WENR, May/June 2005: Africa
MIT Links Electronically with Region’s Universities
Students at three universities in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria will soon be able to access five Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) labs via the Internet to perform sophisticated science and engineering experiments.
The collaboration of MIT’s Center for Educational Computing Initiatives (CECI), Makerere University (Uganda), University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria) is part of an international MIT initiative known as the iLabs Project. Students and researchers at MIT and universities in Great Britain, Greece, Singapore, Sweden and Taiwan have been involved in the project since its inception in 1998.
MIT faculty members will work closely with their African colleagues to introduce new laboratory experiences and develop new content in several graduate and undergraduate courses in fields ranging from electrical engineering to physics. So far, researchers have identified online-experimentation topics in micro-electronics, earthquake engineering, chemical and mechanical engineering and physics. The project, funded by an $800,000 grant from Carnegie Corp., also includes a cultural-exchange component.
MIT news office
State Has Spent $60 Million Over 6 Years Training UK Health Care Workers
Since 1999, Ghana has spent US$64 million training healthcare workers who then go on to work in Britain, according to a recent report by Save the Children, a leading non-governmental organization for children’s rights.
The British Medical Association has described the loss of healthcare professionals from the developing world as “one of the most serious global problems of today.” In Ghana, it is an enormous problem. In 2002, the equivalent of 94 percent of graduates from health-related fields went abroad to work. More than half of Ghana’s doctors work abroad, and the number working in Britain has doubled since 1999, despite a moratorium on active recruiting in Ghana and other countries with shortages of health workers. In 2003, 5,880 UK work permits were approved for health and medical personnel from South Africa, 2,825 from Zimbabwe, 1,510 from Nigeria and 850 from Ghana.
Nearly a third of doctors practicing in the United Kingdom were trained overseas. In comparison, only 5 percent of doctors in Germany and France are not home grown.
The British Medical Association, which was a co-sponsor of the Save the Children report, suggests that “urgent action” be taken by producing more health professionals in the United Kingdom. Other proposed actions include payment of compensation by developed nations for the improvement of health services and working conditions, including professional salaries, and the improvement of research and professional development facilities in developing nations.
The report does note that it is not all bad news. Ghanaians working abroad (estimated at 20 percent of the population) account for the fourth largest source of foreign currency in the form of remittances. Unfortunately, the majority of remittances are used on daily needs, and the government still lacks a conceptual and legal framework to integrate the resources of the diaspora into a program of renewal and development.
May 13, 2005
4 in 5 Qualified Students Cannot Find Places at Public Universities
Nearly 40,000 qualified students will miss entry to public institutions in Kenya, according to the universities’ Joint Admission Board (JAB), forcing them to seek higher education opportunities at local private and foreign universities.
Statistics released by JAB reveal that only 10,250 of 49,700 students who reached the bar set for university entry have been selected to study for degrees offered at the nation’s six public universities. It has advised students not selected to apply to universities elsewhere.
Times Higher Education Supplement
April 25, 2005
African Virtual University Graduates First Class
The first cohort of students to graduate from the African Virtual University (AVU) gathered in Tanzania recently for their graduation ceremony.
The e-university, supported by the Australian Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), presented students with diplomas at the University of Dar es Salaam. Additional graduation ceremonies were held in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Kigali (Rwanda) and Cape Coast (Ghana). RMIT is working with nine institutions in six countries to deliver AVU computer science programs. The University of Namibia in the capital Windhoek was the latest university to partner with AVU earlier this year.
The AVU project is sponsored by the World Bank. Pass rates among the first graduating cohort stand at 80 percent. By 2007, approximately 500 students are expected to have graduated from the program.
RMIT news release
University of Liberia Signs Agreement with Top US University
Officials from the University of Liberia and Indiana University signed an Agreement of Friendship and Cooperation in April to facilitate an exchange of teaching, research, personnel and students, as well as books and reference materials.
The University of Liberia has been damaged by more than a decade of fighting and plunder. Faculty brain drain and extensive looting of the institution’s facilities have severely disrupted its teaching and research activities. With the resumption of peace in 2003 following an ongoing intervention by the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world, officials are hopeful that serious academic pursuits can resume.
