Driving the Africa Agenda
A third planning meeting was held for the technical task team for the Committee of 10 Heads of State in Lilongwe, Malawi. The aim of the meeting is to bring together the core technical team and stakeholders to discuss the preparedness for the Committee of 10 meeting as well as to agree on the key documents to be presented. Further, case studies from around Africa on the status of higher education, science and technology were reviewed to refine the current levers of change for the Committee of 10.
Prof. Dr. Yohannes Woldetensae from the African Union Commission stated that, need for higher level support in implementing the education, science and development agenda is recognized by the African Union and this is why the Committee of 10 was formed to champion education, science and technology. He continued to note that Africa needs to develop capacity in higher institutions of learning to overcome the major development challenges. He emphasized an increase in investment for research is necessary to strengthen research capacity of universities and consequently promote sustainable development. He further noted that the African Union Commission has initiated the development of a Pan African quality assurance and accreditation framework to provide a continental platform for enhancing the quality of higher education.
Secretary Ken Ndala of Ministry of Education, Science and Technology gave a brief background on higher education in Malawi. He noted that higher education in Malawi has been made a key focus in the development agenda because Malawi has a very young population with over 46% being less than 15 years of age. He continued to note that education plays a big role in harnessing youth for prosperity and ensuring employment for all. Malawi has also allocated over one third of its budget to education and devised a strategy to provide PhD training to new and existing staff to enable growth of the higher education sector. However, the major challenges in the higher education sector were also noted which include the low rate of enrollment with less than one percent in higher education. The gender disparities especially in the public institutions were also mentioned with thirty five percent of students being women. There is also a need for more relevant infrastructure and staffing to ensure the smooth running of higher education institutions.
Dr. Moses Osiru Deputy Executive Secretary RUFORUM provided a brief background to the establishment of RUFORUM and the roadmap to the Committee of 10 Heads of State meeting with emphasis on the discussions from the previous technical task meetings that have been held.
Prof. Swanepoel summarized the activities carried out in the previous meetings. He stated that it was agreed upon for governments to increase investment in higher education with a portion of the one percentage of the GDP committed to R&D to a strategic higher education, science and technology fund. It was also agreed upon that governments should ensure quality of education is relevant and globally competitive with regards to continental mobility and articulation to strengthen higher education, science and technology. Ensuring strong policies continentally to create an enabling higher education environment was also fronted in order to ensure a legal framework and higher education act that governs. All in all, a number of priorities were discussed arising from the previous technical task team meetings and activities carried out to be forwarded for the 10 Heads of State meeting.
Written by Pauline Atim, Onsite Reporter for the RUFORUM AGM 2017.