Art & Life

Sat,21Apr2018

Art & Life

Education Campaign: Communities seek equality in the classroom

 

Vast gender inequalities hinder African education, and girls are too-often deprived of the opportunities they need to perform well in school and in life

 

“Rebecca is a very nice and very respectful girl. I don’t know the man who was to marry her. I only know that if Rebecca were to stay at home instead of school then her father would marry her off. That is why I brought her here. For as long as she is here there is no problem, but if she goes back home she will be married off. I will fight for Rebecca’s education. I did not attend school myself but I think education is very important. I would like all my children to be educated.”?

 

So speaks Sara, a grandmother from a Maasai village near Kajiado in Kenya, who helped her 14-year-old granddaughter escape from an early marriage last July by bringing her to AIC Kajiado Girls’ Primary School, a Centre of Excellence (COE) run by the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE).?

In Your Classroom

 

Mothers' Clubs at Sambang
Upper Basic School, The Gambia
Read more.

 

Since the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All (EFA), education has been recognised as fundamental for development. Not education alone, but gender equality too. “The most urgent priority”, the declaration states, “is to ensure access to and improve the quality of education for girls and women, and to remove every obstacle that hampers their active participation.”?

 

The empowerment of girls and women through education brings benefits for individuals, communities and countries. Livelihoods are improved, families are healthier, civic education and liberties are enhanced. ?

 

Yet more than halfway to the 2015 deadline for the EFA goals, deeply-rooted gender inequalities still exist. In countries where there is progress, it is slow and uneven. The 2009 EFA Global Monitoring Report found that more than half of Sub-Saharan African countries had not reached gender parity in primary education by 2006; gender gaps exist at secondary level in all African countries that reported data; and only Botswana and Swaziland have achieved parity at tertiary level. Furthermore, focus on access has often been to the detriment of quality, and improving learning outcomes remains a challenge in many countries. ?

 

Gender discrimination practices and attitudes within schools abound. Teaching and learning processes do not always give girls equal opportunities; teachers do not always acknowledge the academic capabilities of girls, especially in science and technology; and school-management systems do not always address the specific needs of each sex. Practices such as early marriage and female circumcision continue in communities surrounding schools, and persistent poverty remains an overriding challenge.

 

?At FAWE we advocate a holistic approach that creates an enabling environment where both girls and boys can learn. We support programmes such as bursaries to support underprivileged girls, empowerment schemes to rebuild girls’ self-esteem and literacy, and income-generating initiatives for mothers. ?

 

These interventions are unable to defeat gender discrimination alone, and so FAWE’s strategy has been to create COEs, institutions that take an integrated approach towards gender-related problems. With pilot projects in Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania since 1999, the objective of each COE is to ensure that girls and boys become life-long learners and confident members of society. Programmes include boarding facilities for girls, with emphasis on adequate sanitation, nutrition, sports and health facilities, and community-mobilisation initiatives that gain active support for girls’ education. The COE model has improved girls’ performance and retention rates – at Kajiado Girls’ Primary School, girls’ national exam scores improved from 66% in 2000 to 75% in 2002 and to 98% in 2007.

 

?Today, FAWE operates 13 COEs in ten countries, and these schools have experienced lower drop-out rates for girls, reduction in teenage pregnancy to an average of just 1% and more girls participating in school committees and leadership roles. New centres are planned for Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Togo and Uganda in 2009.

 

?Schools do not function in isolation. The school community must work towards creating a favourable learning context for children. Staff must be trained to implement gender-responsive policies, practices and systems. Parents and communities must be encouraged to participate in resource mobilisation, school management and monitoring of students and teachers. The school infrastructure must be adapted to respond to the physical needs of girls and boys. Ministries of education and sponsors of schools must be convinced of the need to address gender constraints in the schools. Greater resources need to be mobilised at national level for budgets with specific allocations for girls’ education, and at regional and school levels to address the particular needs of girls, especially the underprivileged. Then stories such as Rebecca’s, although an inspiring testimony to the courage of the excluded and disadvantaged, will become the exception rather than the norm in many communities.

Business Schools: Fighting the flight

 

Business schools are trying new strategies to reverse the flight of students and attract more talent

 

From South Africa to Kenya, Senegal and Tunisia, numbers of business school students have been increasing exponentially, albeit from a low base. The directors of these schools are trying new strategies to attract the best teachers who can help to mould the best students in order to raise their international profile and fight the flight of African students and professionals to the West in the phenomenon known as the ‘brain drain’.?

