Hope in Africa
Africa requires more solutions of its own to the many problems it faces. The brain drain has robbed the continent of some of its brightest minds, and universities’ output of graduates and research is too low.
Clearly, higher education in Africa needs a boost. Universities have a key role to play if Africa is to participate more fully in the global knowledge economy.
Stellenbosch University (SU) supports efforts to reinvigorate African scholarship in aid of development. A number of initiatives by its Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences contribute toward this goal.
- A Graduate School has been established to grow world-class postgraduate programmes and co-ordinate research in Africa.
- The African Doctoral Academy is building the capacity of postgraduate students from Africa to study problems related to the continent’s development more efficiently.
- SU and other leading African universities have started collaborating in a network called the Partnership for Africa’s Next Generation of Academics (PANGeA).
“Higher education helps develop a vibrant civil society, which is what we need to counter Afro-pessimism. A vibrant civil society contains people who will query corruption, a lack of moral leadership and authoritarianism,” says Prof Johann Groenewald, Graduate School project leader.
The Graduate School is a co-ordinating body within the Faculty. It started functioning in January 2010 with a cohort of 31 fulltime doctoral students on scholarships, 22 of whom are from outside the borders of South Africa.
The initial overarching focus of the Graduate School is on promoting peace and eradicating poverty, with themes relevant to Africa’s development guiding the different research projects, namely:
- Conflict and peace in Africa (Political Science)
- Land, environment and sustainability in Africa (Sociology and Social Anthropology)
- Transitions and translations: Africa in the global imaginary (English, General Linguistics)
- Sustainable cultural creativity: Empowering the arts in developing communities (Drama, Music, Visual Arts)
- Science, technology and society (Philosophy / Centre for Research on Science and Technology)
- Consolidated geographical information technology implementation (Geography and Environmental Studies)
- Public Mental Health (Psychology) Language, culture and communication (African Languages, Modern Foreign Languages)
It is hoped that vibrant scholarly communities will develop in Africa around each research theme. Collaboration across disciplines is the norm. Experienced academics from different departments act as research supervisors.
“This initiative represents a contribution that is meaningful to the continent of Africa,” says Prof Hennie Kotzé, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
African Doctoral Academy
The African Doctoral Academy is the mechanism that the faculty is using to support scholarship at the doctoral level and beyond. Advanced training is provided in research methodology and protocols. And supervisors get the skills they require to guide doctoral students to the successful completion of their research.
The first year of study is devoted to developing a proposal, including a study plan and literature review. In the second year, students will execute their study plan through reading and fieldwork. And in the third year they will complete their analysis, write their thesis and present and defend the results.
The Partnership for Africa’s Next Generation of Academics (PANGeA) originated in November 2006 at a meeting of the deans of various humanities and social science faculties in Africa. The initial participants include the universities of Botswana, Dar es Salaam, Makerere, Malawi and Stellenbosch.
The aim is for PANGeA to expand to strengthen the development of higher education in Africa by creating opportunities for collaborative research and exchange, methodological development, full-time doctoral study and, in the final phase, the creation of joint doctoral degree programmes.