WENR, December 2015: Africa


Science and education bodies to merge

The Africa Union has merged its science and education bodies in a move designed to improve sectoral relationships, effectiveness and efficiency. The African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology and the Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union will now operate as one entity.

Dr Mahama Ouedraogo, the African Union’s head of human resources, science and technology, said that with the demise of the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology and the Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union issues relating to education, science and technology will be addressed by the Specialized Technical Committee on Education, Science and Technology or STC-EST.

Professor Etienne Ehouan Ehile, secretary general of the Association of African Universities (AAU), who was involved in discussions leading up to the formation of the STC-EST, said that the ‘voice for higher education in Africa’ welcomed the move. The AAU would like to see governments prioritize tertiary education across all sectors because there are also special needs in sectors like health, agriculture, peace and others.

University World News [1]
November 20, 2015


The battle for accreditation in Kenya

Some six weeks after being sent home by universities, more than 4,000 students remain excluded from their studies amid a bitter war over course accreditation between the Engineers Board of Kenya and the Commission for University Education.

Last August the engineers board [2] published a list of 25 accredited courses in five universities, effectively disapproving 47 other courses offered in eight universities. In rejecting the courses the board cited, among other reasons, lack of qualified lecturers, a “weak curriculum”, course segmentation and duplication, and lack of “professional focus”.

Egerton University ejected its entire population of more than 1,000 engineering students, sending them home indefinitely on 23 September. Maseno University in western Kenya followed suit, ordering learners to leave after they held protests over non-recognition of courses that some had studied for up to three years.

As more professional groups sought to flex their muscles, the Commission for University Education, or CUE, asked parliament to quickly debate a draft amendment bill meant to strip professional associations of any role in accrediting courses. The belligerence of professional bodies could end should the bill sail through parliament as it would override other laws and give CUE the power to inspect and determine the fate of all programs taught in universities.

University World News [3]
November 13, 2015

UN committee faults Kenyan government for college massacre

A committee of the United Nations Security Council has faulted the Kenyan government for failing to act on credible security intelligence about an imminent attack on Garissa University College in the northeast by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab Islamist militants. The subsequent attack on 2 April this year resulted in the deaths of 148 people, mostly students. In a report [4], S/2015/801, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea blasted Kenya’s security forces for their slow response to the assault.

According to the report, multiple intelligence sources told members of the monitoring group that Al-Shabaab gunmen were known to be in Garissa 10 to 14 days prior to the attack. The Principal of Garissa University College Dr. Ahmed Warfa was aware that campus security arrangements were inadequate and had consulted and written several times to the local government security apparatus, but was not taken seriously. When Al-Shabaab gunmen stormed the university college, it was only protected by four police officers and 12 unarmed private guards.

In its analysis, the monitoring group attributed the success of Al-Shabaab’s attack on Garissa University College more to failure of communication than lack of actionable intelligence. According to the monitoring group, the success of the Al-Shabaab attack was not of lack of actionable intelligence but a disconnect between the collection of intelligence and its use.

University World News [5]
October 28, 2015

South Africa

Language proposal amid protests draws mixed response

In a week of ongoing drama in South African higher education, a group of 226 academics from the University of Stellenbosch has thrown weight behind a proposal by management to adopt English as the primary language of communication and administration, with Afrikaans and isiXhosa as ‘additional’ languages. This followed demonstrations at Stellenbosch and violent protests at some other universities, with multiple arrests.

A follow-up statement issued by the marketing department, seeking to clarify the situation, drew a distinction between the university’s language implementation plan and changes to the language policy/plan, and stated that although it had not retracted its statement, management remained committed to due process around changes to the policy/plan. On the issue of implementation, the clarifying statement said students from 2016 onward would be able to study in both English and Afrikaans.

Stellenbosch is one of South Africa’s top research universities and featured at number three in Africa on the recently released QS University Rankings of BRICS countries for 2015. It is perceived as the crucible of Afrikaner Nationalist thought in the 20th century – the ideology that gave rise to apartheid. The Stellenbosch language proposal has predictably drawn mixed responses: praise as a “visionary” move from the Department of Higher Education and Training and despair from those who see it as a sacrifice of unique cultural heritage and, coupled with increased student populations, a threat to academic standards.

University World News [6]
November 20, 2015