This is the fifth in a series of articles we are releasing as part of our 10 year anniversary. Download by clicking on the following links to access the previous issues;  ICT in the RUFORUM Network: Changing Pedagogical Paradigms, Priorities, and Practice (fourth issue),  Briefing note on the 4th biennial conference (third issue), RUFORUM’s Developmental Roots (second issue) and  RUFORUM@10 (first issue).

A universally common feature of the post-independence economies of Africa was the near absence of well qualified and experienced professionals in almost all fields – health, education, policy, and agriculture. In many important disciplines, severe deficits of professionals remain today. Many African universities are crowded, poorly resourced, and often unable, even with the best of staff, to provide the quality of education that Africa needs.  Professions, such as agricultural research, where local conditions can be demanding and the rewards (in the absence of adequate facilities and support) are poor, are unable to attract the most talented Africans they need.

Consider the situation which faces the newly trained professional in agriculture returning with a fresh doctorate from a top international university. That person will typically enter an empty laboratory. Transport to the field – to collect samples or data, to meet with farmers and suppliers, and to allow students to undertake field trips – will be limited and of poor reliability. The overcrowded undergraduate programme imposes a challenging teaching load; the demands of university administration further erode the available time for effective field research. There are two common outcomes – either professors simply repeat the experiments that they learned as part of their overseas study or they give up research, take on consulting assignments to supplement their (usually modest) incomes, and neglect their teaching duties. Students become disillusioned and few are attracted to further studies. The skills gap in the vital agricultural industries remains unfilled. Click here to view or download the full issue


The road to Maputo: 21-25 July 2014.
This is the fourth in a series of articles we are releasing as part of our 10 year anniversary. The authors for this issue are Nodumo Dhlamini (ICT Program Manager,  RUFORUM) and Lisbeth Levey, (Consultant, ICT for Development)  Download by clicking on the following issues to access the previous issues; Briefing note on the 4th biennial conference (third issue), RUFORUM’s Developmental Roots (second issue) and  RUFORUM@10 (first issue).

When, Where, and How It all Started
When the FORUM project began, connectivity was not taken for granted the way it sometimes is today.  Email utilization on a measurable scale only began in the late 1980s.  The story of ICT in Africa is one of profound need coupled with intense creativity to drive the rapid spread of these technologies.  The FORUM and now RUFORUM epitomize this principle.  In order to understand just how far RUFORUM has come, a few examples are highlighted below of innovative ICT deployment in universities in the five FORUM countries (Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zimbabwe).

  • In 1990, the Bunda College of Agriculture library created an automated bibliographic database of research carried out in Malawi relevant to maize production.  This was one of the first such bibliographies created anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Also in 1990, the small computer center at Eduardo Mondlane University installed an email system, first for the university and then for the entire country, using a dedicated telephone line and a painfully slow modem (1200 bps).  These early experiments paid off.  In 1995, UEM became the second university north of the Limpopo to achieve full Internet capability.
  • In 1991, the University of Nairobi, Makerere University, and the University of Zimbabwe joined an ambitious effort to provide email to their university communities
  • In the mid ‘90’s, Rockefeller Foundation helped selected FORUM university faculties and departments create special computer labs and networks, equipped with CD-ROM, in order to access bibliographic and abstracting databases in the agricultural sciences, particularly TEEAL, the full-text CD-ROM agricultural library of about 130 journals.  RUFORUM has continued to work with its network—organizing training workshops and subsidizing subscription costs.  Because these universities have recognized the importance of TEEAL, more than half of them are paying for their own subscriptions, now that RUFORUM is no longer covering the costs.
  • Not content with CD-ROM, the Rockefeller Foundation helped FORUM postgraduate students at Makerere University organize an information retrieval skills workshop in 1997 on using the Internet and search engines to access research information in the agricultural sciences.  RUFORUM workshops such as this one continue.
  • In 1993, the African Journal of Crop Sciences began as a print journal in the department of crop sciences at Makerere University.  It is now fully online and freely accessible worldwide (http://www.bioline.org.br/cs).  It was an important vehicle then for publishing FORUM research output and remains so today for RUFORUM.

Key findings from RUFORUM ICT studies

  • In 2009 86 percent of the RUFORUM universities surveyed had a campus backbone; 58 percent had ICT policies in place; and 60 percent had central ICT units to manage and monitor ICT projects.  However, the Colleges of Agriculture lagged behind in use of ICT for teaching, learning, and research in comparison to other disciplines within the university.
  • In 2011 59 percent of the 29 universities surveyed had a rationale in place for e-learning within an explicit institutional plan; 45 percent had e-learning policies compared to 26 percent in 2009; and 32 percent had e-learning units.  The situation for the Colleges of Agriculture, however, remained the same—teaching content in agriculture was almost negligible on institutional learning management systems. Click here to view or download the full issue

 


The road to Maputo: 21-25 July 2014.
RUFORUM’s DEVELOPMENTAL ROOTS was the second in a series of articles we are releasing as part of our 10 year anniversary. Click here to read or download this issue

Once every two years, RUFORUM organizes an Africa-wide week-long conference with the aim of fostering networking among its member universities and to link universities to other actors in the Agricultural and Tertiary Agricultural Education sectors.  The Fourth RUFORUM Biennial Conference will take place from 19 – 25 July 2014 at the VIP Hotel in Maputo, Mozambique under the theme African Higher Education Week: Celebrating the contribution of African Universities and Partners to agricultural development in Africa.The Fourth Biennial is special in many ways:

  • It coincides with the 10 Year anniversary of RUFORUM, and will thus provide an opportunity to reflect on the progress made over the years, and visioning on the growth path for the next decade;
  • The Biennial will be held in Maputo, where 10 years ago African Heads of States and Governments signed the CAADP declaration. The Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) is the blue print agreed upon by African Heads of States and Governments for achieving 6% economic growth through agricultural transformation.
  • It falls within the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security which was declared by the African Union, as part of celebrating CAADP at 10.  This Biennial provides an opportunity to reflect on the contributions of African Universities and Partners to agricultural development and food security in the continent.

This year’s conference will particularly focus on the future of agriculture and Agricultural Tertiary Education in Africa and will include the launching of RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship Programme, an initiative by Vice Chancellors to increase the pool of PhD trained scientists in Africa. The conference will bring together close to 500 delegates from across Africa and beyond, including development partners and senior African Policy makers. Click here to view or download the full issue

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