The meeting dubbed the Vice Chancellors forum was part of the side events at the 15th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting, 2-6 December 2019 hosted by the University of Cape Coast – Ghana. The meeting that attracted 155 participants met at the School of Medical Sciences, University of Cape Coast, Ghana and discussed avenues for “enhancing delivery of Africa’s Universities’ Agenda for Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI)” and “re-engineering Universities in Africa to deliver transformative graduates and innovations.”
Prof. Joseph Ghartey Ampiah, Vice Chancellor, University of Cape Coast-Ghana delivered the welcome address to the Vice Chancellors forum. In his opening address he commended the forum as a platform for consensus building on issues of common interest to RUFORUM member institutions and other higher educational and research institutions on the continent. “This meeting affords us the opportunity to contemplate in detail how we propose to lead our respective universities and countries as well as RUFORUM to become regionally and globally competitive in terms of the outputs that characterize the work we do-teaching, research, and outreach”, He said. He further elaborated five defining characteristics of robust higher educational systems and amongst these included the tendency towards autonomy; a right balance between freedom of academic enquiry, faculty independence, and a style of university leadership; complexity; clearly defined communities of which they are part; and, ability to embrace and indeed to forge new styles of partnership. He concluded by sharing two types of institutions that are most likely not to succeed and amongst these included universities which refuse to change, which become imprisoned in their own traditions, however hallowed, and allow opportunities to pass them by; and, those which follow trendily every new initiative and become prey to the virus of mere enthusiasm.
The meeting was presided over by Dr. Brian Mushimba, Minister of Higher EDUCATION, Republic of Zambia who delivered the key note address. Hon. Prof. Aiah Gbakima, Minister of Technical and Higher Education, Sierra Leone was the Lead speaker and a team of five panelists from Ghana, Namibia and Dr. Florence Nakayiwa Mayega Deputy Executive Secretary RUFORUM. Mushimba applauded RUFORUM for creating a platform where African universities can share progress towards contributing to the development agendas of the respective countries. The minister called upon African nations to undertake more investment in higher education due to the increasing population that does not match with the available resource envelop. The Minister noted that Zambia is currently implementing 7th National Development Plan with four strategic objectives including; to diversify and make economic growth inclusive; improve competitiveness and innovativeness; strengthen governance and institutional mechanisms to navigate the country towards Vision 2030; and, enforce sustainable environmental social and economic principles. He concluded by highlighting several actions that could be undertaken to strengthen Agricultural Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI) and amongst these included the need for prioritizing research and development; human resource development and accreditation of curriculum; incentivizing researchers to attract research funds; collaborating with partners implementing continental and regional initiatives to strengthen STI; and, recognizing the role of RUFORUM.
The general discussions resulted into generation of several issues including incentivizing researchers, limited research infrastructure, parity in promoting research in both public and private universities, preparing Science students for undertaking leadership positions, male domination in the science disciplines, and recruiting innovative students into the Universities to make science work for Africa. During the Panel discussions, Prof. Kenneth Matengu, Vice Chancellor, University of Namibia highlighted several recommendations for a competitive higher education system amongst which included empowering students to undertake leadership in contributing towards solving imminent problems facing the continent; and the need for universities to teach ethics, entrepreneurship and sustainable development across all degree programmes.
Prof. Kwesi Yankah, Minister of State for Tertiary Education, Ghana highlighted several issues affecting technical education in Ghana including the conversion of Polytechnics into technical Universities. He noted that such challenges have been tackled through enactment of the National Research and Innovation funds bill to support research related to national priorities; increase of lecturer-student contact hours in sciences by 54 hrs; and, publicity of polytechniques through international events.
Prof. Aba A. Bentil Andam, President, Ghana Institute of Physics recommended the need for collaboration and regarded the PhD as the end of the apprenticeship. Further suggested the need for financial backing from African governments to support research; offering liberty to students to select own supervisors. We need to get speaking to each other in English, Portuguese and French.” He said.
Dr. Florence Nakayiwa Mayega, Deputy Executive Secretary, RUFORUM Secretariat recommended the need for connected universities, promotion of Community Action Research Programmes (CARP) to attract Youth into Agriculture. Further noted that the Regional Anchor Universities under the RUFORUM RANCH Flagship Programme are vital in promoting research excellence in Agriculture, while the GRADUATE Teaching Assistantship Programme promotes Africa based support, beyond the external support received. She requested members to think about the measures to take towards protecting intellectual property in the Universities.
During the session on re-engineering Universities in Africa to deliver transformative graduates and innovations Prof. Jose Zagul, President Emeritus, EARTH University, Costa Rica presented a lead paper that highlighted several lessons for strengthening higher education including providing opportunity to academically weak students with demonstrated leadership qualities; and, the need to exploit experiential and participatory learning to make a big difference in the educational process. The discussions generated several issues including existence of age-limits for retooling professionals which may render several above-age professors unqualified, the need for scientists to embrace social science skills as part of community engagement, the need for multidisciplinary approach on the curriculum including community engagement to address societal problems, and the need to undertake experiential learning, education to consider ethical issues through embracing student-centered learning, connecting students with local communities whilst embedding various practical topics in the curriculum; and, retooling university faculty.
Visit http://www.ruforum.org/AGM2019/ for more details