Invest strategically in higher education

The demographic development of Africa poses major infrastructure and equipment problems for our States. This is particularly true for the Education sector. Since nature loathes the void, where states do not or can not accept hundreds of thousands, even millions of students of the superior, non-state institutions are set up.

This is true of the growing number of Christian universities or Koranic schools that are more concerned with primary education. For our States, education of the youth must of course be a priority, but the means, despite a generally strong economic growth, are often lacking. Yet, education is one of the primary human rights. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims to ensure “access to quality education for all, equality of access, and promoting opportunities for lifelong learning ‘. The increase in enrollment is an undeniable success, especially for girls too often excluded from school. But this also poses a problem for higher education, which is struggling to welcome those who wish to go further in studying. They are too rare, but yet African national universities can not meet the demand. Hence the gap we were talking about earlier.

In the 1950s there were only 41 higher education institutions in Africa with 16,500 students. In 2010, 5.2 million students are enrolled in 668 universities in sub-Saharan Africa, more than a doubling since 2000. Faced with this tidal wave, it is understandable that states are struggling to keep afloat University institutions worthy of the name, capable of accommodating the students in comfortable conditions, and to provide them with a diverse and quality teaching, adapted also and especially to the national future needs of human resources.

Because Education is part of a whole and normally participates in the deployment of a long-term strategy of developing countries by setting up training axes. For example, West Africa today lacks skilled labor for the mining industry or mining engineers, while the region is experiencing an unprecedented mining boom. International mining companies are therefore obliged to call on expatriates for a number of fields of competence, and sometimes at best, they train their West African colleagues to replace them. But the ideal would be to have training institutes, mining schools, for example at the regional level (ECOWAS), which would train young people in these trades which enjoys more and more jobs opportunities.

The reality nowadays is that private institutions, often linked to religious obediences, respond in the place of the State to the needs of higher education. On the other side of the spectrum, this situation of academic indigence also pushes some of the best elements to go abroad, often in the West but also and more and more in some Arab countries, to study. This is part of the brain drain and skill deficit. The example of doctors is probably the most illustrative. This is also true of university professors, who are often discouraged by the lack of resources, recognition, public investment and adequate infrastructure to accommodate ever more students. African governments have therefore allowed the development of private universities, which are predominantly Christian.

In Ghana, for example, there were only two private universities in 1999, now 28. Nigeria has authorized 61 private institutions since 1999, of which 31 are Christian. This situation raises, of course, the question of State control over higher education both in terms of the content of teaching and the integration of education into a traditional republican culture independent of religious denominations. Not to mention the possibility that education is being held hostage to a political struggle that has nothing to do with the country where the private university is located, as was the case recently in East Africa.

With regard to education, the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 provides that at least 70% of all African high school students have access to higher education, which represents an eight-fold increase in the current rate registration.

To achieve these objectives, our states will therefore have to invest more in education, in partnership with the private sector, increase standardization of programs and controls of private institutions and define clear training strategies in line with their developmental needs.

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