I have been pondering lately on education and our beautiful African continent. Look, it is no surprise that Africa is full of intelligent and really bright young minds. But, I am not sure if I still have that much confidence in our education system. Why is it that for one to be taken seriously on the global platform, they need to have added some form of overseas training to their CV? What is it that makes our academic qualifications less recognised in most disciplines? Why are our graduates at home, unemployed?
Without pulling the race card and thinking back to the role played by colonization and Bantu education (South Africa), what has stopped the African nation states from improving the quality of our education system? Zimbabwe is, according to some reports, the best-educated country in Africa, with literacy levels over 90 per cent – putting it ahead of South Africa, Kenya and Namibia. However, its population’s access to higher education is about 8 per cent, far behind South Africa (with 18 per cent access) Source
The higher education system in Zimbabwe took a huge blow in 2017 when it became public knowledge that the University of Zimbabwe, which was the country’s first and most respected university, granted a PhD to the wife of former President, Robert Mugabe, who had no formal educational qualifications, had not attended the university nor written a thesis. Apparently, she registered two months before she was granted the degree. Now, as someone struggling with a PhD myself, I know that does not sound right. Acts such as these from an institution of higher learning taint the whole reputation of the education system.
Higher education in Africa faces the challenge of high percentages of unemployed graduates. Graduates are losing hope because they cannot turn their degrees into gainful employment. In August 2016, Zimbabwean graduates took to the streets to protest under the banner #thisgown, the gown being the graduation gown they wore at graduation.
They were angry and frustrated at the reality of graduating and sitting at home for 3-5 years or even more. After years of struggling with tuition and accommodation fees, graduate families were left worse off than before; yet there is no relief.
I have been fortunate enough to study abroad and have not yet experienced unemployment (touch wood), and when I think of my fellow mates back home, I cannot help but wish there was a solution to the hopelessness. I picture a continent where young people feel confident about their pursuits in life. If higher education is one of their goals, that they feel confident in that someday their hard work will pay off. We come from a continent where very few of us inherit wealth from our parents or grandparents. Being educated used to be our way out of poverty and, but is that still the case? Someone said:
education is a tool to eradicate poverty, but it needs to be of a high quality.
I still believe in the power of education to change lives, in fact, it has changed my life. But the reality is different for a lot of people back home. What can we do? If anything…
In our own small way, with the aim of giving back to our society, my friend Uchechi from Nigeria and I have started a research network. We hope to provide mentorship services to younger people seeking to get into academia. Young people aiming for a research degree or already pursuing one can benefit from information such as scholarships, proposal writing, academic writing workshops and general career guidance related to research. You can get in touch with the Global South Research Network on IG, Facebook, Twitter @GSRPGroup.
We start with what we know how to do and hope that one day, our goals of making the world a better place will be realised.