African Universities Seek Autonomy
Land, Thomas, Contemporary Review
THE University of Zimbabwe recently reported a scandalously high thirty-four per cent vacancy rate. Almost half the staff posts at Makerere University in Uganda are unfilled. Many of the ninety-five top higher education institutions in Africa south of the Sahara are losing the fight to keep their most talented professors on the campus, according to an authoritative new analysis published by the World Bank. Dwindling education budgets have sharply eroded staff salaries, making it hard for universities to compete in national and regional labour markets.
Many institutions are fighting back. A series of meetings under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), ending in Dakar, Senegal, and attended by the heads of some forty-five African universities, has produced a declaration seeking fundamental reforms. Their call for change has just been taken up at an international colloquium on teacher training in Africa. The Dakar declaration demands an end to state monopoly of higher education and improved managerial and administrative autonomy for African universities, enabling them to generate resources for self-development.
Magued Diouf, the Senegalese government spokesman at the meeting, was 'encouraged' to see that many of 'our universities are taking matters into their own hands by setting up legal and financial consultations as well as clinical and bacteriological testing and even general and specialized health services... They are also developing self-financing publishing centres'. The participants recommended the creation of regional higher education networks to encourage the trend while enhancing the political integration of the continent.
A UNESCO colloquium on teacher training in French-speaking Africa, held also in Dakar, has now responded by proposing further educational and structural innovations. Pressures for change are mounting in response to a crisis of higher education throughout Africa, the World Bank says. More than three decades after they carved out their original roles in the wake of independence, the continent's universities now face a different set of challenges.
Rapid population growth, growing access to secondary school education and liberal admission policies have swelled university enrolment. But tight budgets, national emergencies and neglect have forced cutbacks in library purchases, equipment and building maintenance, forcing many staff members to leave. Educational quality is dropping.
UNIVERSITY ENROLMENT IN SELECTED AFRICAN COUNTRIES Number of Public Country 1980 Present Universities Botswana 900 2,255 1 Mozambique 1,000 4,333 1 Swaziland 1,900 1,357 1 Angola 2,200 6,048 1 Malawi 2,200 2,284 1 Tanzania 5,000 3,406 20 Uganda 5,900 5,533 2 Congo 7,300 11,310 1 Zambia 7,500 4,857 2 Zimbabwe 8,300 11,000 2 Cameroon 11,500 34,000 5 Kenya 13,000 40,000 6 Senegal 13,600 19,132 2 Ethiopia 14,400 22,701 3 Nigeria 69,700 160,767 31 Sources: -- UNESCO Statistical Yearbook and World Bank data.
During the 1980s, enrolment in African universities sky-rocketed. The continent's university student population grew by sixty-one per cent from 1980 to 1990, rising from 337,000 to 542,000. But higher education's share in the budgets of African governments dropped from 19. …