AAU President Offers Hope on Youth Unemployment

The President, Association of African Universities (AAU) and Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Olusola Oyewole, has identified how the high unemployment rate prevalentin many African countries can be curbed. This formed the thrust of discussions in commemoration of the 2014 African University Day celebration themed, “How Can African Universities Enhance Capacity for Job Creation?”

Speaking in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on “The Role of African Higher Education Institutions in Promoting Graduate Employability”, the Vice-Chancellor stated that the skills needed by students in the various institutions of higher learning go beyond mere academic skills that were being taught in traditional Universities. According to him, “Our Universities should be more concerned now about some other skills that can make our graduates to sell themselves in the market. Skills like , Information and Communication Technology skills, skills like being able to stand up to challenges, thinking skills and more importantly, writing and speaking skills”. He observed that the hardest hit by youth unemployment were those with low levels of education and qualifications, who may either be unfit for the available jobs, nor able to compete with others having higher levels of education and qualifications.

He stated that there was the urgent need for African Universities, governments, private sector and stakeholders to come together and develop a circle, where higher education can play a major role in the knowledge economy, by showing a strong correlation between higher education and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, through human capital development and technology diffusion. The Vice-Chancellor added that the content of higher education should improve and be more relevant to building up the total man in graduates. “The values with which we operate in our environment should change; our current values cannot promote development. There is the need for each one of us to change our attitude. We are in an environment where merit is not promoted; in an environment where people believe that you don’t need to work hard to make money; where people do not see integrity as a virtue to be promoted. Such environment cannot promote development; an environment where young people prefer to cheat in order to earn high grades. These are the things we should change, in order to promote the future of our country”, the AAU President disclosed.

Professor Oyewole called for a review of the curriculum of African Universities to ensure that graduates that were being produced were exposed to the necessary skills and competences that could make them employable. He added that there was the need to change the system of teaching from being staff-centered to student-centered in a manner whereby students were allowed to learn and be innovative, while stressing that Universities should be seen more as learning centres for both students and lecturers alike and not just mere teaching centres. He challenged researchers in African Universities to embark on researches that would meet the developmental gap in their communities, address the challenges of industries, organisations and bring development closer to the African continent. He said that as academics and researchers, the joy of their research would be the development and advancement of their communities and not just to embark on research just to earn promotion or additional qualifications. Professor Oyewole called for increased communication of research findings to both government and the society, in order to build faith in the University system. He also made case for increased funding of research to avoid emergencies like the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic, which most countries in Africa were not prepared for, adding that the efforts of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), in Nigeria, in funding tertiary institutions were commendable, even though the funds were insufficient.

The President of AAU further emphasised the need for African Universities to create an environment that promotes Internationalisation, as this would help expand the University’s frontier to other academic cultures by creating a good platform for interaction. He disclosed that FUNAAB would leave no stone unturned in its internationalisation drive by working on a new curriculum for its various departments, as well as training students on entrepreneurial skills. On the significance of the African University Day celebration, marked annually on the 12th of November by respective AAU member Universities, Professor Oyewole said “the day is set aside by AAU for all Universities to recognise the reason for their existence. It is a day dedicated to the realisation of the role of Universities in our national, regional and governmental development. This year is special in that it would be our 48th year of existence as AAU. The Association of African Universities was established in 1967 in Rabat, Morocco and on the AU day, it is expected that each University and tertiary institution in Africa, would celebrate the occasion by organising a suitable forum for public dialogue, aimed at raising awareness on the critical issues surrounding the theme of the year’s celebration. We want each University to celebrate within themselves, their contributions to the development of the society”.

The vision of AAU is to be the voice for the African higher education community – both within and outside Africa – while its mission is to raise the quality of higher education and strengthen its contributions to Africa’s development by fostering collaboration among its members; providing support to their core functions of teaching, learning, research and community engagement; facilitating critical reflection and consensus building around issues affecting higher education and the development of Africa.

Last Updated on December 16, 2014 by admin

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