African universities have been urged to internationalize their programs as a first step towards strengthening and commercializing African higher education and graduates in a rapidly changing world.
The call was launched by several African academics and their counterparts in the diaspora during the second edition of the Virtual Homecoming of the African University Diaspora jointly organized by the Association of African Universities (AAU), the African Union, the government of Ghana, the African Diaspora Development Institute and Pan-African World Heritage and held September 27-29.
In a presentation titled “Internationalizing the Curriculum to Strengthen University Curriculum in African Higher Education for a Rapidly Changing World,” Nneka Nora Osakwe, Professor of English at Albany State University in the States United, said African universities should infuse international and intercultural perspectives into their programs and courses in all academic disciplines.
“The aim is to introduce African students to global learning about foreign countries and their economies, education, governments, history and languages in order to improve global skills after graduation. of their degree, ”said Osakwe, who is also an international education specialist.
According to Osakwe, most African universities were still using curricula and other teaching styles inherited from colonialism and which have never been reviewed or updated.
She said higher education in Africa should respond to globalization by giving African graduates an education that would provide them with the skills to work in other countries as professionals.
Osakwe said that having knowledge about other countries and their people improves a person’s ability to engage with others, valuing different perspectives in life, as well as learning to grasp the job opportunities and tolerate different opinions and ideas.
Cooperation with HBCUs
On cooperation between African universities and historically black universities and colleges (HBCUs) in the United States, Osakwe called for strengthening student and faculty exchange programs. She said that few students of African descent in the United States are currently joining study programs at African universities, compared to their white counterparts.
Professor Tendai Paula Johnson, retired former Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Fayetteville State University in the United States, also called for the development of centers of excellence and joint academic programs between African universities and HBCUs.
“But, to make this a reality, there is a need to improve communication technologies in terms of fast and reliable Internet connectivity in African universities,” Johnson said.
She highlighted the need for African universities to embrace learning using cellphones and other reverse learning models which, so far, are not commonly used on the continent.
According to Johnson and Osakwe, the talents of the diaspora are ready to assist African universities in restructuring programs, as well as in raising funds for some academic programs and the regular exchange of faculty and students.
Stressing the need for curriculum reforms, Vannie Naidoo, professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, said knowledge was not enough; students should learn to apply knowledge in different academic fields.
Entrepreneurship as compulsory
She said entrepreneurship should be introduced as a compulsory course in all African universities, while the curriculum should be current and not fixed. According to Naidoo, some curricula in many university programs in Africa have remained unchanged for decades.
“We need to be up to date in our teaching and adapt to technology-driven systems, as some of them will be required by students in their fields of work after graduation,” Naidoo said.
Julie Sullivan-Detheridge, professor of health sciences at Arizona State University in the United States, said students should learn to face challenges, and professional lecturers should be regularly invited to teach students how to overcome challenges. in various professions.
“Universities should be encouraged to open hubs of entrepreneurship, while there should be a sharing of knowledge and innovation between universities on the continent,” Sullivan-Detheridge said.
Following the conference session, it was recommended to teach new aspects of entrepreneurship while they are still relevant and to foster awareness of innovation and creativity.
In an effort to increase employability, Osakwe proposed that African graduates mimic the skills and tenacity of Indian university graduates who can work from home for companies in other parts of the world.
While most of the suggestions were valid, what was missing from the discussion was how African universities are likely to achieve such goals while operating on tight budgets.