 

The numbers of students graduating from Kenya’s top business schools have doubled each year over the last five years, from about 400 per year in 2003 to more than 2,000 in 2008 from a population of about 100,000 university students. Nairobi’s US International University School of Business’ current cohort of MBA students is 1,200 alone. Likewise, South African universities are taking in more than 4,000 MBA students each year. ?

 

African business schools see themselves as part of an overall solution to boost growth in the continent and thus encourage those in the diaspora to return and those who are contemplating a move abroad to stay, study and work in Africa.?

 

Most studies suggest that improving both job markets and the quality of education in African countries is the key to getting young trained people to stay in Africa, and this implies that it is better to concentrate on strengthening future capacity than to chase after those who have already left. Although the credit crunch and recessions in Europe and the US may get people thinking about the business opportunities in Africa, there are few prospects of seeing many who had left return.?

 

Building bridges

 

?Kofi Anani of the World Bank’s African diaspora department notes that Ghana is training 150 new doctors each year and then losing 120 to migration. But for the business sector, the issue seems to be much more that African students go abroad for school and then do not return. The Bank and the AU have signed a five-year partnership agreement in order to better understand and engage with the diaspora, hoping to use knowledge gained abroad for Africa’s development. ?

 

The number of graduates from African business schools suggests that the tide may be turning. In order to boost student numbers, schools are diversifying their course offerings, attempting to appeal to both full-time students seeking a degree to improve their job prospects and executives studying part-time who look to develop more sector-specific skills. That often requires greater co-operation from the private sector and forging relationships with key businesses.?

 

Budding relationships between business schools and businesses have been built up in various ways, be it through the class visits of Lagos Business School (LBS) students to the businesses of alumni or the bringing-in of CEOs from top regional businesses like Safaricom and Kenya Airways to help build up African case studies that can be used in business education across the continent. Governments also want expertise from business training institutions; Nigeria’s Public Sector Reform Bureau agreed in July to bring in experts from LBS to help bring the best of business practice to Nigerian government.

 

?Educating and keeping more students in Africa is not a question of numbers alone. Board member of the Association of African Business Schools (AABS) Jonathan Cook argues that Africa is still “under-served” in terms of quality business schools. The AABS, an association of 17 of some of Africa’s top business schools, is working to meet that lack by improving standards. From May 2008, the AABS has increased its membership criteria so as to push schools in the direction of employing more staff holding PhDs and producing more published research.

 

?In a sector where reputation counts, schools cannot afford to sacrifice small class sizes and quality for higher revenues and larger numbers of students. Schools across Africa have started to increase their fees in order both to attract a higher quality of student and to be able to afford more experienced teachers. At Kenya’s few private universities, yearly tuition fees are well over $6,000 (which is still well out of reach of many) and rising.?

 

Talented teachers?

 

Business schools need to find ways to attract the best teaching talent in order to develop their reputations and this creates competition with the private sector. People with business training and ideas can often make a great deal more money running their own businesses or working for multinational companies. The same principle applies in terms of facilities; central Nairobi is beginning to develop its own university district off the aptly named University Way, where business and other schools are jostling for space. ?

 

Winning full international accreditation – as very few business schools have yet done – is one way of bringing African business education to the level of international standards. And as new generations of students are trained and graduate, schools want them to think of their legacy to the institution. In order to give the institution its own firm footing aside from non-existent government support and student fees, the LBS may well be the first African business school to set up its own endowment and development fund. In late October, alumni association president Babatunde Dabiri announced the creation of the endowment in order to support the growth of the school’s infrastructure and to help improve its ranking amongst global business schools.

 

Top Business Schools

Searching for the ideal CV


General Electric
Jeff Wooten, HR manager, Middle East & Africa   

  
"Our graduates definitely need to have functional acumen,” says GE’s Wooten. The requirements are no different in Africa than anywhere else. “If they’re an engineer, they need to have a good grade point average that shows theyunderstand the technical competencies. They’ve got to show that they can juggle their schoolwork plus another activity and take a leadership role. We look for people who understand integrity, understand being able to work in teams, and understand being able to take initiative.

 

 

CISCO Systems
John Livingstone, director of GTAP Programme

 

This ITC Giant has launched an advanced engineering programme at its technology centre in Johannesburg, which will expand in 2009 to take students from Angola, Nigeria and Kenya to South Africa, and then on to train in the US. “I think the main thing that the private sector can do is take a long-term view, and view this as an investment,” says CISCO’s Livingstone. “We can’t be sustainable without this type of deep, local skills development.” 

