AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES AND GLOBALISATION
PROFESSOR SOULEYMANE NIANG
VICE CHANCELLOR - UNIVERSITY CHEIKH ANTA DIOP
The 21st century will, undoubtedly, turn out to be a century of convergence and solidarity. It will be a century of convergence for a true dialogue between cultures, and a century of solidarity towards a humanistic reunion of "give and take" usher in "universal civilisation".
Such is the negro-african meaning of the internationalisation or globalisation processes underway as globalisation is internationalisation within a universe shrinking down to a global village as the result of breakthroughs in the areas of communication and transportation.
Based on this approach of the rapid changes affecting societies and nations, educational and training systems should be redefined, beginning first and foremost with the Higher Education system.
In this respect, African universities should reckon with - for its part, University Cheikh Anta Diop has already reckoned with - the issue of globalisation taking into account two essential components, namely cooperation and global development by redefining their education and training strategies based on a re-assessment of their missions.
The university, which is essentially the privileged place where knowledge is elaborated and transmitted, in other words, a centre for the development of skills and the promotion of research, should from now on grow into an international forum for scientific meetings and exchanges and cooperation. It should develop into a centre for peace, solidarity and development - oriented educational strategies and promote awareness of environment issues.
But education - and primarily the education of young people - involves an educational reference which is dependent on at least two interconnected couples : a political scientific - objective couple and a philosophy-finality of education couple.
The first develops the educational policy on the basis of a number of objectives to meet for the satisfaction of national development requirements while the second inspires and guides the policy of education in accordance with the position of man in society or in accordance with the values of civilisation determined by a number of objectives and views relating to a global scientific philosophical framework in which man has pride of place.
The educational system to be built should therefore, through a global prospective perception of changes resulting from the heralded or unexpected rapid changes in the 21st century, put in place new dynamic structures for training and research able to manage such quick-paced transformations in universities promoting peace for development.
Indeed, for us Negro Africans, the issue is development, in other words, an improved quality of life in a physical and cultural environment in full bloom and connected to democratic areas congenial to freedom and solidarity and, again, where man retains a central position.
It is to be noted that, in general, the total development of a particular society is assessed with two parameters : the moral, spiritual and humanist parameter, on the one hand, and the physical, scientific and technological component on the other.
The first one, which could be determined by the average level of humanistic culture mastered by the people in a given society, corresponds to an internal blooming of the individual, which maybe observable but not palpable.
The second, which can be assessed by the average scientific culture of the people in a given community corresponds to the external blooming of individuals and to the quality of the environment they live in.
This two-pronged integral development must be the basis for a new humanism, a humanism essentially and primarily aimed at the blooming and full development of man as an individual within society. Indeed, through its universalist missions, the University should give to each and every individual the opportunity to live fully in order to contribute to the blooming of all within human and geographic spaces congenial to growth and democratic freedom and promoting the development of skills and competitiveness. This is the first international function of the university. It is a function conducive to the emergence of an orderly and interdependent global village within a humanistic environment.
The conditions required for this integral development imply that society is provided with the appropriate humanist structures to groom men and women to better shoulder their social responsibilities and rise up to the standards of the moral values of civilisation, and with the scientific and technological structures required for setting up operational and effective systems of development and transmission of knowledge.
These conditions also require the existence of structures for order and control to establish and ensure the stability of academic centres offering quality education and training. The lack of such structures which enable institutions to prevail and prevent the encroachment of political grouping upon academic centres generally results in recurring disturbances and unrest. And these turbulences do not certainly favour reflection and innovation for the quality research and training opening doors to the job market offered by enterprises, a prospect which is likely to spur young people to hard work, to make them aware and responsive to the "duty to study" resulting from the famous "right to study".
It is therefore necessary to devise the appropriate conditions, rules and regulations to build stable centres congenial to peaceful academic pursuits and academic freedom and to establish participatory structures to promote concertation towards developing transparent strategies of administrative and pedagogical management. Such structures should also be adequately equiped to offer quality services to the community.
Finally, these conditions show the extended diversity of national and continental development centres, account for their growth discrepancy and the need for cooperation resulting from an internationalisation of Education.
