WENR, February 2014: Africa

Kenya

Research Centers to Boost Innovation

Two large-scale research centers look set to boost Kenya’s profile as a regional research hub. University World News reports that the centers will provide a platform for top researchers to offer their skills in developing solutions to challenges facing Kenya and Africa, while the government plans to double its research funding within two years.

Global technology giant IBM has launched a research lab in the capital Nairobi to conduct applied and exploratory research into the major challenges of the continent by delivering commercially-viable innovations that change the way things are currently done. The lab, which was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in November, will bring together top technology talent from around the world – with 12 nationalities currently represented – to conduct world-class research, according to officials. They said the cloud-enabled computing hub, based at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa on the outskirts of Nairobi, will enable researchers to analyze and draw insights from vast amounts of data in the search for solutions to Africa’s pressing challenges such as energy, water, transportation, agriculture, healthcare, financial inclusion and public safety.

The other planned research center was announced by Chuka University, one of Kenya’s newest higher education institutions. The university says it plans to build a US$35.3 million science and technology park to support researcher’s work on discoveries that can be used across Kenya’s economic platform. Chuka University Vice-chancellor Professor Erastus Njoka said its new science and technology park would concentrate on research in the areas of environment, agriculture and renewable energy.

The two projects are expected to supplement the government’s plan to grow research funding from this year’s Ksh1.2 billion (US$14 million) to Ksh2.3 billion (US$27 million) by 2015 under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Proponents of the new projects and university administrators said the initiatives would turn Kenya into a regional research hub, potentially boosting its standing as East Africa’s top supplier of human capital and innovation.

University World News
November 15, 2013

A Year After University Upgrade Former Colleges Struggle to Accommodate Students

A year ago, the government upgraded 15 university constituent colleges to full university status as part of its drive to meet growing demand for higher education. This increased the number of public universities from seven to 22.

In 2010 there were some 140,000 tertiary students in Kenya. Their numbers rose to around 219,000 in 2012 and Kenya’s Economic Survey 2013 revealed that there are now as many as 240,000 students.

The new universities have been hard pressed to meet demand, both in terms of accommodation infrastructure and academic infrastructure, including qualified instructors. New universities have been given little funding to match their new status and increased enrollments.

The result is that shopping centers and farmland around the new universities are degenerating into shantytowns comprising shacks built cheaply with iron – housing that is barely fit for habitation but is popular with students, most of whom come from poor backgrounds.

“The situation is the same in all the former colleges that have been promoted to universities in recent years,” James Oloo a lecturer at Bondo University in Western Kenya, told University World News.

–  University World News
December 20, 2013

Nigeria

Six-Month Lecturer Strike Ends

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off its six-month strike in late December, with President Goodluck Jonathan meeting some of the lecturer demands and with academics coming under immense public pressure to reopen campuses. However, lecturers warned that they could resume their strike if the government failed to implement the terms of the agreement.

Academics have been striking primarily over the government’s failure to implement a 2009 memorandum of understanding that included improved funding for universities and increased salaries.

Under the terms of the agreement, the government will inject US$1.3 billion into all public universities, pay immediately outstanding salary arrears of striking teachers, and reexamine the composition of university governing councils.

–  BBC
December 17, 2013

Strike Causes Uncertainty About University Admissions

Following the recently ended, six-month strike by public university lecturers in Nigeria, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) – the agency that administers entrance examinations for all universities – is in something of a dilemma, as students who sat last year’s exam were unable to gain admission to public universities because of the strike.

About one million candidates have already applied to sit for this year’s qualifying test. But successful candidates from 2013, who should have started lectures last October, remain at home. Private institutions were able to admit students and commence lectures – but not public universities because academics were not teaching. Their industrial action ended in late December.

“It is obvious that JAMB must alter its calendar,” said a former vice-chancellor who did not want to be named. He said difficult technical hurdles needed to be resolved by the agency before it could move forward.

First, after the universities’ internal entrance tests, lists of qualified candidates must be ratified by JAMB. “Hopefully, the first semester of this year’s academic calendar will start in March, five months behind the scheduled timetable. Public universities will not have a second semester break. They have to conclude this academic year by October,” he said.

–  University World News
January 24, 2014

Posted in Africa, Regional News Summaries