WENR, November 2015: Africa
Proposals to boost African universities
Recommendations for strengthening African universities were agreed at a high-level event titled “A Strategy to Strengthen Higher Education in Africa for Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals” last weekend, held alongside the United Nations General Assembly meeting to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals. The proposals include promoting student mobility, postgraduate research, centers of excellence and partnerships.
The meeting called on African governments and the private and philanthropic sectors to provide more financing to higher education. The meeting also called on The African Union Commission to put in place mechanisms to improve the movement of staff and students to institutions across the continent. Participants at the event stressed that student exchange between Africa and other continents should be encouraged.
According to the event press release, the successes of most wealthy and emerging economies have demonstrated that economic growth – such as the 5% realized by Africa’s countries – had been attained by increasing numbers of scientists and other graduates. Higher education investment must focus on strategies that rely on Africa’s own ability to mobilize its higher education institutions through training and producing quality, skilled graduates who are linked to Africa’s realities and are able to support economic growth and development, wealth creation and sustainable poverty reduction.
–University World News
October 3, 2015
Kenyan student’s education in jeopardy
A series of crises are building in Kenya’s higher education sector, which threaten to undermine the credibility of degrees and throw thousands of learners off campuses. The crises have exposed the soft underbelly of higher education, which continues to grapple with concerns of underfunding and poor quality.
In the first crisis, the Engineers Board of Kenya rubbished more than half of engineering degree courses being offered by universities, saying that they had not been approved. The ensuing stalemate has thrown into jeopardy the careers of thousands of students enrolled on disputed engineering courses. At least 1,500 new students have been selected to study engineering in the rejected universities this year, and their fate is now unknown.
Strapped for cash because of declining public funding and a freeze on fees for state-funded students, universities introduced ‘parallel’; courses charging full fees. This resulted in great disparities in fees paid by state-funded versus self-funded students. The Commission for University Education says it is no longer financially sustainable to keep state-funded students on campuses in current economic conditions.
Students are already angry. At the end of last month, thousands from universities in the capital Nairobi held demonstrations in the streets over the delayed disbursement of HELB loans. Students are already angry. At the end of last month, thousands from universities in the capital Nairobi held demonstrations in the streets over the delayed disbursement of HELB loans.
–University World News
Tuning in for education
The Ministry of Higher Education in Mauritania expects to start a television channel specializing in broadcasting educational material to university students. The first of its kind in the country, the channel will start broadcasting its material at the onset of next year on Arabsat, the Arab satellite television network.
During the past few years, five private universities were established in addition to branches of some international universities’, institutes, and technical high schools. But the number of higher-education institutions is still limited compared to the increasing numbers of students who wish to continue their university education after getting an undergraduate degree, since master’s and PhD degrees are hardly available in Mauritanian universities
Creating the new channel seems like a lifesaving procedure to revive the deteriorating university education system in the country. Seidi Bouy, a master’s degree student in mass communications, believes that the educational channel would give students a chance to listen again to lectures that they might be having difficulty understanding. He said the channel would be similar to educational channels in other neighboring and Arab countries, such as Egypt.
However there are still fears in the academic circles that that the channel could be chaotic or limited by the biases of those who run it. Teachers and professors’ unions emphasized the necessity of involving a variety of educational organizations in the effort. The television channel is still a blank screen, but many people have an opinion about it. Once the blank screen goes live, no doubt the discussion will become even more intense.
In a small apartment in Agadir, southern Morocco, student activists are meeting in secret. In defiance of the country’s authorities, they are planning protests for the independence of a disputed territory claimed by Morocco that is commonly called the Western Sahara. These students risk police crackdowns, arrests and beatings by the authorities. Yet protests continue.
Student activists face “harsh beatings” from Moroccan authorities, according to Jacob Mundy, an assistant professor of peace and conflict studies at Colgate University. The conflicts on Moroccan university campuses escalated after what’s sometimes called the Second Sahrawi Intifada, in May 2005.
In April, the United Nations renewed a peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara called by its acronym, MINURSO. The renewal—drafted by the United States and overseen by Britain, France, Spain and Russia—was passed without a provision to monitor human rights in the contested land, despite recommendations by the Polisaro (a political organization that represents the main Western Sahara independence movement), the African Union and human rights groups. Moroccan officials insist that they promote human rights in Western Sahara, and are calling on the international community to instead focus on the Polisario’s alleged abuses.
The United Nations, the European Union, and the United States have expressed support for the self-determination of Western Sahara. Earlier this year there was a glimpse of hope as the Moroccan state authorized a major activist group known by the acronym ASVDH (the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State). Still, many other pro-independence organizations remain unrecognized, as documented in a Human Rights Watch report published in August on the legalization of rights groups in Morocco and Western Sahara.
A focus on producing entrepreneurs
With graduate joblessness rising and state funding dwindling, universities of technology are confronted by dual challenges – delivering entrepreneurship education and work-integrated learning to students, and themselves becoming more entrepreneurial – says Professor Irene Moutlana, vice-chancellor of Vaal University of Technology. Universities of technology are based on a transformative philosophy of education, Moutlana told University World News. They are all about change – responding to the changing demands of the world of work, and changing things into new commodities.
Unemployment has triggered a focus in higher education across the country on the notion of entrepreneurship. Universities have been blamed for not producing employable graduates, or graduates that can become employers. But while it is easy to talk about enterprise, Moutlana said, it is important to be very clear about what is meant when something is described as entrepreneurial.
As part of its efforts to tackle unemployment, the government is promoting work-integrated learning in tertiary education. Universities of technology already do this on a large scale. Underpinning the problem is the great deal of money being spent on education institutions that are producing graduates who cannot be employed immediately. Not only do graduates need to be more employable, but universities also “need to produce job creators instead of job seekers.
–University World News
Protests spread across South Africa
Student protests over proposed fee increases have forced the suspension of teaching at several of South Africa’s leading universities.
At Rhodes, in Eastern Cape Province, teaching was suspended after students, reportedly armed with sticks, burned tires to block the entrance to the institution’s campus. Stun grenades were fired by police, according to reports. Stun grenades were fired by police, according to reports. The key concern among Rhodes students is the size of the minimum initial payment, a 50 per cent lump sum of the total annual fee that, for full-time students, amounts to more than 40,000 rand (£1,950).
Wits announced on October 17 that it would suspend a planned 10.5 percent increase in fees, after several days of demonstrations and blockading of entrances to the Johannesburg campus, which forced the suspension of lectures. However, representatives of the university council declined to address students as planned on October 19 when protesters occupied the institution’s Senate House building.
The latest wave of protests came after students burned cars and petrol-bombed an office in protest at fee changes at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and after Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, acknowledged that financial support for students was “clearly still insufficient to support all poor and academically deserving students”. Speaking on October 19, Blade Nzimande, the country’s higher education minister, said that he would convene a meeting of vice-chancellors in a bid to defuse the situation.
–Times Higher Education