Africa Features
During preparatory events ahead of COP28, youth perspectives have been deliberately sought and are expected to be amplified as the 2023 presidency intends to “centre youth perspectives in international climate policy-making, setting a model for future COPs”. University World News spoke to students from Africa attending the event.
African biodiversity conservation and ecology researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa are under-represented in high-impact factor journals, although a third of primary authors in those fields are based in institutions in the region, a study found. According to the researchers, African authors were inadequately represented in large and multi-country studies.
The role universities play as centres of learning and bearers of knowledge allows institutions to lead research on climate science and use that knowledge to inform policy-making and practice in both climate adaptation and mitigation, says Dr Bob Manteaw from the University of Ghana.
A study in South Africa focusing on undergraduate students’ usage of a free mobile messaging system for peer tutoring aimed at maximising access to education in an unequal higher education system has yielded some unexpected results. These insights can support the further development of technology for all learning contexts.
Despite the important work African researchers are doing to provide knowledge and understanding about climate science to society and policy-makers, the continent’s climate scientists lack visibility on the international stage because there are just not enough resources to build the sustainable institutions required.
A collaboration aimed to equip conservators at the Nigerian National Museum in Lagos with advanced techniques to preserve Nigeria’s historic artefacts has just been concluded. Some have welcomed the initiative, involving the United States Mission in Nigeria and the Yale University Art Gallery; others have criticised it.
Affordability coupled with scholarship opportunities are some of the factors that are attracting students from Africa to study in China. Many students are also interested in China’s culture and technological advancement. But academic challenges include language barriers. Students who have spent time in China shared their experiences with University World News.
The University of the Free State in South Africa is leading a new consortium which aims to strengthen the capacity of universities in Africa to contribute towards climate-resilient food systems. Professor Linus Franke, who is involved in the initiative, speaks about its role and aims ahead of COP28.
Professor Kwamena Kwansah-Aidoo’s dream was to study journalism and communication, and then work in the media. That did not happen. He did, however, become a successful academic, rising through the ranks to become vice-chancellor of the University of Media, Arts and Communication in Ghana.
University of Zimbabwe student union Organising Secretary Gamuchirai Chaburumunda was arrested and thrown into the country’s notorious Chikurubi Maximum Prison among murderers and robbers for staging a demonstration on campus. While the case is pending, the 22-year-old is writing a book about her ordeal.
Several key factors are driving the shifts taking place in doctoral education globally, including digitalisation, globalisation and the knowledge economy. South Africa’s complex historical legacies provide a unique background and lens through which doctoral education can be framed, researchers suggest in a recent study.
In Western scholarship, passion and perseverance have traditionally been associated with success in higher education, but some researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa are questioning whether the grit assessment applies to most disadvantaged university students in the region.
Learning about business models and Shark Tank pitches sounds like it belongs in an MBA, yet these topics form part of a new masters degree programme offered to engineers or scientists with at least one, but preferably more, years of field experience. Enrolments for the hybrid degree are growing fast.
In Nigerian universities, very few women have become student union government presidents in the past 20 years, discouraging many aspiring female students from pursuing bigger political dreams. For young women, the dismantling of gender biases remains part of an ongoing battle.
The sharing of data advances science by increasing scientific reproducibility and robustness, creating new opportunities for collaboration and enhancing the potential of research to inform interventions or policy decisions. However, many researchers remain reluctant to share data, a survey of researchers in 43 Sub-Saharan African countries has found.
The late South African Professor Hoosen Coovadia, who died in Durban on 4 October, played a pivotal role in the training of medical students at universities in Africa and inspired a generation of researchers with his world-class works. He was a leading researcher in the field of HIV/Aids.
Funding crises have been among the most intractable problems facing African universities during the entire post-independence period. The new agenda proposing a ‘new African university’ has focused on identity, potential missions and philosophical standpoints, but little has been mentioned about financing.
Higher Education Reform Experts South Africa, or HERESA, a three-year pilot that will come to an end in November, was “a success with tangible impact”, project coordinator Dr Sershen Naidoo told University World News at the end of the initiative’s final workshop in Johannesburg from 2-4 October.
As the global community races to meet the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, universities continue to play a leading role in upholding sustainability practices and policies through knowledge co-production, community engagement and research in many activities and operations.
Reforms instituted in Zimbabwe’s public higher education sector in the past five years have contributed to commercial ventures cutting across 16 sectors, including the establishment of 100 student-run start-ups. How do these activities align with the role of universities in society?
