expertise, both in teaching and research contexts, outside the continent.