What promises to be a series of awesome debates on how to internationalise Africa’s higher education began in Kigali, Rwanda yesterday, with about 250 eggheads and stakeholders from 44 countries, attending the opening ceremony of the Conference of Rectors, Vice Chancellors and Presidents of African Universities (COREViP), organized biennially by the Association of African Universities (AAU).
The association’s President and Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Prof. Olusola Oyewole, told the delegates that the quest to determine how internationalization could promote quality, mobility and credit transfer among African Universities, informed AAU’s decision to hold the summit.
He enjoined the participants to seize the opportunity the meeting presents to devise ways of raising the competences and employability of African University graduates.
Rwandan Education Minister, Prof. Silas Lwakabamba said the conference was holding at a time when “our continent needs to redesign and streamline our higher education approaches, to respond to the high socio-economic development expectations of our people.”
Describing internationalization as an integral part of higher education in all parts of the world, he urged the delegates to establish sustainable networks, “so that the shared experiences can be used to develop and implement initiatives for transforming higher education in our countries and the continent in general.”
The Minister also said the “massification” of higher education in many African countries, without the matching capacities to deliver in terms of human resources and facilities had constituted “a great hindrance” to quality and standards.
He explained: “while regional and national bodies have a big role to play in enforcing quality assurance, it is also important for higher education institutions to adopt best practices through benchmarking themselves with the best, as a way of enhancing quality.”
He also urged African Universities to give preference to collaborating with institutions in other regions, like Asia and Latin America, “which have similar development concerns.”
Former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof Peter Okebukola, said he had noticed that most reports on development in Africa had always displayed terrifying statistics, which tended to portray the continent in bad light. “It has become fashionable to report Africa in such a bad shape, as if the continent will be wiped off from the face of the earth before the close of the decade,” he averred.
Although, Okebukola agreed that progress was slow, he said only few reports had recognized and given due credit to encouraging innovative practices and models going on in various universities across Africa. He said there were several success stories in African Universities other than the gloomy picture being painted by the prophets of doom.
Citing examples, Okebukola said in the last 10 years, access to higher education had increased substantially while greater attention had also been given to the issue of quality assurance across the continent. But he was quick to add that the road ahead was still rough, with the new emerging challenges.
One major obstacle that could slow down the process of internationalisation in African universities, he noted, was insecurity. He also identified lack of political will to implement the provisions of the Arusha Convention and other instruments capable of promoting internationalisation.
Nevertheless, he told the participants that African countries must recognize the critical roles their higher institutions were capable of and should play, in their quest to defeat poverty and under-development.
The Arusha Convention refers to the recognition of academic qualifications across continents.