 

 

Fiesta Royale Hotel, Ghana
Sajid Khan, general manager


]"I had a hotel running without a front of fice manager for three years,” says Khan, an experienced hotelier who has been seconded to the Fiesta Royale Hotel by AMSCO. “We hired people, but none that I would like to appoint heads of depar tment.” Khan says Ghana’s tourism institutes are poorly run, the trainers under-qualified and the students that emerge barely employable. “A person must know what they want to become and go through extensive training to get there. It ’s not enough just to want to be part of the hospitality industry.”

 

Back to Giving graduates skills for the real world

Education Campaign: Giving graduates skills for the real world

 

There is no shortage of graduates in need of jobs across Africa, but employers are often unimpressed with the quality and skills of the students African universities are producing

 

For both Africa’s jobless graduates and the queue of employers with targets to reach and investors to please, the mismatch between the jobs that need filling and the skills of the candidates applying for them, is a serious roadblock. ?

 

Africa’s private sector has long been frustrated by the pace of change at the universities and polytechnics that are meant to be providing it with skilled human capital. As a result, both employers and graduates have come to see universities as unemployment factories rather than as an essential preparation for the real world.

 

?Daniel Ohonde, West Africa regional manager at the African Management Services Company (AMSCO), which seconds managers into businesses across the continent to help them become regionally competitive, says the needs of universities and employers do not mesh. “From an academic perspective universities are doing their job, but they’re not developing people who are ready for the workplace,” he says. “You’ve got the work environment requiring a square and the universities producing a round piece.” ?

 

Educational catch-up?

 

It is the quality of applicants, rather than their quantity, which troubles human resources managers. Tertiary level enrolment has tripled since 1990 to almost 4m students, although they still account for only 5% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s young adults, compared to a world average of 24%.?

 

As universities have expanded, spending has not caught up. In 1980, average regional expenditure was $6,800 per tertiary level student, but this had fallen to $1,200 by 2002. Under such constraints, faculties have little budget left to upgrade crumbling classrooms, hire experienced staff to raise teaching standards or lure private sector specialists into academia to bring real experience of the workplace.?

Searching for the ideal CV

 

Advice from General Electric, CISCO Systems
and Fiesta Royale Hotel, Ghana. Read more.
 

 

Many institutions are ill-equipped to supply graduates able to cope with evolving workplaces and fast-changing skillsets in sectors such as agri-business, mining and ICT. The result has been high graduate unemployment, particularly in francophone Africa, where around 20% of graduates aged between 25-34 cannot find work. The few skills audits undertaken point to alarming deficiencies. In Rwanda, a survey of 25 enterprises in 2006 found that only 52% of them were satisfied with the skills of their new graduates.?

 

Practical work environment experience has almost always been absent from African university programmes. Soft skills, in particular, are often inadequate. Graduates get little training on how to write a good CV, prepare for an interview or market themselves to future employers.?

 

Rapid expansion at the expense of quality means students are playing a game of catch-up at each stage of their education. Poor secondary school results – such as in maths and science where 8th grade scores in South Africa were 45% lower than the international average in 2003 – mean that universities have to spend time re-teaching students basic skills. In their turn, the employers then have to spend money making up for lost time.

 

?Career guidance for young people is in a “state of emergency”, says Mo Adefeso, programme manager at Africa Recruit, a Commonwealth Business Council initiative aimed at tackling the skills gaps on the continent through ICT. “Education in 2008 is about soft skills and a strategic outlook. Businesses want to spend less on retraining people and basic training on how to do a presentation or how to network.” With the help of a group of African HR managers, AfricaRecruit launched an Africa Career Guidance website in 2008, to provide information on sector-specific jobs, mentoring and opportunities in addition to practical job-seeking advice for young people across the continent. ?

 

Creating curriculums?

 

The skills mismatch has created a triple-wave effect. Smaller businesses take what they have in front of them. “Most of the smaller SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] are very much inclined to go for fresh graduates, maybe partly because they often don’t cost too much, because they can’t afford the very experienced people,” says Ohonde. The inadequate skills of these graduates mean they rarely deliver what the firms want. This in turn leads to mistakes, time wasted and stunted company growth. Gaps also emerge further down the line in key sectors. In Ghana, for example, AMSCO has helped to fill posts in the hospitality industry (see box), in private equity and fund management in South Africa, and in Kenya’s manufacturing industry. ?

