The impact of higher education on social and economic development featured predominantly in the extraordinary session of leaders of the Educational Research Network for West and Central Africa (ERNWACA).
Principal researchers and national research team leaders from four countries working on a transnational project expressed grave concern of mounting unemployment rate and frightening level of poverty in the sub region.
Professor Kasali Ajibade Adegoke, ERNWACA Board Chairman said at the opening ceremony on Friday: “If education is considered as the backstone of development, higher education is also seen as one of the strongest pillars.”
He said increase in the unemployment rate, consolidation of the informal sector, scaring level of poverty, with all its negative impacts in member countries, compelled the network to measure the actual contribution of universities to socio-economic development in the region.
Professor Adegoke, who is also the ERNWACA National Coordinator in Nigeria said the commitment of members affirms giving an “African face to research for the development of African education systems.”
The focus of the meeting is to conduct proper diagnoses and investigation in higher education and make strong and viable recommendations for reforms and enhancement of education policies.
Researchers are to further reflect and assess the level of implementation of reforms in universities in relation to the social demand and the level of employability of graduates in future.
Professor Adegoke indicated that, to have a holistic understanding of problem affecting the educational development, ERNWACA is also conducting similar research with basic vocation, traditional and religious education institution through other transnational projects.
“As we are moving towards post 2015, the results of these research projects would help ERNWACA answer the call of ‘Education For All and Millennium Development Goals’…for better programmes and policies towards the development of African educations systems,” he added.
Alhaji Rahim Gbademosi, National Coordinator of ENRWACA, Ghana,said the network was partly established to shed the colonial legacies, which had become largely inappropriate for independent Africa.
Some observers had noted that some of the reforms projects were based on the imaginations or intuitions of donor agents with or without any scientific bases in terms of the real needs for the African communities.
Alhaji Gbademosi said ENRWACA was, therefore, formed to help develop a culture among member countries in the implementation basic education projects based on solid research findings relevant to the needs of Africa.
It was also envisaged that within the framework of the network, research date, procedures and findings could be shared to make research more efficient and cheaper and to avoid unnecessary costly repetitions and duplications, he added.
“With the current outcry over the alleged poor performance of basic education schools in and beyond the sub region, can we conclude that the original objectives of the network have been or are being achieved, about 25 years after establishment?”
Professor Naana Jane Opokua-Agyemang, Minister of Education urged ERNWACA to make more of its activities, research results and impacts available for the purposes of justification and funding.
ERNWACA was established in 1989 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to manage a wide range of programs and projects in its 17 member countries to promote African expertise in Educational research and a culture of research in order to improve Education policy and practice in member countries. GNA