- University World News
Recalibrating the social ownership of our universities (Africa)
Are African universities part of the oppressive economic, political and social superstructure in the continent? Who owns those universities? Do they know their students? How do they treat them and relate to them? What do they teach them? What is the future of those universities? These were some of the questions posed by Professor Ahmed Bawa, the chief executive officer of Universities South Africa, a membership organisation representing South Africa’s 26 public universities, as he addressed delegates who joined the virtual University Social Responsibility Summit 2021 that took place from 3-5 February. In a presentation themed “Recalibrating the social ownership of our universities: Their role in rejuvenating South Africa’s social, political and economic condition”, Bawa argued that there was an urgent need to establish a philosophical framework on ownership of African universities as public goods. “We need 20- to 30-year planning horizons to establish policy coherence to give direction as to what the universities should do for the society as they are captured within our historical, political, economic and cultural narratives,” said Bawa. Drawing his insights from experience as the former vice-chancellor and principal of Durban University of Technology in South Africa, Bawa stated that, whereas universities were traditionally charged to develop professionals, intellectuals and other experts in complex economies, now they are in the midst of many challenges, while there is also a growing inequality between and within nations. “Extreme poverty, global warming, unchecked consumption, erosion of democracy, degradation of ethical society, escalation of political violence leading to massive migrations and rapid changes in the world of work are some of the local and global problems that societies expect universities to solve with credible solutions,” said Bawa. He also cited public health problems, new technology moments, emergence of anti-intellectualism and populism as other challenges that are confronting universities worldwide. But, according to Bawa, it will be hard for African universities to fulfil some of these societal expectations unless they are reimagined through their mandates, funding and encouragement to develop new relationships with their stakeholders. Citing the commonality of all universities globally, the fact that they admit students, Bawa argued that, for the sake of long-term sustainability, they would have to focus even more on their students. He highlighted the issue of struggling second- and third-generation African universities that were promoted into full-fledged universities from technical institutes or basic education training colleges but were never funded properly to execute their new mandate of providing quality higher education. In the South African situation, Bawa explained that some of the serious disruptions in higher education, due to student activism mainly at historically disadvantaged institutions, had to do with inadequate funding of education. “The subsequent near-paralysis of the system as a result of those disruptions focused attention on the perceived failure of the university education transformation agenda in the country,” said Bawa.
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- Global Press Journal
Congolese Students Face Costly Delays Due to Shortage of Professors (DRC)
Jean Marie Tulume walked into his first day of class to discover one thing missing: the professor.
Thousands of university students face delays in schooling, due to a higher education boom in this provincial capital that has far outpaced the number of qualified teachers. “We traveled back and forth, believing that the professor would be there, but to no avail,” says Tulume, who waited more than three weeks to start class. The conundrum of too many schools and not enough instructors has upended higher education in the country’s third-largest city, leading to staff shortages, a decline in academic standards and a delayed future for aspiring graduates. Officials recently shut down schools amid concerns about the new coronavirus, potentially delaying students’ education even further. DRC has reported 148 cases of the virus and 16 deaths as of April 4, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. Tulume also faced school delays last year. “I have to put up with it,” he says. “I have no choice.” Higher education institutions in Kisangani are popping up like mushrooms. A decade ago, students could attend the city’s single university. Now they can choose from eight, six of which are private. About 300 professors are spread across the entire system, says Benoit Dhed’a Djailo, rector of the University of Kisangani — the main public university — and the city’s representative for the Ministry of Higher and University Education. Some schools can’t afford to pay traveling expenses for visiting professors, forcing them to wait until tenured professors have time to teach. Courses go unstaffed through much of the year. And students get stuck with quarterly tuition fees even if their professor doesn’t show up. Tuition fees vary annually, but public universities generally charge about $300 a year; private school costs roughly $500. Average income in DRC is less than $3 a day, according to a 2018 report by the national statistics office, making it difficult for many students to afford extending their education. DRC already is reeling from a decline in commodity prices, according to the International Monetary Fund, one of the world’s worst Ebola outbreaks and violent conflict between armed groups, which has displaced around 5 million people in the country’s northeast. This compounds the slow recovery from a brutal civil war in the 1990s. Last year marked the first-ever peaceful transition of presidential power.
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