 

Graduate distributionSecondly, larger companies with bigger budgets can turn abroad to recruit instead, and do, increasingly, from a large pool of the diaspora. Recruitment summits, such as those scheduled by London-based Careers in Africa Recruitment for 2009 in Houston, London, Lisbon and São Paolo, attract African human resources managers from companies like Coca Cola, Cadbury, GE and Total.

 

?Increasingly, the private sector has been nudged into plugging its own particular skills gaps, creating bespoke partnerships with local universities and polytechnics. The ICT sector has led the charge. In April 2008 South African telecoms giant Neotel launched the Neotel Academy at the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa in partnership with Nokia, Siemens Networks, CISCO Systems and Huawei Technologies. Neotel is spending over R2m ($200,000) and the companies are providing curriculum advice, trainers and internships during the three-year diploma in telecommunications.

 

?In Morocco, the Université Hassan II Aïn Chock in Casablanca has launched a master’s degree in international banking and financial markets with the help of Attijariwafa Bank and the Spanish banking giant Santander. Students on the two-year course are taking placements at Attijariwafa’s internal audit department and on the trading-room floor. ?

 

Spurred on by pressures to recruit more local staff, South African oil company PetroSA is funding a partnership between the University of Cape Town and University of Houston to train petroleum geophysicists. At their graduation in September 2008, nearly all of the first batch of the 14 graduates had already secured jobs.?

 

Such private sector initiatives are a windfall for over-stretched faculties eager to give students practical experience. But they are a rarity and provide little immediate relief to SMEs. ?

 

Instead, education ministries are being advised to better measure the technical needs of the private sector and take a more holistic, sustainable approach to supplying graduates for it. In a report called ‘Accelerating Catch-up’, published in October 2008, the World Bank urged finance ministers to focus education budgets on producing graduates skilled in sectors key to their country’s economic future. Education strategies could be better focused on industries that can contribute to exports, help alleviate food shortages, combat climate change and be both regionally and internationally competitive. ?

 

South Korea, for example, chose in the 1980s to concentrate its education budget on science and technology and courses in shipbuilding and automotive engineering, with other courses left to private universities to take up. ?

Interview: Professor Venansius Baryamureeba
Dean, Faculty of Computing and IT, Makerere University

 

Firms can also be encouraged to hire graduates, rather than starting from scratch. Mauritius is doing this already with an empowerment scheme launched last year where the government pays 50% of the salary of unemployed graduates taken in by willing firms. By March 2008, 220 companies and public bodies had requested graduates, and 518 students had taken part in the one-year scheme. ?Governments have to be careful about what they prioritise. In the long term, employers will thank governments and universities who help weave their short-term needs into university curricula that can adapt quickly to the needs of changing skillsets, without leaving others by the wayside.?

 

The onus is on African universities, with the help of the private sector, to come up with balanced curricula which are flexible, forward-looking, and which take, rather than follow, the initiative.

Review: Long Time Coming, Short Writings From Zimbabwe

 

Long Time ComingLong Time Coming, Short Writings From Zimbabwe?, Collected writers, ’amaBooks, Zimbabwe,160 pages

 

A man tries to find Z$5,000 for his bus ride home. A woman about to get married waits with her fiancé for the results of an HIV test. A defeated president gets ready to vacate his palace, but his wife refuses to leave until she has found her favourite pair of yellow shoes. In a powerful and timely collection of short stories and poems about Zimbabwe by 33 writers, Long Time Coming offers snapshots of life in a collapsed country. It is a collection straining with suspended hope; change has taken too long to arrive. “My country is like/ an empty but attractive/ plastic packet,” writes poet Julius Chingono, “being blown by the wind/ along the road that leads to a rubbish dump/ by the cemetery.” Zimbabwe’s plight is perfectly suited to the short story and offerings come from both celebrated writers like Petina Gappah, Christopher Mlalazi and John Eppel, and a clutch of emerging talents from Zimbabwe and the diaspora.

 

Political frustration, brutal violence and painful loss is met with practical resignation and grim humour. Despite the patient optimism in the book’s title, little of this makes its way into the stories. Unpicking the loneliness she has noticed in everyone lately, in ‘Arrested Development’ Sandisile Thshuma calls it a “pervasive and virus-like affliction” borne on glimpses of a life and future we can feel “slipping through our fingers”. In a country, where Raisedon Baya writes in ‘Echoes of Silence’, “silence became a way of life”, Zimbabwe’s writers are trying to incite its people against it.

