Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا


Reform of Higher Education and Academic Freedom in Angola

29-30 June 2006, Luanda, Angola

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The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)
is pleased to announce the organisation of an international conference on « the reform
of higher education and academic freedom in Angola », which will take place from
30 June to 01 July, in Luanda, as part of a collaboration programme with the Catholic
University of Angola. The conference is part of a series of scientific meetings that
CODESRIA has planned to develop in a number of African countries where the various
problems within universities and issues of academic freedom still remain a challenge to
their social and economic development. Between 2004 and 2005, similar conferences
were organised in DRC, Tanzania and Nigeria, in cooperation with the universities of
these countries and other university actors. This Luanda conference is organised as part
of the Academic Freedom Programme of the Research department at CODESRIA. One
of the main objectives of this programme is to promote knowledge production, in
general, and academic freedom in African universities, in particular.

In order to understand better the concept of academic freedom, we must first reflect on
the role of a university. A university is an institution, which is in a permanent quest of
truth, using independent and methodical ways. Its main function is to extend the
frontiers of knowledge through research, disseminate knowledge through teaching,
publish and be in the service of the public sphere by making critical questionings of
ideas and practices. To achieve their goal, universities must be autonomous, which
implies that the university community itself should be free to choose its own activities,
without any constraints.

The protracted economic crises, which hit African countries in the early 80s, have
had a severe toll on the performance of universities, due to a depletion of their
resources. The weak national policies, inappropriate internal management, university
unrest, combined with the poor performance of mot African governments regarding
human rights, have all led to a worsening of the situation within universities. Higher
education remains the poor relation of African educational systems. Development of
higher education has become illusory for most African countries, particularly for the
Lusophone countries, which have suffered from internal conflicts.

Despite its natural resources, Angola has been hit by this economic and social crisis.
The crises that have had some consequences on higher education are similar to those
experienced by most African countries, namely: a progressive degradation of the
material teaching conditions (lack of infrastructures and equipment), lack of financial
resources and skilled staff, inappropriate curricula, students who are not prepared to
active life etc.

Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) have led to a reduction of public expenses.
In Angola, political and military constraints have added up to this bad economic
conditions., even if the military conflict (from 1975 to 2002) is not the only cause that
can account for such situation.

Just like in most cases, political choices are responsible for such predicament! The
efforts of the relevant authorities to redress the situation of the higher education sector
have not yielded the expected results. For example, the increase in and geographical
decentralisation of the university institutions may have helped poorer social classes
have access to the education system, but they have made the system even more difficult
to manage. Since 1991 there has been an emergence of private schools, which are
confronted to various problems of certification. In this perspective, one should reflect
upon the advantages and drawbacks of the introduction of private education in the
higher education system in Angola. What are the challenges of such an emergence of
private institutions knowing that the number of students registered in certified private
schools was 40,000, in 2005/2006? Moreover, the liberalization of research through an
intensive recruitment of scholars to carry out applied research in the short-term might
well turn some university departments into « consultancy offices » that would be more
concerned with struggling to survive than promoting the advancement of research.

Angola’s higher education system has been suffering from the same structural problems
for more than two decades. The reform measures taken by the relevant authorities
might well be mere wishful thinking, if no practical decision is taken. However, the
new political era opened by the peace process that started in 2002 is giving new hopes
of progress and development to the people of Angola.

Given the recent changes that occurred within African societies, one must acknowledge
that is high time we focused on issues of academic freedom. It is within this perspective
that CODESRIA has invited higher education specialists to gather and reflect on the
following theme: « Reform of Higher Education and Academic Freedom in
Angola ». The meeting will, among others, help identify the content of such a reform,
its cost, possible results, as well as the tools and actors involved. The conference will
also provide researchers with an opportunity to make comparisons with what is
happening in the other African Lusophone countries and elsewhere.




Comments

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