WENR, March/April 2004: Africa




Education Goals
In an interview with UNESCO’s Education Today Newsletter, Minister of Secondary Education and Scientific Research Laya Sawadogo cites some figures to highlight what he believes to be the most pressing educational challenges facing his country: 42 percent of children are in primary school, only 12 percent are enrolled in secondary school and 1.3 percent go on to higher education. Coupled with an illiteracy rate of 76 percent those indicators, according to the minister, will not be easy to improve. The two major obstacles impeding improvement within the system are the lack of qualified teachers at all levels and the infrastructure, which is in drastic need of investment.
In addressing these problems Sawadogo pointed to Burkina Faso’s ten-year plan for basic education, implemented in 2000, which aims to achieve 70 percent enrollment by 2010. The minister also talked about decentralizing higher education, which until now has been concentrated in Ouagadougou (15,000 students) and in Bobo-Dioulasso (600 students), the second city. The country needs to find partners who can help set up centers of higher education in some of Burkina Faso’s 13 other regions so that rural students are not forced to uproot to a big city to pursue further education.
The gender parity goals at primary and secondary level set by UNESCO in 2000 will not be achieved in Burkina Faso by 2005 Sawadogo stated. This is due to a lack of resources and also due to problems with international financial support and the conditionalities attached to funding. Of the 42 percent of school-age children who attend school, only 8-10 percent are girls. Positive discrimination programs such as scholarships targeted at female students have been introduced to encourage both children and their parents to see the value of staying in school. Looking at the situation as a realist, the minister stated that the goals of gender parity will be achieved slowly, but it will not be by 2005.
Education Today [1]
January-March 2004


126 Universities Shuttered
The Democratic Republic of Congo has closed 126 private universities, most of which falsely claim to be affiliates of universities in Western Europe and North America.
The Times Higher Education Supplement
Feb. 6, 2004


Medical School Opens
The Ministry of Health has established the Orotta School of Medicine in Asmara, the country’s first medical school, which admitted its first class of 32 students in February. The doctor of medicine program is six years in length and requires three years of undergraduate study for entry. The school has a close partnership with the University of Santa Clara in Cuba.
Government news release
March 15, 2004


Parliament Approves College Upgrade
Parliament passed a bill to promote Winneba University College of Education [2] into a fully autonomous university that can award its own degrees and diplomas. The institution has three campuses in Winneba, Kumasi and Mampong-Ashanti, and primarily provides teacher-training programs.
Accra Mail [3]
March 12, 2004


Striking Students Protest University Conditions
Authorities in Guinea arrested 17 student leaders at Gamal Abdel Nasser University in the capital of Conakry after 14,000 students went on strike in February. According to reports from the interior, students at the Institute of Geology and Mines at Boke, 200 kilometers northwest of Conakry, have joined the stoppage.
The striking students have pledged not to return until those arrested are released and the government agrees to address a long list of other grievances. Among their demands are the reinstatement of 11 students expelled from Kankan University in 2003 and addressing the severe overcrowding and poor student living conditions at the country’s cash-strapped universities.
Integrated Regional Information Networks [4]
Feb. 13, 2004


University’s Prolonged Closure Sparks Riots
Police and UN peacekeeping troops took up positions around the University of Liberia’s Monrovia [5] campus March 25, a day after students protested their university’s closure for more than one year.
The visit March 24 from the chairman of the transitional government, Gyude Bryant, had been intended to promote dialogue, but instead culminated in students vandalizing property in protest.
“We will continue to action as we are in a state of oblivion,” student leader Darlington Smith told IRIN. He said protests would not stop until the university is reopened. “We also want a reduction in tuition, a debt waiver and the payment of our instructors. The government should understand that it has a responsibility to sponsor the university.”
Bryant responded that his government does not currently have the money to reopen the university. It was then that the violence erupted. Students went wild, singing battle songs and unfolding banners proclaiming, “Stop Spending Money on Cars — Reopen the University.” Some of the students attempted to attack Bryant, but he was whisked off to another side of the campus.
Integrated Regional Information Networks [4]
March 25, 2004