Consequently, on the African continent and in most third world countries, the humanist and cultural component of development is, at least, as strong as in developed countries which are generally viewed as the models in terms of development. It is, however, less conspicuous and revealing than the second component. Indeed because of constraints related to the need for survival and peoples and nations' obsession with physical development, the second component appears as the most visible yardstick of development. However, in Africa and in other third world countries, this component is weak, even dangerously weak, as compared to develop countries. The role and duty of African universities is to internationalise the component and strengthen it accordingly while contributing, at the same time, to reinvigorating the spiritual and humanist component in the North. This the second international function of the university, a function involving the transfer of science and technology for an integral development in the 21st century.
Consequently, as of today, Africa and the other third world countries should strive to strengthen the second component since the real issue now is first and foremost for our nations to be producers of science and technologies. In other words, they should, in the 21st century, develop into cultural centers able to contribute to the transfer and extension of science thanks to their universities which, for the purpose, will have been restructured into regional development universities, and also thanks to an international cooperation sustained by centres of academic solidarity and scientific exchanges, and congenial to these transfers of knowledge in this ending 20th century which already marks "year zero" - or the starting point - of a new mode of sharing knowledge.
To come back to the centres of development, it should be noted that they are closely connected and dependent upon national educational systems since their characteristic components are determined by the cultural levels of exchanges. Hence the urgent need for an education raising awareness to development issues based on the appropriate pedagogical strategy and approach from nursery school to the university. This pedagogy will have to take into account the new cyberspaces and the numerous opportunities offered by distance-learning systems to "open" and operate decentrakised, virtual regional university centres. This approach will also take into account the specific training and education needs required for a sustainable development.
Today, one of the primary missions of the University in Senegal is, once again, to be a true and genuine development-oriented University engaged and involved in a renewed international cooperation and a necessary intercultural dialogue among scientist communities.
Therefore, African universities are uncompromisingly required to restructure and reform themselves and, so doing, elaborate optimal growth educational strategies, selective science policies capable of fully developing their potential for creativity, to reorganise and re-map their national environment - both cultural and physical - in order to pave the way for a full development of women and men.
The academic reform to be implemented should accordingly lay emphasis on the renovation of pedagogical structures based on organised strategies to promote improved working conditions for students. These strategies should offer students operational and effective teaching and supervisory bodies in a scientific environment adequate enough to stimulate effort and innovation in a permanent quest for knowledge and know-how adjusted to national concerns, and with the determination to be counted among the best of a generation of future productive scholars and researchers atuned to modernity and aware of the human condition. These teaching and research strategies will be determined by the nature of the new streams to be created and of the syllabi to be developed during the implementation of the reform. They will be adapted to the life and social conditions of students.
These new aims and objectives, naturally and within the framework of the reform projected, require the University to have full control over enrolment flows so as to satisfactorily manage the regular and smooth promotion of students through the various levels of university education.
A control of enrolment flows should not, however and in any way, imply a strict selection of students but rather a selection-orientation based on the criteria of equity and equal opportunity sustained by the operation of a wide range of public and private higher education institutions whose registration capacities should be maximised.
The same aims and objectives also require faculty members to be further qualified and better equipped academically and to be immersed in the sciences of education for an improved pedagogical training.
As a result of the above, African Universities are called upon to seriously challenge and reassess their routine practices and traditions in order to develop new strategies conducive to teaching and research policies capable of stimulating creativity and fostering the emergence of new forms of thought. This is the third international function of the University, that is, a function of reform and restructuring within stable academic centres for the emergence of skill training strategies in development-oriented Universities well poised at the crossroads
of the knowledge-disseminating information highways.
To this end, it is imperative to weave relations and create international links based on a new spirit of cooperation contributing to establishing a true centre of "give and take", in other words, a dynamic space gathering together men and women in pursuit of a modern humanism, a space of partnership aware and respectful of peoples' cultures and respective geniuses. With such a partnership, each and everyone will be an agent and operator of exchanges within an institutional framework in which genuine concertation will be the rule while - even if the terms of exchange are unequal - precluding any notion of assisting or redeeming imperilled structures and bodies. Based on this new approach for co-development cooperation, the process of exchange should, ultimately, be profitable to all, as the partner universities will be the very catalysts of the exchanges.
In his introduction to the third volume of the "Liberté" - series in 1977, Leopold Sedar SENGHOR already emphasised the need for a new world cultural order and a new partnership based on "cooperation between the two worlds, the developed one and the one in teh process of developing". In this respect, he wrote : "What is therefore at stake, in the last quarter of this century, is the dialogue among cultures whereby each race, each nation, each civilisation will receive and give at the same time, for every man and woman to bloom personally while developing".
