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South Africa: Higher Education challenges of racism and access

Chika Sehoole, Professor at University of Pretoria, 22 July 2012, University World News

“Although admissions figures for black students and numbers of black staff have improved in the post-apartheid era, many black people still feel excluded within the university system and there are problems with a lack of available places to meet the demand for higher education. At the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, South Africa’s higher education sector made national and international news headlines.

At the end of 2011, the University of Pretoria was hit by allegations of apparent racism among its staff. A black engineering professor alleged systematic harassment and victimisation, on racial grounds.

At the beginning of the 2012 academic year, a black parent was killed in a stampede at the gates of the University of Johannesburg, where crowds of prospective students had gathered in the quest to gain admission into this university.

These two incidents – allegations of racism and the quest for access to higher education, especially by black people – are just two examples of the challenges that South Africa experiences in meeting some of the priority areas identified in 1994 by the post-apartheid government.”

To read the rest of Chika Sehoole’s article on University World News, Click Here!

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SARUA brings out a new report on Higher Education in the SADC region

The Southern African Regional Universities Association(SARUA) recently brought out a report on Higher Education in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The report is titled Building Higher education Scenarios 2025: a strategic agenda for development in SADC.

To download the report Click Here!

South Africa plans to open 2 new universities

Mr Blade Nzimande, South African Minister of Higher Education and Training, recently announced that two new universities are expected to open in South Africa, one in the Mpumalanga province and the other in the Northern Cape Province. Two task teams investigated the appropriate models for these new universities and recommended possible sites to be seats of these universities. Mr Nzimande will announce the seat of learning of each new institution in three months time. The government plans to have the first intake of these tow new universities at the start of 2014.

To read more go to Sapa’s article at Sowetan Live by Clicking Here! 

Plan to expand and improve South Africa’s Higher Education sector

In a Green Paper on Post-School Education and Training, the South African government Department of Higher Education and Training recently announced its plans to raise university enrolments from the current 900 000 students to 1.5 million by 2030. Also mooted was a target of 4 million students for colleges and other post-school institutions – 6 times more than current numbers. These changes will raise the participation rate in post-school education of 18-24 year olds from the current 16% to 23%.

The Green Paper includes in its agenda:

  • new funding;
  • improvement of access to education and training opportunities;
  • research on financial problems facing many students as well as poor living conditions and student support services;
  • strengthening of institutions to improve education quality;
  • the development of a post-school education and training system that is equitable, accessible and affordable to all sections of the population, with free education and training for the poor;
  • support for previously disadvantaged universities, including asisstance to improve infrastructure and quality of teaching and research;
  • reform of South Africa’s complex regulatory system, by doing away with duplication. and incoherence and inconsistency in the functioning parts of the system;
  • building coherence between basic education and the post-school system and between the post-school system and the labour market;
  • strengthening of collaboration between private and public sectors;
  • expansion of distance education, using appropriate information communication technologies, other technologies and methods;
  • the creation of two new universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces;
  • improvement of throughput rates;
  • addressing concern sbout low participation rate of Africans;
  • addressing concern about decrease of male students;
  • improvement of graduation rates in science, engineering and technology, because it is not meeting economic development objectives;
  • strengthening of scholarship in the humanities;
  • provision of resources and funding to strenthen teaching in universities, without reducing the importance of research;
  • exploration of the possibility of partnerships between public and private institutions;
  • strengthening of African languages as part of formal programmes

 The Department of Higher Education and Training also plans to work with the Department of Science and Technology to ensure increased support for postgraduate study and for senior researchers, as well as a stable funding model for all educational institutions that conduct research. This means improving research capacity as a major focus for universities with a specific focus on meeting the country’s developmental objectives.

To read more go to Karen McGregor’s article on University World News by Clicking Here!

To read more go to Kim Cloete’s article at Cross Currents on MoneyWeb by Clicking Here!

To read the Green Paper on Post-School Education and Training Click Here!

Centralised admissions to SA universities on the cards

South African Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, yesterday announced that his department is planning a central application system for universities across South Africa. He said, they are considering discontinuing walk-ins at registration time at universities, and aim to have a centralised application office in place by 2013. The applications office will handle all higher education applications in one office and will carry one application fee.

