This is the fifth in a series of articles we are releasing as part of our 10 year anniversary. Download by clicking on the following links to access the previous issues; ICT in the RUFORUM Network: Changing Pedagogical Paradigms, Priorities, and Practice (fourth issue), Briefing note on the 4th biennial conference (third issue), RUFORUM’s Developmental Roots (second issue) and RUFORUM@10 (first issue).
A universally common feature of the post-independence economies of Africa was the near absence of well qualified and experienced professionals in almost all fields – health, education, policy, and agriculture. In many important disciplines, severe deficits of professionals remain today. Many African universities are crowded, poorly resourced, and often unable, even with the best of staff, to provide the quality of education that Africa needs. Professions, such as agricultural research, where local conditions can be demanding and the rewards (in the absence of adequate facilities and support) are poor, are unable to attract the most talented Africans they need.
Consider the situation which faces the newly trained professional in agriculture returning with a fresh doctorate from a top international university. That person will typically enter an empty laboratory. Transport to the field – to collect samples or data, to meet with farmers and suppliers, and to allow students to undertake field trips – will be limited and of poor reliability. The overcrowded undergraduate programme imposes a challenging teaching load; the demands of university administration further erode the available time for effective field research. There are two common outcomes – either professors simply repeat the experiments that they learned as part of their overseas study or they give up research, take on consulting assignments to supplement their (usually modest) incomes, and neglect their teaching duties. Students become disillusioned and few are attracted to further studies. The skills gap in the vital agricultural industries remains unfilled. Click here to view or download the full issue