In a speech at the inaugural Times HigherCollege Africa Universities Top, Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa, offered his assessment of how greatercollege might play a main function in the next 50 years of advancement in the continent.

Here is the full text of Mr Mbeki’s speech, which was delivered at the University of Johannesburg, which hosted the THE top, on 30 July:

We have actually gathered here at the University of Johannesburg to think aboutto think about an essentiala concern – “Moving Africa’s Universities Forward”.

I am certain that it is a matter of typical cause among us and specifically the recognized leaders of our universities that there has been substantial conversation over the years connecting to the matter of the function and location of the African university in the 21st century.

We likewise have the benefit that just 4 months ago we had the first African Greater Education Summit on Revitalising GreaterCollege for Africa’s Future, which was kept in Dakar, Senegal.

Even prior to that, in 2009, the Association of African Universities released its “Abuja Declaration on Sustainable Advancement in Africa: The Role of Greater Education”, adopted at its 12th basic conference of that year.

Even earlier, in 2006, UNESCO convened a colloquium at its head office in Paris under the theme – “Universities as Centres of Research and Knowledge Development: An Endangered Species?”.

Though this colloquium was not concentrated on Africa, nonetheless it came to conclusions which are straight appropriate to the very theme this summit has actually convened to go over.

I have actually mentioned all these efforts making the point that I think that we have a pretty gooda good concept of the matters on which we need to focus to move Africa’s universities forward.

What stays to be done is to elaborate the useful and practical programmes that ought to be put in place to attain the objectives which have actually been determined.

I am particular that it is not needed for me to list the catalogue of measures on which Africa have to act to attain our typical goal of moving our universities forward. You are in any case much better informed about this matter than I am.

However, it may not be amiss if I remember the concepts mentioned in the draft declaration and planstrategy adopted at the Dakar African HigherCollege Top. As you understand, the document states:

“We concuraccept be guided by the following concepts:

1. Provision of high quality, pan-African and worldwide competitive education;

2. Promotion of world class culture of research study and innovation;

3. Arrangement of appropriate resources;

4. Promo of access, equity, and responsibility;

5. Promo of institutional autonomy and scholastic liberty;

6. Pursuit of functional quality in institutional management;

7. Pursuit of the engagement of African scholastic neighborhoods in higher education policymaking;

8. Enhancing linkages to society, economy, and companies;

9. Building inter-institutional partnerships; and,

10. Pursuing mutually-beneficial internationalisation initiatives.”

I think that all of us here are completely acquainted with the in-depth responsibilities which attach to honouring these principles including with regard to such matters as:

  • Enhancing student enrolment, paying attentionfocusing on the involvement of ladies;
  • Enhancing the appropriately qualified teaching personnel to maintain the needed teacher/student ratios;
  • Guaranteeing adequate access to books and journals, the internet and ICT;
  • Building the physical facilities to allow the university to release its teaching, discovering, research study and neighborhood duties;
  • Attending to concerns of epistemology and curriculum advancement;
  • Participating inAddressing the matter of the employability of the finishing students in the economy, the state and the community;
  • Instituting a quality assurance system;
  • Concentrating on the issue of the growth of knowledge through research, publication and the access of students both to the practice and results of research and motivating development;
  • Optimising knowing and research study possibilities by establishing linkages among the African universities and institutes and establishing centres of quality, consisting of research institutes and universities, and drawing on the African intelligentsia and specialists who have left the continent through the so-called brain drain;
  • Increasing the intake of students and speakers particularly from other African countries while avoiding damaging the ability to deliver quality higher education in any one of our countries; and generating the needed funds to finance all these intricate processes on a sustainable basis.

Needless to say, the difficulty to accomplish these goals is not merely a technical matter. I strongly think that it requires the ideal mind-set to produce the vital modifications which I expect are a matter of common cause.

In this respect, with your approval, I would like to mention some remarks that have been made on the matter of the future of the African university, remarks with which you will certainly be familiar.

In his paper, “Tertiary Education and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa at the Dawn of the Twenty First Century: A Lost Hope, Or Present Opportunity?”, Raphael Ogom [of DePaul University, Chaicago] stated: “In its existing form, design and material, (sub-Saharan African greater education) is of limited significance in the context of quick social and economic modifications in the area and bears little connections to the local economy and society.

“ModelledImitated European highercollege, it has evolved from educating only a couple ofjust a few highly certified students into mass systems of lower quality (Bollag, 2004). This expansion, sadly, has not been accompanied by a grounded re-development of curricula that reflects, and is better fit, to the realities of the Sub-Saharan Africa environment and advancement requirements.

“A re-think and re-design of the objective of higher education from the current curricula of theoretical elegance, inequality, and irrelevance to one that holistically aligns the educational system with the local industry and total advancement requirements, is long overdue … [Without this] it is most likely, and sadly so, that the socio-economic development promise of tertiary education in Africa may continue to be a lost hope at the dawn of the 21st century and beyond.”

I am particular that you are better put to evaluate whether this assessment of our universities is right. Nevertheless I am specific that there is no gainsaying the reality that none of the changes proposed even at the Dakar Summit would make good sense outside the context of the improvement advised by Professor Ogom.

In the 2009 Abuja Declaration I have pointed out, the Association of African Universities said:

“The real obstacles for sustainable development in Africa are the promo of financial and commercial development, the elimination of poverty, the resolution of conflicts, and the maximum use of its natural resources.

” [And yet] the African greatercollege research program has the tendency to concentrate on simply academic and clinical objectives in order to ensure publication in refereed journals, with little regard to developmental requirements due to the fact that of the ‘release or perish’ syndrome.

“MostThe majority of the research study works in Africa are seldom appropriate to the search for continental solutions to health, education, water, environment change, energy and food security – all sustainable development indices.