The partnership thus defined appears, in the internationalisation framework, as a humanist cultural component for cooperation firmly establishing man in the centre of the development process and reasserts DIDEROT's thought whereby "Man is the only point of departure and the only point of return"., or, to quote SENGHOR, "Man is at the inception and at the end of any development process".
Accordingly, there is the need to move a new operational mode, one based on co-development or mutual development cooperation by interconnecting regional centres of skills into networks of international relations for an inter-cultural dialogue of scientific communities.
These networks would give priority to determined cooperation among all communities in order to establish sustainable partnership links.
The involvement of African Universities in these networks should result in a better training of students, in an improved efficiency of the promotion of faculty and in the designing of a regional status for research in order to foster the emergence of large-scale scientific centres. This status would sustain a policy geared at re-energizing numerous regional learned societies which are now dormant. The policy would, at the same time, bolster and spur a type of African integration adapted to the internationalisation of higher education. Specific regional teaching programmes could thus be developed and attached to multilateral professorships of academic skill and competence. Networks of this type already exist within AUPELF-UREF and professorships of this nature - such as the one specialising in education sciences at the Dakar Higher Teacher Training School -ENS - are funded by UNESCO. These efforts should be strongly supported in a sustained manner within the framework of an inter-state co-development cooperation.
This new mode of co-development cooperation - and not cooperation-relief - ascribes a new finality ot cooperation. In other words, cooperation should no longer be viewed as an effort to be gradually faded until it is phased out in time but, it should rather be conceived as an ever present, ever living initiative since it is a humanistic and forward - looking venture in the framework of a true multilateral partnership whereby the objectives of co-developement are periodically re-assessed and redefined based on the inevitable socio-cultural changes affecting peoples and nations.
This humanistic cooperation should, primarily, ensure the mobility of men and women, and first and foremost the mobility of young people.
It should, therefore, establih areas of cultural convergences and exchnages among all young people in the world so as to produce sustainable links of solidarity and brotherhood among young people eager to engage in this new mode of cooperation through ar re-assessment of North-South cooperation policies.
These North-South exchanges will only be fruitful and generate hope if, once again, African Universities are capable of restructuring themselves into strong regional centres of knowledge as part of a wider policy of African integration for development.
These re-structured regional universities and, accordingly, accessible to young people uncultered by local barriers and boundaries, will gain strength and vigour by internationalising themselves in order to promote a true transfer of science and a genuine dialogue among cultures and civilisations. This is the fourth international function of the university, which is a function of mobility and exchanges for a humanistic and interdependent partnership cooperation toward a "Global civilisation".
Young people are attentive to these issues of the globalisation of development. They are also aware and wary of the need to strengthen the international solidarity to be established for a new partnership. They are ready for an open humanistic cooperation capable of taking up the challenges of the future so as to contribute to the ushering of the "Global Civilisation", within environments of peace and freedom, for the development and blooming of men, all men and women, at the dawn of the 21st century.
It is in this spirit that University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar chose to reform and restructure itself positively and to establish the conditions of its redynamisation by redefining a new policy of forward-looking development within peaceful and orderly academic centres provided with humanist and scientific bodies, ordered and modern management structures ready and prepared for international cooperation, with areas of solidarity and intercultural dialogues.
To fulfil the above-mentioned objectives, a reform has been underway for two years now with three major directions and aims:
1. To gradually establish the new university bodies
taking into account internationalisation trends :
appropriate streams and teaching programmes for
learners, pedagogical strategies more consonant
with the ends of education, improved research-
development systems, modernised systems for the
management of human and material resources.
2. To redynamise the participatory bodies for concer-
tation and internationalisation with the establish-
ment of internal structures and relationships for
a broad and extensive dialogue with the academic
community and social partners ; networks of external
and international relations for cooperation taking
into account the globalisation of issues and the
necessary mobility of men and women ; networks of
relations and communications for an improved
dissemination of information.
3. To permanently breathe life and enliven the
university campus to give back to the academic
world its privileged role as a creative centre
ever active and resonant with scientific confe-
rences, lectures, seminars and colloquia ; to
further establish the university in its function
as a centre of cultural exchanges and solidarity.
With all the above, University Cheikh Anta Diop equips itself with the required means and tools to construct a stable environment of centres of knowledge and know-how in order to provide high quality training and research-development to promote the positive participation in the universal meeting of "give and take" paving the way to a new humanism in the 21st century.