=?UTF-8?Q?Re:_[AfrICANN-discuss]_Africa=E2=80=99s_Storied_Colleges, __Jammed_and_Crumbling?=

Dr Paulos Nyirenda paulos at sdnp.org.mw
Mon May 21 07:58:56 SAST 2007

Pardom me BUT what is this doing on this list?  Regards, Paulos

On 20 May 2007 at 13:51, Dr Yassin Mshana wrote:

> Thank you AR for sharing the article.
> It is true and the most scarring thing is, is there a capacity 
> (anyhow) to make the Governments give the required attention their 
> universities? The role of the diaspora in obvious now. The Diaspora 
> is the 5th Region of Africa and can help out - every little help 
> helps.
> Cheers
> Yassin
> On 20/05/07, Anne-Rachel Inne <anne-rachel.inne at icann.org> wrote: 
>     The New York Times
>     May 20, 2007
>     Africa's Storied Colleges, Jammed and Crumbling
>     DAKAR, Senegal, May 19 - Thiany Dior usually rises before dawn,
>     tiptoeing carefully among thin foam mats laid out on the floor as she
>     leaves the cramped dormitory room she shares with half a dozen other
>     women. It was built for two.
>     In the vast auditorium at the law school at Cheikh Anta Diop 
>     University,
>     she secures a seat two rows from the front, two hours before class. If
>     she sat too far back, she would not hear the professor's lecture over
>     the two tinny speakers, and would be more likely to join the 70 
>     percent
>     who fail their first- or second-year exams at the university.
>     Those who arrive later perch on cinderblocks in the aisles, or strain 
>     to
>     hear from the gallery above. By the time class starts, 2,000 young
>     bodies crowd the room in a muffled din of shuffling paper, throat
>     clearing and jostling. Outside, dozens of students, early arrivals for
>     the next class, mill about noisily.
>     "I cannot say really we are all learning, but we are trying," said Ms.
>     Dior. "We are too many students."
>     Africa's best universities, the grand institutions that educated a
>     revolutionary generation of nation builders and statesmen, doctors and
>     engineers, writers and intellectuals, are collapsing. It is partly a
>     self-inflicted crisis of mismanagement and neglect, but it is also a
>     result of international development policies that for decades have
>     favored basic education over higher learning even as a population
>     explosion propels more young people than ever toward the already
>     strained institutions.
>     The decrepitude is forcing the best and brightest from countries 
>     across
>     Africa to seek their education and fortunes abroad and depriving 
>     dozens
>     of nations of the homegrown expertise that could lift millions out of
>     poverty.
>     The Commission for Africa, a British government research organization,
>     said in a 2005 report that African universities were in a "state of
>     crisis" and were failing to produce the professionals desperately 
>     needed
>     to develop the poorest continent. Far from being a tool of social
>     mobility, the repository of a nation's hopes for the future, Africa's
>     universities have instead become warehouses for a generation of young
>     people for whom society has little use and who can expect to be just 
>     as
>     poor as their uneducated parents.
>     "Without universities there is no hope of progress, but they have been
>     allowed to crumble," said Penda Mbow, a historian and labor activist 
>     at
>     Cheikh Anta Diop who has struggled to improve conditions for students
>     and professors. "We are throwing away a whole generation."
>     As a result, universities across Africa have become hotbeds of
>     discontent, occupying a dangerous place at the intersection of 
>     politics
>     and crime. In Ivory Coast, student union leaders played a large role 
>     in
>     stirring up xenophobia that led to civil war. In Nigeria, elite 
>     schools
>     have been overrun by violent criminal gangs. Those gangs have hired
>     themselves out to politicians, contributing to the deterioration of 
>     the
>     electoral process there.
>     In Senegal, the university has been racked repeatedly by sometimes
>     violent strikes by students seeking improvements in their living
>     conditions and increases in the tiny stipends for living expenses.
>     Students have refused to attend classes and set up burning barricades 
>     on
>     a central avenue that runs past the university.
>     In the early days, postcolonial Africa had few institutions as 
>     venerable
>     and fully developed as its universities. The University of Ibadan in
>     southwest Nigeria, the intellectual home of the Nobel Prize-winning
>     writer Wole Soyinka, was regarded in 1960 as one of the best
>     universities in the British Commonwealth. Makerere University in 
>     Uganda
>     was considered the Harvard of Africa, and it trained a whole 
>     generation
>     of postcolonial leaders, including Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.
>     And in Senegal, Cheikh Anta Diop, then known as the University of 
>     Dakar,
>     drew students from across francophone Africa and transformed them into
>     doctors, engineers and lawyers whose credentials were considered equal
>     to those of their French counterparts.
>     The experience of students like Ms. Dior could not be further from 
>     that
>     of men like Ousmane Camara, a former president of Senegal's highest
>     court, who attended the same law school in the late 1950s. A cracked,
>     yellowing photograph from 1957 shows the entire law school student 
>     body
>     in a single frame, fewer than 100 students.
>     "We lived in spacious rooms, with more than enough for each to have 
>     its
>     own," Mr. Camara said. "We had a minibus that drove us to and from 
>     class."
>     The young men in the photo went on to do great things: Mr. Camara's
>     classmate Abdou Diouf became Senegal's second president. Others became
>     top government officials and businessmen, shaping the nation's 
>     fortunes
>     after it won independence from France in 1960.
>     Today, nearly 60,000 students are crammed on a campus with just 5,000
>     dormitory beds. Renting a room in Dakar is so expensive that students
>     pack themselves into tiny rooms by the half dozen.
>     Firmin Manga, a third-year English student from the southern region of
>     Casamance, was lucky enough to be assigned a cramped, airless single
>     room. But six of his friends were not so fortunate, so he invited them
>     to share. In a space barely wide enough for two twin beds, the young 