Demand for University Places Eclipses Supply 10 to 1
The federal government has directed universities to reduce admissions because existing facilities cannot cope with the high number of candidates qualified for placements. More than 1 million candidates recently took the University Matriculation Examination (UME); less than 10 percent will receive letters of admission to one of the nation’s more than 60 universities.
By law, admissions to both private and state institutions are centrally controlled by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board [6] (JAMB). In an effort to harmonize the admissions process, a forum known as the Policy Committee on Admissions into Degree Awarding Institutions has been established to promote communication between JAMB and the universities. The University of Lagos [7] (UNILAG) has been spearheading a move to conduct an independent test or interview for prospective students. UNILAG claims many students are admitted on the basis of fraudulent UME examination results, and therefore waste precious resources by performing poorly as students. JAMB is resisting UNILAG’s efforts to reform the admissions process, insisting the board has the statutory duty to solely conduct university admissions. For now, it seems, the status quo will be maintained. Unless there is an amendment to the law, JAMB will remain the sole broker of tertiary-sector admissions.
In a related issue, the University of Ibadan [8] has been directed by the federal government to cut admissions 50 percent. According to sources, plans are afoot to transform the university into a postgraduate institution.
Vanguard [9]
Feb. 26, 2004
Exam Fraud Costs Nigeria Millions Annually
According to a study by the nongovernmental Exam Ethics Project (EEP), examination malpractices are costing the nation N17 billion (US$128 million) annually. The group released these findings ahead of the upcoming examination season and stated that these practices instill a culture of acceptance of fraudulent activities in future members of the work force, resulting in inefficiencies, failed businesses and the loss of lives.
Breaking down the financial implications, the EEP stated that approximately N2 billion (US$15 million) was spent on the forms of 740,000 candidates whose results were often cancelled by the various examination bodies, while the rest was spent on covering the cost of retaking the examinations. The group highlighted six strategies used by cheats to perpetrate fraud, including: the movement of students to remote schools as external candidates, the creation of special examination centers, the continued use of blacklisted examination centers and the use of invigilators and teachers who have been struck off the authorized list of examination agents.
Daily Champion [10]
March 1, 2004
Moratorium Issued on Applications for Private Institutions
The National Universities Commission [11] (NUC) has suspended the issuance of application forms for the establishment of private universities in Nigeria. According to NUC Executive Secretary Peter Okebukola, the suspension enables the processing of requests by the Standing Committee on Private Universities, which is reviewing more than 50 applications for the few existing opportunities.
Eight projects have been licensed so far, while seven other proposed private universities have been recommended by the NUC for approval by the Federal Executive Council. Okebukola said 20 new private universities are needed to satisfy demand while allowing the NUC to maintain quality assurance procedures.
This Day [12]
March 2, 2004


Minister: Focus Must Shift to Secondary Education
Minister of Education Kiddu Makubuya in an interview with UNESCO’s Education Today newsletter talks about post-primary education and training as the next challenge facing the country’s education system. Citing success in implementing UNESCO’s Universal Primary Education (UPE) goals through large investment in the sector, Makubuya stresses the need to shift focus and resources to the secondary sector, which is in need of curriculum reform so as to be more inclusive in providing technical and vocational education to encourage the practical skills necessary for students to either move into further training or directly into the professional market. If there is no onward linkage from the primary level, the minister asserts, then students will not attend primary school, so undermining the objectives of UPE. In Uganda, despite the introduction of free primary education, there are still disadvantaged children who remain outside the system and the minister believes that it is political will and investment that will raise awareness and encourage traditional cultures such as nomads and fisher people to believe in the benefits of a formal education.
Makubuya rates the introduction of mass education at the primary level and the ability to sustain it as the nation’s greatest educational success. Despite those who said that the quality of education would diminish due to bigger classes, national tests show that students are performing well. In 2003, investment in education accounted for 31 percent of the budget. Primary education is completely funded by the government, except for lunch and uniforms. At the secondary level, parents are expected to make a contribution and at the tertiary level only the training of primary school teachers is completely free of charge. Last year, 406,503 pupils registered for the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), of which 80 percent passed. But, according to the Ministry of Education, there are only about 224,000 vacancies at government high schools. As a result, over 100,000 candidates who successfully sat the 2003 PLE failed to get into secondary school.
Despite school enrollment figures suggesting that access to primary education is equal for both boys and girls, the minister stresses that many cultural and structural barriers still exist for girls wishing to progress beyond primary education. To counter the problem the minister says the country needs to train more women teachers to help girls stay in school.
The full interview can be viewed here [13]
Education Today [1]
January-March 2004


NUST Lecturers Join Strike
The strike by University of Zimbabwe [14] lecturers over salaries and allowances has extended to the National University of Science and Technology [15] (NUST), the country’s largest scientific institution of higher education.
Zimbabwe Standard [16]
March 7, 2004
Political Ideology Course Made Compulsory
In what is seen by many as a bid by the government to advance its political agenda, the Ministry of Higher Education has introduced National and Strategic Studies as a required subject in institutions of higher learning. The ministry has ordered polytechnics, teachers colleges and universities to make the subject compulsory. It appears to have been adapted from the controversial National Youth Training Service program. Students who fail to pass the National and Strategic Studies course cannot graduate.
This year’s final exams, currently under way, contain such questions as: “Which political party in Zimbabwe represents the interests of imperialists and how must it be viewed by Zimbabweans?” and “African leaders who try to serve the interests of imperialists are called what, and how do you view patriotism?”
Zimbabwe Independent [17]
March 26, 2004