WENR, May/June 2002: Africa


UNESCO Council Tackles Digital Divide

In 2000, only 0.4 percent of people living in sub-Saharan Africa were Internet users, compared to 54.3 percent of U.S. residents. Seeking ways to redress the imbalance, experts from 26 countries recently gathered in Paris for the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Council for the Information for All Programme.

The council plans to meet annually to explore ways of bridging the digital divide and propose activities for implementation under UNESCO [1]‘s Information for All Programme. The program was established in 2001 to foster debate on the political, ethical and societal challenges of the emerging global knowledge society and to carry out projects promoting equal access to digital information.

UNESCO Press [2]
April 15, 2002

AVU will no Longer Offer its Own Degree Programs

The African Virtual University [3] (AVU) has made an about-face with regard to its future. The institution recently announced it will no longer offer its own degree programs, but will instead distribute already-established courses (business and computer science) from other institutions. The university cited lack of funds and qualified personnel as reasons for the decision.

In place of the degree program, AVU will distribute courses from 31 universities in 17 sub-Saharan African countries in a joint effort with partner universities in Africa and abroad. AVU has learning centers at each of these universities and, thanks to recent and large donations, they’ve each been equipped with 25 computers, a dramatic improvement from years past.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [4]
May 22, 2002


Selam Nurses College Graduates Another Class

Selam Nurses College recently graduated its 2002 class of 33 female students. Established in 1996, the school was created as a modern, high-tech hospital and health-care facility, and to provide a large number of nurses for a soon-to-be-opened high-tech hospital in Selam.

The college is the first private nursing college in the country and provides free education, lodging, books and a small stipend. There are currently 120 students enrolled at the college. This year’s graduation is yet another indication that the institution is growing in reputation and numbers. College officials said they soon plan to open it up to male students as well.

The Addis Tribune [5]
May 10, 2002


Mandela Gets Honorary Doctorate

Former South African President Nelson Mandela was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Ghana [6], in a country that, according to Mandela, holds a very special place among Africans.

“When we think of Ghana,” said Mandela, “we think of freedom for Africans, African self-determination, pride and dignity of African people. We think of Kwame Nkrumah and his deep love for the people and continent of Africa and his passionate belief that we are one people despite national and geographic borders that separate and seek to divide us.”
Mandela also praised the university for playing a pivotal role in nurturing the Ghanian national spirit. “I am proud to be associated with this great institution,” he said.

South African Press Association [7]
April 24, 2002

Changes for UCEW

The University College of Education [8], Winneba (UCEW) is to be upgraded to a full-fledged university, and will change its name to the University of Winneba.

A university official said the government has put in place a program for the next 30 months to rehabilitate distressed schools and build teachers’ living quarters in a bid to improve the quality of education in the country.

Accra Mail [9]
May 6, 2002


Malawi’s Free Education Benefits Poor

A new report published by the World Bank says the Malawi government’s 1994 decision to abolish primary-school fees and increase education spending has led to a dramatic increase in enrollment rates for both primary and secondary schools. The report also suggests the decision had a significant impact on access to education for the poor.

Education’s share of the country’s budget rose from 13 percent in 1994-95 (3.5 percent of gross domestic product) to 20 percent in 1997-98 (4.7 percent of GDP). In 1990-91, primary-school enrollment among the richest 20 percent of the population was almost double that of the poorest households. By 1997-98, the difference had been nearly eliminated. Secondary-school enrollments also increased remarkably over the period, and again, poorer families benefited.

The World Bank report, “The Changing Distribution of Public Education Expenditure in Malawi,” concludes that “the education reforms undertaken in 1994 have clearly been pro-poor.” It also points out that the “first-generation” reforms of abolishing fees for primary education was a “first step.”

The News 24 [10]
May 14, 2002


University Uses Online Methods to Bolster Standards

The University of Nouakchott [11] wants to find a way for its students to take full advantage of its distance-learning program. As Mauritania’s only institution of higher education, the university is trying to deliver high-quality education from North America via teleconferencing and the Internet through a branch of African Virtual University [12] (AVU).

But unlike other distance-learning programs, which target people in rural areas or in the work force, Nouakchott instead seeks out those already in university. Some program administrators hope to build an infrastructure that is less reliant on AVU, with which it has been working for four years. The university has signed agreements allowing it to provide non-degree training and is hoping to use AVU’s infrastructure for its own programs.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [4]
May 14, 2002


Women’s University to Open in Nairobi

A new private women’s university called the Kiriri Women University of Science and Technology is scheduled to open soon in Nairobi.

In its first four years, the university will offer courses in business administration, information systems and foreign languages at the Centre for African Family Studies [13]. It will then relocate to a 20.25-acre site in Githurai Kimbo after construction there is completed.

Officials said the new institution is badly needed as women are poorly represented at public universities. In 2000-01, women comprised 31.6 percent of enrollment in public universities. They also accounted for only 21.1 percent of the total enrollment (in both public and private schools).

The university will endeavor to breach the gender gap in university education in general and in science-related courses in particular. It will offer degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in science and technology, with supporting courses in the humanities.

The East African Standard [14]
May 11, 2002

Alumni Group Hopes to Attract More East African Students

Graduates of the University of Warwick [15] in Great Britain have formed an alumni association to attract more students from East African countries. In May, University of Warwick alumni gathered in Nairobi to elect officers to steer the new Warwick Graduates Association, Kenya Chapter. A similar association exists in Uganda, and another one is organizing in Tanzania.