>     men
>     have squeezed four foam mattresses, which serve as beds, desks, dining
>     tables and couches. Their clothes were neatly packed into a single
>     closet, a dozen pairs of shoes carefully balanced on a ledge above the
>     doorway.
>     "We have to live like this," Mr. Manga said, perched on his bed late 
>     one
>     night.
>     "Two will sleep here," he said, placing his palm on a ratty scrap of
>     foam. "Two over there, and two over there. Then one more mattress is
>     underneath my bed."
>     Once the last mattress is laid out there is no floor space left. Mr.
>     Manga works on his thesis, a treatise comparing the grammar of his
>     native Dioula language with English, early in the morning, before any
>     else wakes up.
>     "That is my quiet time alone," he said.
>     The graffiti-scarred dormitories, crisscrossed by clotheslines, look
>     more like housing projects for the poor than rooms for the country's
>     brightest youths. A $12 million renovation of the library modernized
>     what had been a musty, crowded outpost on campus into a modern 
>     building
>     with Internet access. But technology does not help with its most basic
>     problem: it still only has 1,700 chairs. Students study in stairwells
>     and sprawled in corners.
>     In a chemistry lab in the science department, students take turns
>     carrying out basic experiments with broken beakers and pipettes.
>     Equally frustrated are the professors, many of whom could pursue 
>     careers
>     abroad but choose to remain in Senegal. Alphonse Tiné, a professor of
>     chemistry, said he struggled to balance his research with the demands 
>     of
>     teaching thousands of students.
>     "If I went abroad maybe I would have more salary, better equipment,
>     fewer students," Mr. Tiné said. "I studied on a government scholarship
>     abroad, so I felt I owed my country to stay. But it is very hard."
>     Mr. Tiné, 58, plans to stay in Senegal for the rest of his career. But
>     many educated Africans will not. The International Organization for
>     Migration estimates that Africa has lost 20,000 educated professionals
>     every year since 1990. Those who can afford it send their children
>     abroad for college. Some of those who cannot push their sons and even
>     their daughters to migrate, often illegally.
>     The disarray of Africa's universities did not happen by chance. In the
>     1960s, universities were seen as the incubator of the vanguard that
>     would drive development in the young nations of newly liberated 
>     Africa,
>     and postcolonial governments spent lavishly on campuses, research
>     facilities, scholarships and salaries for academics.
>     But corruption and mismanagement led to the economic collapses that
>     swept much of Africa in the 1970s, and universities were among the 
>     first
>     institutions to suffer. As idealistic postcolonial governments gave 
>     way
>     to more cynical and authoritarian ones, universities, with their
>     academic freedoms, democratic tendencies and elitist airs, became a
>     nuisance.
>     When the World Bank and International Monetary Fund came to bail out
>     African governments with their economic reforms - a bitter cocktail 
>     that
>     included currency devaluation, opening of markets and privatization -
>     higher education was usually low on the list of priorities. Fighting
>     poverty required basic skills and literacy, not doctoral students. In
>     the mid-1980s nearly a fifth of World Bank's education spending
>     worldwide went to higher education. A decade later, it had dwindled to
>     just 7 percent.
>     Meanwhile, welcome money flooded into primary and secondary education.
>     But it set up a time bomb: as more young people got a basic education,
>     more wanted to go to college. In 1984, just half of Senegal's children
>     went to primary school, but 20 years later more than 90 percent do.
>     And more of those children have gone on to high school: Africa has the
>     world's highest growth rate of high school attendance. Abdou Salam 
>     Sall,
>     rector of the Cheikh Anta Diop, said 9,000 students earned a
>     baccalaureate in Senegal in 2000, entitling them to university
>     admission. By 2006 there were more than twice that. The university
>     cannot handle the influx. Its budget is $32 million, less than $600 
>     per
>     student. That money must also maintain a 430-acre campus, pay salaries
>     and finance research.
>     Even those lucky enough to graduate will have difficulty finding a job
>     in their struggling economies. As few as one third of African 
>     university
>     graduates find work, according to the Association of African 
>     Universities.
>     Governments and donors in some countries are starting to spend more on
>     higher education. The World Bank chipped in for Cheikh Anta Diop's
>     library renovation, and a coalition of foundations called the
>     Partnership for Higher Education in Africa has pledged $200 million to
>     help African universities over the next five years.
>     Fatou Kiné Camara, a law professor and the daughter of Mr. Camara, the
>     former judge, said she felt the frustration of her students as she
>     struggled to teach a class of thousands. When the students cannot hear
>     her over the loudspeaker, they hurl vulgar insults, a taboo in a 
>     society
>     that prides itself on decorum and respect for elders.
>     "They are angry, and I cannot blame them," she said. "The country has
>     nothing to offer them, and their education is worthless. It doesn't
>     prepare them for anything."
>     Attempts to reduce the student population by admitting fewer students
>     are seen as political suicide - student unions play a big role in
>     elections, and the country's leaders are fearful of widespread
>     discontent among the educated youth. Senegal has created new
>     universities in provincial capitals like Saint Louis and Ziguinchor, 
>     but
>     few students want to attend them because they are new and untested, 
>     and
>     the government has not forced the issue.
>     "They fear us because we are the young, and the future belongs to us,"
>     said Babacar Sohkna, a student union leader. "But where is our future?
>     We are just waiting here for poverty."
>     Elizabeth Dickinson contributed reporting.
>     Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
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