Minister Nzimande’s announcement came shortly after a tragic incident where the mother of a prospective student was killed at the University of Johannesburg, during a stampede at the entrance to the university.

To read more go to Mvuzo Ponono’s and Tebogo Monama’s article in the Sowetan, by Clicking Here!

Africa’s contribution to world science is shrinking

Africa’s contribution to world knowledge is shrinking and more students choose to study overseas, writes Johann Mouton in the Beeld newspaper. There is a need to build out Africa’s ability to produce knowledge he says.

Today’s economy and society are increasingly dependent on knowledge to ensure progress, and internationally universities are assuming the responsibility to produce that type of scientific knowledge and to disseminate it. This trend however is not happening in Africa, and especially in Africa South of the Sahara.

African countries very often lack research laboratoria, and government institutions with abundant resources. Many of these countries experience huge debt problems resulting from factors ranging from civil wars to globalisation. This has made these countries more dependent on international help. The problem with this according to Mouton is that these international institutions (especially the World Bank) rather support Basic Education than Higher Education. Reasons for this are that investments in primary and secondary education result in far better returns, and secondly that Basic Education is seen as a basic human right.

This led to a shift in focus more on basic education with a resultant decline in funding to higher education institutions. This in turn led to a brain drain, with scores of academics streaming to developed countries and to the private sector.

Mouton cites a study by the University of Leiden’s Centre for Science and Technology, indicating that the contribution of Africa South of the Sahara to world science in 1996 was only 0.7% .

Africa’s was at it highest point in 1987 according to Mouton, but since then Africa has lost 11 % of its contribution to world science, and 31 % in Africa South of the Sahara.

Other factors responsible for this downward trend mentioned in Mouton’s article are:

  • Internal factors at African universities: – University adminstrators are very often government appointees, which have an impact on decision making processes.
  • Intellect-pull effect: – postgraduate students that continue their studies at institutions outside their own countries because of lack of resources and inadequate Masters and Doctorate programmes in their home countries. 

Mouton also cites UNESCO’s outward mobility rate, which measures the number of students that studies overseas. This shows that 87 % of Botswana’s students are studying outside the country, and 30 % of students from Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Mauritius are studying outside their countries. South Africa though has a high inward mobility rate because many of the students from these countries are continuing their studies here, but the most popular destinations are the United Kingdom and the United States.

Mouton pleads for the establishment of a dedicated capacity building centre that will support, strengthen and invigorate African expertise and knowledge, giving as an example the African Doctoral Academy at the University of Stellenbosch.

Johann Mouton is the director of the African Doctoral Academy (ADA) in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Stellenbosch.  

To read more go to Johann Mouton’s original article in Afrikaans that was published in the Beeld newspaper of 2 December 2011. Click Here to access the article.

SA government eyeing free tuition to boost skills shortages

In a recent cabinet lekgotla the South African government agreed on a number of resolutions to address skills shortages. The lekgotla noted the mismatch between the supply and demand of skills for specific educational categories in the light of the unemployment rate that is expanding.

Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty gave feedback from the lekgotla. He stressed that the labour market is plagued by skills shortages that constrains the country’s economic growth potential. Keeping this in mind the lekotla resolved to take action on various key matters including:

  • examining the possibility of covering the full cost of study for (poor) students in scarce skills areas in all years of study; 
  • guarding against downgrading the social science programme provision;
  • supporting post-graduate students through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to develop a new generation of academics in addition to National Research Foundation initiatives;
  • intensifying efforts to promote research and development in higher education institutions;
  • seeing to it that students that have completed their studies pay back their loans so that other students can also be supported;
  • giving urgent attention to the problem of accommodation in the higher education system (only 18.5 % of students are accommodated in university residences)
  • ensuring that all infrastructure programmes are linked to skills training and workplace experiential learning;
  • strengthening and repositioning Public Service Sector Seta (PSeta) to play a more effective role in skills training for public service
  • seeing to it that all government departments pay skills levies, as required by law;
  • expanding the intake of interns into the public service, municipalities and state-owned enterprises; and
  • utilising training within the public service as largest single employer in the country.

This posting was based on a Sapa article published on Fin24 on 23 august. To read the original Sapa article Click Here!