May 4, 2005
Interim Government Orders Online Medical School Closed
The National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA), Liberia’s interim law-making body, has declared that St. Luke’s School of Medicine has been operating in Monrovia illegally and should be turned over to the Justice Ministry for prosecution.
The school in question has long claimed legitimacy through a 1998 charter that earned it a listing in the World Health Organization’s Directory of Medical Schools. Liberia at the time, however, was in the midst of a brutal 10-year-long civil war.
The NTLA ruling follows a recent disclaimer from the National Commission of Higher Education stating that the institution was awarded its charter without gaining the necessary clearance from the commission, rendering the charter “null and void” (see Nov/Dec issue of WENR).
May 10, 2005
NUC to License 14 More Private Universities
The National Universities Commission announced recently that 14 private universities will be licensed between now and 2007 as part of the federal government’s initiative to reform the nation’s university system. At the end of May, the government issued licenses to seven new private universities. The new institutions will bring to 23 the total number of licensed private universities in the country.
The new institutions are Bells University of Technology in Badagry, Lagos state; Crawford University of technology, Ogun state; Wukari University, Taraba state; Crescent University Abeokuta, Ogun state; Novena University, Delta state; Renaissance University, Enugu state; and University of Mkar, Benue state.
It is hoped that the growing private sector will help service a growing number of school leavers for whom there are not nearly enough university places in the public sector. Although public attitudes toward quality standards at private institutions might best be described as skeptical, private universities have achieved similar percentages in the number of fully accredited programs as their federal counterparts in recent years. Further, in the 2004 rankings, a private university
was rated overall as the nation’s second-best university.
May 24, 2005
President Seeks to Calm Rampaging, Furious Students
President Thabo Mbeki has spoken out against student protests that have severely disrupted universities since the academic year started in February. Protesters, some violent, are angry about fee increases, meager financial aid opportunities, exclusions and “badly managed” mergers.
Mr. Mbeki, while recognizing the legitimacy of student concerns, said that destructive behavior would not be tolerated on campuses. The president was reacting to students who went on the rampage at universities including Pretoria, Johannesburg, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Transkei.
One of the students’ biggest grievances is the failure of fund increases for loans and bursaries to poor students to keep up with the rapid increase in student numbers in recent years.
The Times Higher Education Supplement
April 1, 2005
The South Africa campus of Australian Monash University reported record financial losses of more than US$9 million last year, prompting a warning from Victoria state Auditor-General Wayne Cameron about high-risk overseas investments.
The Australian newspaper reports that Monash University
has now invested US$42 million into its Johannesburg-based project, incurring losses of US$18 million over three years. Despite the losses, Monash University Vice-Chancellor Richard Larkins said enrollment is running ahead of projected levels, with 764 students now studying at the campus.
The Melbourne-based institution opened Monash South Africa in 2000, and it was originally intended to break even by this year. Cameron suggested that universities should be aware of the potential hazards of large overseas investments, citing factors such as political instability, greatly fluctuating exchange rates and the fact that universities might not be able to sell overseas campuses if they run into trouble.
May 26, 2005
Officials Clamp Down on Private Universities
Officials from the National Council for Higher Education have ordered the closure of a private university that failed to meet minimum quality standards set by the accreditation body. Three other universities have been told to meet standards or face closure.
The license of Namasagali University was revoked by the council last month, and its officials have been barred from advertising as a university. Growing demand in Uganda and other countries in Africa that cannot be met by public institutions has resulted in a rapid increase in the number of private institutions, many of which operate from dilapidated buildings and lack qualified faculty. Despite the low standards, the classes are filled to capacity with students who have failed to gain admission (see Kenya piece above) to public universities. In East Africa, Uganda has the largest share of such institutions.
Namasagali had been operating since 1975 and offered mainly certificate courses in business studies. The council also ordered the private Busoga, Kampala and Nkumba universities to make improvements or face closure. Nkumba is the largest of the three, with 3,900 students. Namasagali has 611 students; they have been advised to transfer to other institutions.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 20, 2005