When Professor Tahir Mamman, Nigeria’s minister of education, was sworn in alongside 44 other ministers by President Bola Tinubu recently, he swiftly sprang into action, stating how ready he was to address the enormous tasks before him. The expectations are huge for the 69-year-old minister.
A wave of protests has been sweeping across Nigerian universities as federal institutions raised obligatory fees payable by students by up to 700%. A few institutions have subsequently reduced their increases and the government is considering granting greater autonomy to universities to source funding from sources other than fees.
In Africa, univerisities should be global in outlook and should provide a unifying pan-African education and create a continental citizenship, thereby going beyond being tribal, Islamic, colonial or neo-colonial, suggests a contributor to a book on universities in Africa published recently.
Students at several tertiary education institutions in Nigeria are complaining about a lack of access to adequate health care on campus. In many cases, the clinics have too few staff, causing long waiting periods. A lack of medication also forces them to seek treatment elsewhere.
While attention has been given to private supplementary tutoring in pre-university education, private tutoring in higher education has received little attention in the academic literature despite it becoming more common in North African countries – but only for those who can afford it.
Students are unhappy that a new university in the north of Malawi that was promised in 2015 is yet to be built, let alone opened. This is despite warnings from sector experts about the damaging effects of persistently low higher education enrolment rates.
The important role of academic institutions in ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all under Sustainable Development Goal or SDG 7 was underscored during the Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4-6 September 2023.
The Global Leadership Summit held on 22 August in Durban, South Africa, brought together leaders of international education from numerous countries around the world to discuss the most pressing issues currently facing international higher education in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.
The student protests which called for the decolonisation of higher education in South Africa between 2015 and 2017 were the focus of a recent two-day colloquium that explored the legacy of the ‘Fallism’ movement and its significance for the nature, orientation and composition of the African university.
The Southern African Regional Universities Association, or SARUA, has unveiled its strategic plan which will serve as a roadmap outlining the strategic purpose, focus areas and goals towards advancing higher education in the SADC region and to support institutions seeking to make a meaningful impact.
A scientific team led by a fashion design and marketing lecturer is developing packaging using bio-waste. As well as saving the planet and providing jobs, a key part of the project – an affordable eco-friendly sanitary towel – will help African girls and women.
A recently released quality audit report of South Africa’s largest higher education provider highlights ambiguity around the roles and responsibility of the university’s two key governing bodies – the council and the senate – when it comes to oversight of quality enhancement systems.
An exorbitant increase in tuition fees at public universities in Nigeria, which comes in the wake of the eight-month long strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities that ended early this year, has left many students facing the possibility of having to abandon their studies.
Three decades into a democratic dispensation in South Africa and the University of Fort Hare continues to reel from a ‘hostile 1950s takeover’ strong-armed by the (former) National Party. The effects have left a trail of destruction and severely threatened academic freedom and institutional autonomy, said Vice-Chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu.
It is now or never for Kenya as its government banks on technical and vocational education and training or TVET institutions to ready the country for the future. The pace of industrialisation and technological advancements has signalled to countries keen on growth that they no longer have the luxury of time.
Zimbabwe has made great strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS and is one of five countries in Africa to have reached the 95-95-95 target, according to the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2023 report. Researchers at the University of Zimbabwe are playing a key role in the success.
Despite the huge untapped potential for a knowledge-driven economy, the African academic and research community is missing out on the numerous opportunities that come with the open-access publishing of books.
Universities are strategically placed to drive sustainability issues through the evolution of green campuses and the adoption of environmentally smart built environment practices. Despite challenges, some institutions have been recognised for their efforts.
Student housing, ideally, should entail an integration of classes, labs, libraries based in residences, and students taking classes together and living on the same floors, with no distinction between living and learning, creating a seamless learning environment in the tertiary sector.
Employment and earnings returns to postsecondary qualifications are large, so graduation from postsecondary education can play a key role in catalysing upward social mobility. This means tertiary institutions’ imprint on student success can transform society, said Professor Murray Leibbrandt at a recent Siyaphumelela Network Conference.
The increase in African urbanisation and shortage of campus accommodation due to the growth of the student population are making the adoption of green building practices an environmentally friendly and sustainable path to resilient, affordable housing, several studies and reports have shown.
Student housing at universities does not just accommodate students. It plays a multifunctional role, such as providing privacy, security and flexibility for learners. Due to the impact of climate change, providing housing that is also sustainable has become an urgent and critical matter for higher education institutions.
