Universities told to provide solutions to local problems
African Universities should produce multi-talented graduates that can provide solutions to the myriad of challenges facing the continent if they are to remain relevant.
Prof. George Magoha, the president of the Association of African Universities (AAU) told the on-going higher education conference in the Gabonese capital, Libreville that it was no longer enough for universities to simply churn out students into the job market.
“The question we should ask ourselves is; are we producing graduates who will add value to the African continent?” Magoha asked.
“Are we producing graduates who are employable and can create jobs as well as employ others? It is no longer enough to produce graduates who after four years just come out with a piece of paper. We need to produce multi-talented graduates who can fit in any situation and making Africa stop begging for everything including food.
“African universities cannot afford to stick to the status quo and fail to be innovative. They must adjust to the changing world,” added Magoha who is also the Vice Chancellor of Nairobi University.
Dr. Coffi Remy Noumon of the African Capacity Building Foundation said it was high time universities were judged based on their capacities to provide solutions to local problems. He said the continent faced a number of challenges including youth unemployment at the time of economic down-turn in the west.
“African countries therefore have no option but to rely on their own and maximally use the resources at their disposal and higher education should play a lead role in addressing these challenges,” said Noumon, the foundation’s manager for west and central Africa region.
The four-day conference on the theme: “Transforming African Higher Education for Graduate Employability and Socio-economic Development,” is organized by AAU in conjunction with Omar Bongo University.
It has brought together over 400 delegates including donors and heads of universities across Africa.
Makerere’s and Uganda Martyrs University’s Vice Chancellors, professors John Ddumba Ssentamu and Charles Olweny are in attendance.
AAU was established in 1967 as the apex organisation and principal forum for consultation, exchange of information and cooperation among universities in Africa.
Opening the conference at Okoume Palace hotel on Tuesday, Gabonese president Ali Bongo Ondimba in a speech read by Moundounga Seraphin, the education minister, implored African universities to reform their curricula to produce graduates that can enable the continent achieve its full potential.
The conference comes on the backdrop of growing concern over the nature of training that the universities have been offering in relation to the demands of the job market. It was noted that though universities could play a crucial role in economic transformation, African universities still lagged behind in meeting the needs of the industries.
The other areas explored during the conference include the connection between university education and the private sector, the role of the organized private sector, socio-economic environment and employability and funding of higher education in Africa.