Higher Education and Africa’s Development Agenda

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Paul Tiyambe Zeleza 978-9976-9903-4-8 Nyerere Resource Centre 2016
This Lecture by Professor Paul Zeleza astutely traces the development of higher education in Africa and globally in its various dimensions. It articulates the major concern of most educationists, which is the commercialisation, vocationalisation, disarticulation and direct or indirect privatisation of higher education, particularly university education.

This, the third Lecture by Professor Paul Zeleza, follows on the heels of our Occasional Paper 4, which republished a number of essays by the late Professor Chachage which pointedly addressed the marginalisation of basic research in our universities. As Zeleza astutely traces the development of higher education in Africa and globally in its various dimensions, he articulates the major concern of most educationists, which is the commercialisation, vocationalisation, disarticulation and direct or indirect privatisation of higher education, particularly university education (#thatcherisationofeducation!).

These tendencies manifest themselves even more starkly in Africa where the massification of university education has gone hand in hand with the decline in its quality. While public universities have been starved of resources, the rash of private universities has managed to capture a sizeable portion of public money through student loans. A consultancy culture has gripped professors and other senior faculty, while junior faculty (usually from public universities) take on multiple teaching assignments in several universities (usually private universities), giving rise to what we in Tanzania call “flying lecturers”. Both these practices have had a massive impact on basic research, teaching and learning in our universities, contributing in no small measure to the fall in education standards.

As African governments are forced to balance their budgets by erstwhile international financial institutions, the first victim claimed is the education sector. An immediate consequence is an increase in the fees. The hashtagged clarion call “#feesmustfall” by South African students dramatically expressed the all-round crisis of higher education in Africa which feeds into the underdevelopment of human capacity. The sharks of the “aid” industry are thus provided with an excuse to extend loans which further ensnare us in a world-wide-web of debt slavery. As the world stands poised at the crossroads of “emancipation or annihilation”, Africa is crying out for a new wave of liberation.

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