Review: Black Business

 

Blakc BusinessBlack Business?, Osvalde Lewat, ?Amip-waza Images, 90 minutes

 

In 2000, a special police unit was set up to tackle crime in the port city of Douala, Cameroon. Very quickly the operation turned violent. An estimated 1,000 people disappeared. Over several years the award-winning documentary maker Osvalde Lewat has been piecing together stories of those who were in the frontline. The premiere of Black Business (Une affaire de nègres) was screened at the Edinburgh African film festival, Africa in Motion (23 October – 2 November 2008). “It was the impunity of the police that I wanted to get at”, explains Lewat. The desire to tackle crime is not in question, but the method. The tragedy was that a complex societal, economic and political problem was being tackled in a simplistic fashion, by sending in brute force.?

 

The method used is a slow patient one. “I believe that to make this kind of film, you need people to trust you. And that only comes by spending time with them,” insists Lewat. The result is a tapestry of recollection and fear, that subtly but repeatedly asks the question – what responsibility does the state feel with regard to its citizenry? Why should people be living in fear? A succession of funerals and grieving relatives pass. Houses stormed in the night, sons and nephews snatched, taken to a prison, never to return. Tales of extortion at the gates of a prison that is more like a military encampment, monies demanded for feeding those kept captive, a father driven out of his mind with grief, unable to forget his son because he was never able to see his dead body. A fish market where those hoping to reclaim the bodies of relatives cluster. ?

 

Languid, this film is not overtly agitating for change, but by bearing witness, it renders a certain dignity to those who have had it snatched from them.

Review: China returns to Africa

 

China returns to AfricaChina returns to Africa?, Chris Alden, Daniel Large and Ricardo Soares de Oliveira (eds), Hurst, 382 pages

 

This collection of 19 essays provides a much needed antidote to the hysteria that grips a great deal of recent writing about China’s re-engagement with the continent. Politics, economics and the diplomacy of the Sino-African nuptials are of course covered, but there are forays into less covered territory – medicine, labour relations, and the diaspora. The breadth of subject matter is matched by the wide array of writers, including the welcome addition of several essays from Chinese authors. We learn that France is mostly untroubled so far by China in Africa, as its focus on high-tech deep-water oil extraction, and service companies like logistics and telecoms, puts it out of direct competition. We discover the Portuguese ‘commonwealth’ has been commandeered by the Chinese as a smart way to reach Angola, Mozambique, and also Brazil.?

 

But the problem about China’s rise is the sheer number of variables that can be endlessly argued over, as demonstrated in the very first article, which poses the question: China’s economic boom, what’s in it for Africa? Yes, the demand for commodities, one of the principal ways in which Africa is linked to the world economy, has boosted many African countries’ income streams, allowing them to channel this money into infrastructure projects which could well be foundation stones for future growth. But the long-term decline in the value of primary goods compared to finished items, means that for a country to develop, it needs to get out of exporting raw materials and into manufacturing. The huge array of cut-price Chinese goods available now acts as a de-industrialising pressure, to which few have an answer.

 

On oil investment, surely at the heart of these early days in the rekindled relationship between China and Africa, Soares de Oliveira moves us away from the ‘alarmist’ tub-thumping of US Congressmen or the ‘revisionist’ approach which refuses to admit any negative consequences. It is the African elites who welcome Chinese oil companies, using them as bartering tools to extract better deals from Western predecessors and helping to shield them from Western concerns over authoritarian regimes.?

 

In the end, one is left wondering whether China’s return to Africa has not held up a mirror to the West. The clamour and fear that characterises some responses in the Western media does not hide the fact that many are uncomfortable about their own countries’ engagement with Africa. Do France and Britain feel good about the actions of their oil companies? Is the European Union comfortable about the effects of the Common Agricultural Policy on the livelihoods of African farmers? Is the US relaxed with the amount spent on the war in Iraq in one day ($343m, according to US Department of Defence estimates) and the lack of (relatively cheap) helicopter support given to peacekeepers in Darfur? As China’s engagement with the continent deepens, and as China “tries to manage the high expectations it has generated”, this volume offers an atlas to those steering through the cross-currents of the relationship.

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