A few years back, I wrote an article titled “Universities/Varsity Curricula Must be Practical” that was published in The Herald, Zimbabwe’s most popular and biggest Newspaper. In that article, I argued that curricula administered in most African universities cannot spur a critical mass of skilled graduates needed to transform African economies. I called upon African governments to step up funding to their universities and compel them to overhaul cramming-based learning and adopt research powered learning.
Research powered learning will make students innovative and spur ground breaking solutions that if backed by supportive conducive policies can catalyze industrial development. It will enable students to be critical thinkers capable of objectively analyzing issues and seizing opportunities.
Africa’s skyrocketing unemployment, especially among the youth is a manifestation, of the failure of governments and universities to harmonize their visions into one complimentary vision of finding solutions to the challenges facing the continent. Universities are supposed to equip learners with relevant skills that will enable them solve societal problems.
Globally, research is a chief driver of new knowledge and innovation crucial for spurring sustainable industrial and entrepreneurial development, but how much of the research done by African universities have translated to industrial commercial usable products? Why are African industries powered by imported technologies despite the fact that we have engineering and technology faculties at our universities? Why are specialized surgeries done outside Africa while we have medical schools/faculties at our universities? Why are our molecular biologists unable to use computerized technologies to read and analyze the genomes of viruses and only do so after being subjected to re-training by experts trained from abroad?
African governments must apportion a good percentage of their national budgets to research development. They must create a robust environment and opportunities for their employable citizens at national and international levels, by incorporating in their foreign policies and international relations, the issue of systematically and legally transporting their employable labor to other countries where it is needed through bilateral relations, like what Cuba, Russia, China, and India have done and are doing.
Cuba integrated medicine as a fundamental element in its foreign policy and international relations. Eighty percent of Doctors and health professionals in Venezuela, are Cubans, send there by the Cuban government, on bilateral arrangement with the Venezuelan government, where by Cuba supplies medical workers in return for oil and gas supplies from the Venezuelan government. Cuba has hundreds of Doctors working on bilateral arrangement in other Latin American and African countries.
People keep on wondering why there is large presence of Chinese engineers, technicians, and traders in African countries. Transportation of labor to foreign countries is a cardinal part of Chinese foreign policy and international relations. In fact, all the major infrastructural development projects in Africa, like major road highways, dams and buildings are being executed by Chinese supported companies and labor. China has an economic diversification policy aligned to urbanization, industrialization and transformation of rural locations into production centers.
University curricula in Africa must be research derived and interdisciplinary powered for the graduates to translate the acquired knowledge and skills into industrial usable products and attain critical thinking skills capable of forging solutions to societal challenges.
By Moses Hategeka
The author is a Ugandan based Independent Governance Researcher, Public Affairs Analyst, and Writer