In today Africa, there are several factors challenging and affecting higher education in the whole of Africa. Meanwhile, these are challenges that pose themselves as bottlenecks to the advancement of education as one of Africa’s most reliable tool to change its own milieu and the whole world at charge.
Nelson Mandela once argued that ‘education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world’. This sentiment is echoed by governments and citizens across the world: Education can help us to better understand the world around us and our place in it, equipping us to push for good social, economic and political change.
Higher education across Africa is booming. The number of students enrolled in tertiary education has increased from fewer than 200,000 in 1970 to around 10 million today. Universities in Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda are leading lights from the continent.
But, as thousands of protesting students across South Africa have highlighted over the last ten days, education does not always live up to its promise. Instead, universities can serve to reinforce the inequalities and injustices that they should be helping to correct.
What are then the factors affecting higher education in Africa?
Factors Affecting Higher Education in Africa.
Investing in Higher Education
It is no doubt that currently, investment in African universities is lacking, and the quality of education is suffering as a result. One of the factors affecting higher education in Africa is the choice of government not to invest in education. Governments invest in what they value. In order for further education to receive the investment it desperately needs, governments must recognize that it is both inherently valuable as well as being essential for training the next generation of Africans to contribute to the social, economic, and political life of the continent through academic training and reinforcement. That means investing in the arts and humanities, as well as investing in science and engineering can go a long way in progressing higher education.
Unless investment increases to keep pace with growing enrolment numbers, African universities will continue to be severely stretched. At present, the average number of students per lecturer in sub-Saharan Africa is twice as high as the international average. In Kenya, studies recorded up to 64 students per lecturer.
Many African lecturers are hopelessly overstretched teaching large class sizes. At the same time, they receive little in the way of admin support or funding to cover the costs of their research.
High quality teaching and learning environments are well-resourced ones: African governments must invest if they want to reap the rewards of a highly educated citizenry.
Government Interruption of Academic Matter
Academics thrive when they are given the liberty to pursue original and timely research, issues, and then given the space to provide critical analysis. Their work, in turn, challenges society to grow and improve. Right now 20 per cent of African states constitutionally protect academic liberty. However, there is still much room for improvement in many African countries.
In many African nations, institutional autonomy is jeopardized by appointment procedures: The president is able to appoint the university rector, who in turn appoints deans, vice-deans and heads of departments. All these appointments are therefore not done based on merits. Many are based on nepotism, political affiliations or partisanship, tribalism, and many more.
Even where such institutional control is not formally in place, academic liberty can be constrained by the broader political restrictions on freedom of speech, and the government’s propensity to marginalize, arrest, or threaten those who criticize the regime.
The Emigration of Brilliant Minds
Government ministerial regulations also shape what programmes are offered, and how students are recruited. In addition to stifling academic autonomy to make decisions related to academic research, growth and improvement, such measures drive students to seek education outside the shores of Africa, depriving the continent of their skills and forfeiting the contribution they may have otherwise made to its development.
Constant Industrial Action
Due to government’s lack of interest in investing in the education of its peoples majorly because of the alluring influence of corruption, concerned professors, lecturers and more have taken the choice of always embarking on some strike which oftentimes is not quickly called off. The more days students spend at home waiting for the government to listen to the cry of their lecturers and administrators, the more they tend to derail from focusing their energy on education, ad start giving their attention to mindboggling, mind-warping things of the society. This also is one of the factors affecting higher education in Africa.
Inaccessibility of Higher Education
The most obvious factors affecting higher education in Africa are some of which this one factor belongs. Millions of African students constantly protest against the exorbitant fees which African universities and polytechnics raise at will. It is no news that school fees play a large role in determining whether many learners across the continent can enroll or complete their education. The answer of which it is expected to be positive as a negative answer is another conundrum against the future of Africa.
Many of the great and respected universities and higher schools around Africa are expensive and appears unaffordable. This is not good at all.
Marginalization and Devaluation
It behooves of school authorities to promote inclusive education, that is, ensuring curriculums that include the voices of marginalized or historically marginalized populations; ensuring the academy speaks to and with people, not just about them; enabling classrooms to be spaces in which all voices are heard and valued; and creating faculties that recruit and promote staff fairly and inclusively.
To facilitate more inclusive discussions at the university level, we also need to explore how knowledge on Africa is produced and published. Currently, far more literature is produced within African studies by non-African scholars than by those from the continent. This needs to change. Again, change is not easy. While many foreign journals hold writing workshops in African universities and offer prizes to encourage and celebrate African writers, they rarely publish issues that feature a majority of African authors.
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