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US organisation to spend Sh8b to boost varsities

posted Apr 1, 2011, 9:06 AM by CARTA Administrator   [ updated Apr 1, 2011, 9:07 AM ]

US organisation to spend Sh8b to boost varsities,  Published on 21/12/2010 by the Standard Newspaper

By Simon Libafu

A US organisation plans to spend Sh8 billion on training and learning infrastructure in African universities in the next 10 years. Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian, who was in Nairobi recently, told The Standard the organisation would invest about Sh240 million in the next three years in a new strategy to strengthen Sub-Saharan Africa's next generation educators and academics.
The programme in Africa began in 1926 when the corporation built a higher education library in South Africa. "The first support for Kenya was the establishment of the Agricultural Training Institute in 1920s," says Mr Tade Akin Aina, the Programme Director for Higher Education Libraries in Africa.
He says higher education is a major part of its work in Africa.

The project, initially called the International Development Programme, was established to boost higher education and universities in Africa. "Higher education in Africa suffered a major decline in the late 70s, 80s and 90s due to many factors including poor governance, economic crises and the international configuration among multi-lateral organisations that Africans should invest more in basic education rather than higher education," he says.

Brain drain


"By the end of the 1990s we had all kinds of crises in the universities. We had massive brain drain, decline in infrastructure and facilities, overcrowding, and breakdown of facilities like libraries and laboratories," he says. On a fact finding mission to South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda ten years ago Gregorian was not impressed by the conditions of premier institutions of higher learning. "I was depressed to see the state of education at the time. Even in South Africa some of the historical African colleges and universities did not have blackboards - they had become white due writing with chalk -, libraries and computer facilities. I reported the findings to our board, met with the then Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and member of our board and sought his advice. He said Africa needs to expand higher education. So we formed and alliance of four or five foundations and during the past 10 years we committed Sh36 billion for higher education," he says.
Carnegie has invested in libraries and women education. Today thousands of women are Carnegie fellows whose education was fully paid for.

After a decade the organisation decided to focus on the next generation of academics.
"University graduates became part of revolutionaries who participated in national liberation movements and became part of Government, political parties, corporations hired professors and left for greener pastures abroad. This decimated university leadership. You can't have universities without leadership," he says The organisation says the grants will focus on South Africa, Ghana and Uganda, while a series of complementary discipline-based regional networks will offer competitive training fellowships to draw academics and researchers throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Talent

The corporation held talks with academics and policy makers to discuss ways to restore the lost glory of African universities. "I met at least six vice chancellors to discuss how we can bring the African Diaspora talent to benefit their countries of origin and help undergraduate degree holders to have post-graduate experience and masters holders to get PhDs. Together with other partners, the corporation is exploring ways for African institutions to have broad bandwidth to access the Internet. "We are bargaining with Internet service providers because the cost of the services in Africa is higher than that of industrialised countries," says Gregorian.

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