Designing interdisciplinary Humanities/STEM Teaching and Research programs in African universities
Application Deadline: 10 September 2017
Call for proposals
The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, CODESRIA, is pleased to announce a call for proposals for a new intervention on ‘Designing interdisciplinary Humanities/STEM Teaching and Research programs’ for African universities. The intervention is supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon to support innovative programs that combine perspectives from the Humanities in the teaching of STEM disciplines and vice-versa. The intervention is a response to the continued segmentation in terms of teaching and research of the Humanities from STEM disciplines, while in actual sense; both disciplines seek to find solutions to the same problems, a fact that should call for more synergy and convergence between them. The initiative carries forward CODESRIA’s work in strengthening the institutional bases for knowledge production in the Humanities in African universities and research centers. This particular call rhymes with the Council’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan that focuses on ‘Reaching New Frontiers in Social Research and Knowledge Production for African Transformation and Development’
Established in 1973, CODESRIA is a Pan-African organization dedicated to contributing to development in Africa by promoting research and research training that privilege African perspectives. CODESRIA seeks to magnify the voices of African and Diaspora scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences on the most important questions in African life through support for research, training, publication and dissemination, and advocacy. In so doing, CODESRIA seeks to act as a strategic partner for higher education institutions and research centers in Africa as well as policy actors and practitioners engaging with important issues on the continent that can benefit from sound knowledge.
There are emerging debates and assertions that higher education in Africa would serve the needs of the continent better were it to focus and provide more funding for the STEM disciplines compared to the Humanities and Social Sciences. Policy makers complain that problems such as graduate unemployment that the continent faces has been accentuated by the high student enrolments in the Humanities and Social Sciences while shunning STEM disciplines. The political leadership in the continent has readily accepted these assertions and continues to espouse the technologist and economist thinking on higher education and privileging of the STEM disciplines as more important to Africa’s growth and development. The worldwide science-centric tendency has been picked up all over the continent, resulting in the Humanities and Social Sciences being downplayed, with its scholarship ignored and its contribution marginalized. Besides, the emerging private university sector in the continent is focusing on IT, business and health sciences, promoting these disciplines as what should mark a ‘relevant university curriculum’. Furthermore, the opposition to Humanities and Social Sciences is associated with the ‘rates of return arguments’ of the international financial institutions, which has been used before to argue against investing in higher education in Africa on grounds that the rates of return of investments in HE were lower than those in basic education. Adherence of African governments to such arguments set universities on a permanent path to cost recovery from students. Other studies on graduate employment trends in Africa however, do seem to suggest that graduate unemployment is exacerbated by lack of soft skills among graduates; skills that the Humanities are better placed to cultivate. The Humanities are better placed to contribute to learning skills that promote more inclusive and equitable growth, embracing a diversity of peoples and cultures, respecting the environment and more generally contributing to a better understanding of problems society faces today such as poverty, disease, climate change, and threats to national and global security.
The case for an interdisciplinary STEM/Humanities
Much academic discourse regarding higher education in Africa often paints Humanities as less relevant and less useful compared to the STEM disciplines in terms of their contributions to the development of the continent. However, some evidence on the ground provides a different reality. Studies on employability, for example, show that on average, 70% of employment in Africa is informal-sector based and that just 30% accrues from R&D related investments. So on one hand, we have STEM and its strong focus on science and technology; on the other, we have Humanities and its extensive focus on society, where informal modes of innovation are sustaining the majority of the African people. Besides, even Western economies that are R&D intensive and can afford a STEM curriculum, continue to espouse a strong Humanities component to STEM training, hence STEAM (the A standing for the “Arts,” or Humanities). Africa’s case for an interdisciplinary STEM/Humanities curriculum is all the more urgent because of the immense informal sector contribution to development processes.
CODESRIA believes that what Africa needs for its development is not a privileging of one set of disciplines over the other but a conversation between the two broad areas of study and their co-development. Given the vast social implications of technology and innovation including trends associated with genetic technologies and information technology and the reverse impacts that social factors can have on their embrace, the engagement of STEM and the Humanities is of critical importance in any project at remaking Africa and its varied and changing societies. Promoting the institutionalization of engagement between STEM and the Humanities in African universities will contribute to bridging the disciplinary divide and provide holistic strategies through which universities would contribute to the emergence of broad-based skills required for inclusive development in Africa.
Under this call, CODESRIA intends to support initiatives for the design of interdisciplinary courses within existing departments, centers, institutes and programs in the Humanities and STEM. Proposals outlining how the (re) designing process will be undertaken, the process of integration into institutional research and teaching activities, including consultative, design and planning workshops and the contracting of experts to design such programs, including academics from the African diaspora are encouraged. African Diaspora academics that wish to participate in the initiative are encouraged to submit joint proposals with faculties/schools or research centers based in African universities. The proposals should highlight details such as the development of courses; faculty and student talk series, pedagogy training and research that are directly linked to teaching.
The funding to be provided for proposed activities will depend on how the needs identified will be articulated in the proposal and a clear justification for all the identified activities. However, as a guideline up to USD 50,000 will be provided for innovative proposals that demonstrate long-term sustainable outcomes.
Proposals for consideration should strictly be sent under the auspices of faculties/schools or research centers where the programs are housed. Individual submissions will not be accepted. Proposals should be between 10-15 pages, 1.5 spaced and include the CVs/bios of key proposers who will be in charge of implementing the activity/s proposed, and attestation of their institutional affiliation.
Proposals should be sent as electronic mail to:
Interdisciplinary Humanities/STEM in African universities
BP 3304, Dakar, 18524, Sénégal
Tél. (221) 33 825 98 21/22/23