“Where research study has actually been carried out in pertinent areas, the conclusions have continued to be mainly on racks and not available to those who needhave to act or implement the typically beneficial suggestions.”

These observations are straight relevant to the vital matter of the financing of higher education to which I will return.

However before I do so, kindly enable me to quote some remarks made by emeritus teacher Eldred Durosimi Jones of the University of Sierra Leone in his 2004 paper on “African Academics and African Universities in the Twenty-First Century: Needs and Obligations”.

Teacher Jones writes:” [The] division between the privileged and the under-privileged [in Africa] has actually resulted in social and political instability which is bound to continue as long as a significant section of society is excluded of the complete involvement for and pleasure of the benefits of development.

“Exactly what then are a few of these challenges that our academics must deal with if they are to satisfy their role in the surrounding society? They are to produce guys and womenmales and females who in addition to their particular skills as scientists, engineers, instructors, social workers, priests, artists and so on, need to be sufficiently aware and dedicated to eradicating this social scourge.

“Whatever their individual professional skills, students must emerge from our tertiary organizations with this social awareness … Programmes must be developed, ideally a basic programme to be carried out by all students irrespective of their specific discipline early in their courses of research.

“All the students ought to come out of such a course knowledgeable about their environment and their place in it. In these days, it needs to be understood that this environment is ending up being progressively worldwide … Our aim in teaching need to be to produce males and ladiesmales and females who are both crucial and innovative. Our students should be motivated to be thinkers and doers rather than accumulators of realities and got understanding. This should be so if they are to be instruments of modification, working towards the realisation of a simply and subsequently, steady society.”

This brings me to the very vitalextremely important matter of the generation of the funds required to fund the modifications needed to move Africa’s universities forward. In this regard I will refer only to the problem of public funds.

Properly the Dakar Top said it is needed to “increase financial investment in highercollege to help with advancement, promote stability, enhance access and equity; establish, recruit and retain outstanding academic personnel and pursue advanced research and arrangement of high quality teaching. Suitable financial investments are required at institutional, nationwide, local, and international levels.”

It then said: “Sustained efforts should be carried out led by governments, and consisting of all vital stakeholders in highercollege, to situate greatercollege at the centre of the development agenda. Establishing such a concern is a requirement to ensure its financing.

“The growth and arrangement of quality greater education will certainly require proportionally higher, sustainable, and foreseeable levels of public funding.”

I believe the crucial expression in these paragraphs is – “situate greatercollege at the centre of the advancement program.”

This is the development program to which the Association of African Universities referred, which would be attended to by the transformed universities which Professpr Ogom composed, sustained by the relevant research study the Association of African Universities discussed and promoted by the socially conscious graduates Professor Jones visualised.

The Dakar top said the sustained efforts to locate greatercollege at the centre of the development agenda should be led by our governments.

I think this is incorrect or perhaps I ought to state that it requires prior prep work.

Someplace deep in its bowels, the Dakar declaration makes the critically vital endeavor that: “African greater education institutions will dedicate themselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning, research study and scholarship, public service and arrangement of solutions to the development challenges and opportunities facing African individuals throughout the continent.”

In my view this important paragraph should have been positioned in the really preamble of the declaration.

In all humbleness I would have rephrased it to read something like this: “We have collected at this 1st African Greater Education Top to think about the strategic concern of what the African universities must do successfully to assist advance the African development program.

“We are securely encouraged that highercollege on our continent should be positioned at the centre of the African development agenda.

“Appropriately, the African highercollege organizations will dedicate themselves to public service and the provision of solutions to the advancement difficulties and chances dealing with African individuals across the continent through the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning, research study and scholarship, and community service.”

As everyone know, at independence and for a long time after that, our countries saw our universities with fantastic pride. Indeed numerous of these were a direct product of our liberation from colonialism.

In very useful methods these universities were indeed located at the centre of the African development program through the supply of the needed informed cadre, the generation of ideas to advance the development program and engagement in the upliftment of neighborhoods.

There is relatively extensive literature about how the then healthy relationship in between the state and the university was deteriorated and damaged. In lots of instances, if not most, this was linkedconnected to the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programmes by the Bretton Woods institutions and the understanding among the African judgment elite that the universities were working as centres of political opposition to this elite.

These incorporated in a process which caused the impoverishment and weakening as well as the marginalisation of the African University from both the state and the advancement program.

Therefore did it happen that in lots of African nations governments concerned think about expense on universities and for that reason highercollege as a burdensome however inescapable expense rather than an absolutely essential and advantageous investment.

I therefore think that of the significant tasks our universities must carry out is advocacy to encourage the so-called political class in Africa that they are indeed positioned at the centre of the African advancement agenda and therefore need brand-new financial investment significantly to enhance their capacity to release their duties associating with that development program.

It is only when they are persuaded about all this that it would be possible for our governments to lead the process which would lead to the significantly larger public financing that is needed and without which numerous of the extreme modifications that need to be made will certainly not see the light of day.

We are extremely fortunate that when it authorized the document “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Desired” in January this year, the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government also endorsed the unbiased included because file, namely:” [To] develop and expand an African understanding society through change and financial investments in universities, science, technology, research and development; and through the harmonisation of education standards and mutual acknowledgment of academic and professional certifications [in addition to] establish an African Accreditation Agency to develop and keep an eye on educational quality standards throughout the continent.”

Perhaps the recognition of the requirement for an African understanding society to accomplish the Africa we want by 2063 is exactly the message we require to signify the dedication of our political management to offer the resources which will allow the African university to play its role, securely positioned at the centre of the Program 2063 advancement vision.

Time will tell how well the African state and the African university respond to the shared difficulties they face!