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African Universities: More Students, Less Money

Education experts say Africa’s growing higher education system is important to its economic development. But African universities face a number of issues, including emigration of top students, poor infrastructure, and high demand combined with a lack of funds.

University leaders from around the African continent met in Johannesburg last week to discuss how to solve these issues and others. The academics who attended the African Universities Summit say the job of educating Africa's students is harder than it has to be.

Engineering professor David Mfinanga is a vice chancellor at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He says the main problem facing universities is the high number of students.

"Most countries are trying to increase the number of university graduates because it is important for economic development. But the resources are limited, so that affects quality as well, and therefore we are struggling to balance the two because you need the quantity, you need more graduates, but you need to maintain the quality, and the resources are limited."​

Pinkie Mekgwe is an administrator at the University of Johannesburg. She says schools face another problem: money.

Like many American universities, she says, African universities struggle for funding. But unlike American schools, African schools cannot ask students to pay more tuition.

And, the 2009 global economic crisis reduced African governments' budgets. So, Ms. Mekgwe points out, universities now receive even less funding.

Ousmane Sene is director of the Senegal-based West African Research Center. He says governments also need to look at the result of having many university graduates but few job opportunities.

"What are you going to do with that if they just get out of university and they are out of a job? Because this is a real threat, this is a real conflict-ridden situation in Africa, having these thousands and thousands of graduates, postgraduate students, qualified, with plenty of degrees, expecting everything from society, and spending years milling around without getting a decent job, that's a real problem."​

There are no simple answers to the issues that African universities face. But, African educators say the issues are just as serious as many of the continent's other difficult problems, such as war, famine, poverty and quickly changing leaders. And in this case, they say, solving higher education’s problems may help solve the others.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Anita Powell reported this story for VOA News. Dr. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

infrastructuren. the basic equipment and structures – such as buildings, roads and bridges – that are needed for a country, region or organization to function properly

fundsn. available money

fundingn. money that is set aside for something, usually by a government

tuition- n. money that is paid to a school for the right to study there

conflict-ridden n. having the quality of strong disagreement between people and groups

Now it’s your turn. How does your country support higher education? How much do you think higher education is related to your country’s economic success?

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