The government has begun to construct student accommodation complexes, starting near the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, at a cost of US$20 million. Plans are already under way to construct other student hostels in six of the country’s 10 provinces through the same public-private partnership,
A plan that has been put forward to address the student housing crisis in Nigeria is a build, operate and transfer, or BOT, arrangement. According to the proposal, private developers will build hostels and operate them for several years before transferring ownership to the universities.
The demand for affordable student accommodation in Cameroon’s higher education system far outweighs the supply, a reality that has highlighted that the government and university authorities have to tackle infrastructure development, including housing projects that have already been approved, with greater urgency.
The private sector in Rwanda can tap into the opportunities and invest in student housing, but progress is slow as it is not seen as a viable business compared to other opportunities. In the meantime, thousands of students battle to find affordable accommodation.
The Future Professors Programme is a national, collaborative initiative with the goal of developing excellence and leadership in a select pool of academic staff, and one of the South African Department of Higher Education and Training’s staff development programmes. Two fellows of the programme share their experience of participating in the programme.
Zimbabwean student Muongeni Tamara Manda has made history as the only woman from Africa to make it to the global top 30 emerging young space leaders. She is studying geoinformatics and environmental conservation at Zimbabwe’s Chinhoyi University of Technology.
Russia’s plan to establish branch campuses of top Russian universities in Africa and increase the quotas for African students in Russian universities signals an interest in expanding Russian influence. However, there are concerns that Russian overtures may be driven largely by geopolitical interests.
Despite making great strides in various spheres of socio-economic life, African women remain grossly under-represented in academic leadership positions. Less than three out of every 100 universities are led by women vice-chancellors. The problem persists across all regions of Africa.
Universities are “the architects of their own demise” when it comes to developing their academic talent because most do not make it an institutional priority, says Jonathan Jansen, distinguished professor of education at Stellenbosch University and president of the Academy of Science of South Africa.
A complex set of factors affect women scientists who want to climb the academic ladder. Some of the factors include gender-insensitive organisational cultures, institutional policies of universities and motherhood-related challenges. Increasingly, postgraduate programmes such as the scientist-after-child grant attempt to tackle these.
An academic from the University of KwaZulu-Natal has become the first black woman in South Africa to obtain a full professorship in the discipline of town and regional planning. Perseverance and resilience have helped her to develop a deeper understanding of the significance of representation and equity in education, says Hangwelani Hope Magidimisha-Chipungu.
Postgraduate supervision is crucial for enhancing research output, but supervisors do not necessarily receive training to be effective study leaders. The Technological Higher Education Network South Africa, or THENSA, in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation, has been hosting supervisor enhancement programmes to provide support to academics.
A range of factors influences African students to study abroad. However, the question of whether to return to their home countries after completing their studies, in most cases, still remains to be answered. Some reasons are purely academic, others economic, and others political.
The African continent is home to four of the world’s oldest universities and also to some of the planet’s youngest, first-ever universities in a given country, with some established only about 10 years ago. The oldest institution that is still in operation, according to a new map, is based in Tunisia.
The establishment of the Mandela Institute for Sustainable Futures by Nelson Mandela University in South Africa is set to contribute towards building a strong pipeline of early-career researchers, critical in providing transformative interventions to the wave of planetary health challenges in South Africa and across the African region.
Increasing investment in open-access publishing and seeking more opportunities for research collaboration are some of the things that could help academics who are working at institutions in Africa to get published more often, ultimately getting noticed and enabling career progression.
With the current conditions of weakened institutions of care, research and higher education, Africa needs to ‘self-decolonise’ and mutually reinforce ‘egalitarian and inclusive’ partnership models for capacity-building that best fit the African context, according to a study focusing on the decolonisation of the health agenda in Africa.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, passed in May this year, has been in development since 2009 and has been dismissed by the Constitutional Court, albeit on a technicality. A group of academics, only one sector of civil society where opposition has surfaced, is again petitioning the country’s Constitutional Court.
About 5,500 Nigerian students have been evacuated from Sudan due to the conflict which started on 15 April. However, many of these students are battling to continue their education, despite calls from legislators in the federal government to help institutions to absorb those who fled the war.
Algeria will host the US$57 million Great Museum of Africa which is heralded as a platform for presenting Africa’s diverse history, art and cultural achievements and will serve as a centre for education, research and cultural exchange – deepening understanding of the continent on many levels.