On average an estimated 55 Kenyans are admitted to the University of Warwick every year, according to the school’s Representative Office for Eastern Africa. In 2002, however, the number of students from Kenya surged to 208. Currently, there are also 56 Ugandans and 69 Tanzanians attending the university.

The school has a permanent office at the Braeburn Group of Schools’ [16] headquarters in Nairobi, which provides information about the university. Also at the headquarters, qualified researchers can enroll in a distance-learning degree program and obtain a bachelor of philosophy in education through the Braeburn Center for Professional Development [17].

The East African [14] (Nairobi)
May 6, 2002

Kabarak University to Open in September

Kabarak University will open its doors to its first group of students in September. It initially will operate from Moi High School in Kabarak, but will soon relocate to an adjacent site donated by President Daniel Arap Moi.

The university will offer degree courses in three main departments: theology, education and arts; business and economic studies; and science, communication and technology.
The university has invited scholars to apply for teaching posts in theology, business studies, computer science, music and education. The university is seeking scholars with doctorates, and only those with master’s degrees and at least two years of teaching at university level and research experience will be considered.

The East African Standard [18]
April 27, 2002


Fraud Costs University Huge Sums of Money

A scam uncovered at the University of Namibia [19] earlier this year has cost the institution approximately US$150,000. To date, eight administrative staff members have been suspended in connection with the scam, while dozens of students have been implicated.

In April, the university asked auditing firm Niehaus and Co. to determine the magnitude of the fraud, in which staff and students allegedly cooperated to bilk the school of thousands in student fees.

Staff members allegedly altered student accounts to show payment when, in fact, the students still owed money. Up to 75 students then withdrew the credited amounts and shared the cash with the employees, who apparently gave them “commission.” Some students may have pocketed more than US$25,000, while some teachers and university staff allegedly stole more than $12,000 each. Initial reports also claim that a suspended staff member had circumvented procurement procedures by opening his own company, from which the university bought its stationery and other goods.

A university spokesman said the institution would issue a detailed statement once it is presented with all the findings. Niehaus and Co. is still conducting its investigation.

The Namibian Newspaper [20]
April 30, 2002

South Africa

Belhar Training College Opens

Several new institutions of higher education have been opened recently in South Africa. On of these new schools is Belhar Training College [21].

Speaking at the launching ceremony of the college in Cape Town, Labor Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said the former apartheid system had wreaked havoc on the country’s labor market, which still suffers from discrimination and neglect.

Belhar Training College will offer practical skills courses in construction.

The college, previously known as the Building Industries Federation of South Africa, is accredited through the Construction Education and Training Authority [22], which trains students in accordance to the needs of various sectors of the economy.

Mdladlana said the government hopes to register 80,000 students by March 2005. Approximately 3,000 students have registered already.

Bua News [23]
May 13, 2002

SANDF to Introduce Distance Education

The South African National Defense Force [24] (SANDF), through its Military Academy, plans to offer distance military and university education at its Military Academy starting sometime next year.

All qualifying candidates will be evaluated, selected and assigned to either a pilot project or a waiting list. If the program is approved, candidates on the waiting list will commence their studies in 2004. The course lasts six years and will be available only to serving members of the SANDF and other public servants in the Department of Defense.

Bua News [23]
May 27, 2002


Country Among World Bank Beneficiaries

Tanzania may be in line to benefit from a US$1 billion aid package earmarked to help African countries achieve universal primary education.

Sources close to the Education for All [25] campaign say Tanzania is expected to be among 10 poor countries selected for a “fast-track” program, to be launched this month. The chosen 10 will likely be given roughly equal shares of an initial US$1 billion donor allocation, intended to be renewed annually for a decade or more. Education for All’s goal is to ensure six years of schooling for all children by 2015.

According to World Bank statements, criteria for participation in the fast-track program have not yet been formulated, but countries will not be eligible for the new aid unless they have developed their own comprehensive and credible plans for providing all their children with a primary education. This will involve a concrete financial commitment on the part of countries vying for inclusion in the program.

Tanzania’s progress toward meeting that requirement has already earned the country recognition from the World Bank. In October, the Bank approved a US$150 million interest-free loan to support the Tanzanian government’s efforts to expand access to schools, to improve educational quality and to increase the school-retention rate. About one-third of the country’s children still do not attend primary school.

The new funds would be used to train and employ teachers as well as to purchase textbooks and other supplies. Financial backing for the initiative is expected to come largely from traditional donor sources, primarily the European Union and the United States.

The fast-track version of Education for All is intended to kick-start efforts to reach the program’s goal. Eventually, the World Bank hopes to persuade donors to provide billions of additional dollars per year in order to assist more than just 10 countries.

The East African [14]
May 13, 2002


Government to Open 11 Polytechnics

The government will open 11 community polytechnics this year, a government education official recently announced. These are the first such institutions to be opened in Uganda.

Originally proposed in 1996, the community polytechnics were designed to provide low-cost, accessible, multi-skills training opportunities for primary-school graduates.

The same official said that school principals to head the new institutions had already been appointed, specialized instructors were being trained and the guidelines for establishing the polytechnics were being laid down.

New Vision [26]
May 10, 2002

Agricultural Curriculum Under Development

The government is developing a strategic agricultural-education plan, according to the agriculture minister.

Under the plan, a new agricultural training curriculum for secondary and tertiary institutions is currently being developed. An agricultural curriculum has already been adopted by more than 2,000 primary schools countrywide.

New Vision [26]
May 3, 2002