WENR, May/June 2004: Africa
AVU Plans Expansion
African Virtual University is expanding the sphere and content of its operations to students in 22 of the continent’s countries as part of a four-year partnership with Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University to deliver computer-science degrees and diplomas. Working in conjunction with the University of Dar es Salaam as the lead partner university and institutions in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Ghana, the first classes commenced in February. The expanded program expects an additional 800 enrollments in 2005.
Since the online institution was conceived in 1997, 33 learning centers have been established at partner universities in 17 African countries. In 2003, 23,000 Africans took courses in programs such as journalism, languages and accounting. Kuzvinetsa Peter Dzvimbo, AVU director, said the goal for the next five years is to expand the network to 150 learning centers in 50 countries. The university hopes to have four-year degree programs in computer science and business studies available this year. AVU has also signed a US$3.5 million agreement with the Australian government to offer business studies from a center at Addis Ababa University. The program eventually will be extended to other AVU institutions. Curtin University of Technology (Australia) will provide teaching skills and course materials for the program.
— The Times Higher education Supplement
Feb. 27, 2004
African Universities Scrutinize GATS
University officials met in April at an Accra, Ghana, conference organized by the Association of African Universities (AAU) and UNESCO to examine the implications of the General Agreement of Trade in Services (GATS) for African higher education.
The secretary-general of AAU, Akilagpa Sawyer, said African institutions of higher education and governments have yet to respond effectively to the World Trade Organization (WTO)-backed changes that would see education treated as a commodity under WTO deregulation. Signatories to GATS will be expected to apply rules that regulate international trade to their educational systems, i.e. liberalize the education sector, free up competition among service providers and offer unimpeded access to international markets. The inclusion of education as a tradable service under GATS, and the apparent haste with which some Western countries want to co-opt developing countries, raised a lot of concern in Accra. There were warnings that developing countries appeared largely ignorant about the impact of the “open-door commercial education policy” on their weak, run-down and heavily subsidized public educational systems.
According to AAU, many countries in Africa are unlikely to become education-exporting countries. However, by signing GATS, they will have to open their domestic higher education markets to foreign providers. Detractors say GATS is being forced upon them by richer nations eager to increase their education-export industries, with little concern for the quality and growth of the target markets they would be serving. Proponents say the agreement will provide new opportunities and benefits by building capacity through cooperative linkages and partnerships for institutions of higher education that are currently underfinanced, poorly staffed and struggling to adapt to World Bank and International Monetary Fund-backed reforms.
As of March, only 41 of the 146 WTO-member countries had submitted offers to provide access to their domestic education markets. None of these offers is from Africa. The Accra Declaration on GATS and the Internationalization of Higher Education in Africa can be found HERE.
— UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
April 29, 2004
Student Disturbances Shutter University
For the second time in six months, the University of the North West has been closed indefinitely. Student disturbances and fears for student safety are behind the closure, according to school officials.
— The Reporter/Mmegi
May 5, 2004
Union, Government OK Salary Raises
The Universities Academic Staff Union and the government recently negotiated a salary increase for public university lecturers that has officially ended a four-month disruption to the school calendar, which started in November 2003 (see WENR January/February 2004). The raises, between 116.8 percent and 160.5 percent, will be implemented over the next two years, from July 1 to June 30, 2006.
— East African Standard
May 4, 2004
UL’s Yearlong Closure Continues Despite Assurances
The University of Liberia, closed for over a year, was scheduled to reopen May 31 after the government made available funds of US$400,000. Intense efforts to have the university reopened followed student protests on the main campus during a brief visit by head of state Gyude Bryant in March (see March/April WENR). The university is in need of major refurbishment due to the ravages of the 14-year civil war, during which facilities at the campus were massively looted and destroyed.
Despite assurances the school would reopen May 31, classes failed to meet by the deadline owing to a lack of power to print billing forms for more than 10,000 students enrolled at the institution. Officials at the institution have also stated that the necessary funds needed to reopen have not been made available by either the government or scholarship donors, including external organizations, campus-based student groups and individual students with unsettled amounts of over a million dollars. A recent program to raise much-needed funds to reopen the university was poorly attended, with no more than US$500 raised in cash and pledges. The financial crisis has been exasperated by student groups who say that the proposed tuition is unreasonable and impossible to meet.
— The NEWS
June 4, 2004
New Examination Board Creates Tension
The West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examinations Council are the two recognized exam boards in Nigeria, and now a third is attempting to enter the arena. The Lagos State Executive Council recently approved the establishment of the Lagos State Examination Board (LSEB), which would replace the two existing bodies at the state level in Lagos.
In response, the federal government has said it would reject any alternative body and that it and all federal universities in Lagos will refuse to recognize the state-level certification from LSEB. The move is a result of continued dissatisfaction with WAEC examinations, which have been plagued by inefficiencies, leakages, results cancellations, cheating and forgeries. To ameliorate some of these problems, WAEC announced in 2003 that it would replace its statement of results with a photo-embossed certificate (see WENR September/October 2003), and that results would be available to students online within 90 days of the exam.
March 11, 2004
NUC Recognizes Nigeria’s 54th University
The National Universities Commission (NUC) officially recognized the Gombe State University in May. A statement from the commission said the university becomes the 54th university in Nigeria and the 21st state-run university.
The first phase of development will introduce the faculties of arts and social science, and education and science, while the second phase will develop the faculties of agriculture, law and environmental science.
— Daily Trust
May 11, 2004
Fourah Bay College Offers Hope for Future
Relative calm has returned to Sierra Leone after the country’s decade-long civil war officially ended in 2002. During the rebel invasion of Freetown in 1999, the Fourah Bay College campus of the University of Sierra Leone was seized, and half of the buildings were razed before the rebels swept into the nation’s capital. As Freetown was about to fall, a force of Nigerian peacekeepers seized the campus and began shelling the city. Today, throughout Freetown there are reminders of the war. But amid the ashes, the continent’s oldest university remains a beacon of hope.
The university’s recovery is remarkable. Even during the war, Fourah Bay managed to double its undergraduate enrollment to approximately 2,000. Despite steep fees of more than US$3,000 a year for foreign students, students trickled in from nearby Anglophone countries, especially Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. Enrollment is expected to rise to 3,000 by 2006. Graduate numbers are also rising steadily.
The university is widely recognized for its academic excellence, a reputation almost unrivaled on the continent. Fourah Bay College was founded in 1827 — two years before South Africa’s first university and well over a century before the next university in West Africa. Until 1968, when it became part of the largest campus of the University of Sierra Leone, Fourah Bay was a far-flung college of Britain’s University of Durham.
According to faculty, new teachers remain committed to maintaining the standards set by Durham University. The University of Sierra Leone was not untouched by the country’s implosion. The war put an end to a lucrative exchange program with Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Chronic poverty has hit many students, 70 percent of whom pay their own fees. And many lecturers who fled the country during the war have not returned. However, the university’s revival and its strong tradition in the sciences, history, modern languages and, more recently, political science, provides inspiration for the country’s future.
— The Guardian
May 11, 2004
10 of 28 MBA Providers Considered Substandard
The Council for Higher Education released in May the results of its two-year evaluation of the country’s master’s degrees in business administration. Evaluating 37 programs at 28 institutions, the council re-accredited only six institutions, gave 12 conditional re-accreditation and withdrew accreditation from 10 institutions.
The accreditation process was launched as a reaction to alarm at the proliferation of such programs. Among the 10 MBA programs that met less than 15 percent of the council’s minimum standards were those of top public institutions, including the University of Natal’s School of Business. Most, however, were small, private institutions. The fully accredited institutions are the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science, Wits Business School, University of Stellenbosch’s Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, University of South Africa’s Graduate School of Business Leadership and the University of Pretoria’s Graduate School of Management.
May 21, 2004
University of Lome Closes Through May, Students Boycott Exams
The main university of this small, West African country was closed at the end of April after students and police clashed violently over unpaid stipends. Students and lecturers at the university have complained for several years about overcrowding. The university, until January the only one in Togo (see WENR January/February 2004), was built to accommodate 6,000 students, but now has 14,000.
Each year, every student in Togo is supposed to receive a stipend of US$108, a total of US$1.6 million in grants to 15,000 students. Student protesters say they have not received the stipend since 2001. University Vice Chancellor Nicoue Gyibor condemned the violence and urged the students to give the government time to sort out the problems. He attributed the university’s woes to Togo’s overall economic plight, which he blamed on the withholding of donor aid for the last decade by the European Union because of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma’s poor record on democracy and human rights. The university reopened in June, however the students have refused to sit their end of term exams until several student leaders jailed after the earlier disturbances are released.
— The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 5, 2004
Scottish E-Learning School Enters Zambian Market
Interactive University (IU), an Edinburgh e-learning company connected to Heriot-Watt, has entered the African market after signing its first local partnering agreement in the region. The deal with the Zambian Institute of Capacity Building (Zicab) will result in the marketing recruitment and distribution of Scottish courses throughout Zambia, focusing initially on Heriot-Watt’s management program and the University of Stirling’s management MBA. Zicab is a privately-managed education and development agency that trains large numbers of people in both the public and private sectors of the Zambian economy. The program is the first of its kind in the country.
The announcement comes hot on the heels of IU’s 2003 deal with Singapore’s Nanyang Institute of Management, which is expected to attract more than 1,500 new students over the next three years. That deal followed the award of a contract earlier in 2003 to supply business courses to Long Way College in Harbing, China, and agreements with universities in Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai.
— The Scotsman
Jan. 20, 2004
Racism Alleged in Government Crackdown
The Zimbabwe government closed 45 private schools in early May, claiming they were raising fees without government approval to exclude blacks. Some schools had proposed fee increases of 50 percent; inflation is 580 percent.
Although the government relented a few days later and gave permission for the majority of the schools to reopen after setting their fees, principals reportedly were still being picked up by police on fee-related allegations. Total school attendance in 2003 fell 60 percent in Zimbabwe.
— The Herald
May 7, 2004