African universities should discontinue their science faculties and concentrate their financial resources on the development of the arts, histories and music than misrepresent the sciences through presenting fake and passive models of the discipline of science.
It is undoubtedly well-known that proper tertiary education ought to focus on the exploitation of local content, resources and solving of contemporary problems for the benefit of all.
For example, apart from focusing on philosophies to advance humanity during ancient times, Greeks developed schools of medicine to treat diseases and pandemics of the time.
Hippocrates, a Greek doctor founded the first medical school at the island of Kos in Greece in 500 BCE.
Among other developments that he made in medicine, he impacted the medical field to our present day, thus bequeathing the hyppocratic oath to the profession.
The point I am making here is that an expectation raised and still unfulfilled is an affront to the well-being of the expectant.
Such an expectation would be better off not raised at all, hence my suggestion that science faculties at universities in Africa should be discontinued because they raise developmental expectations that are not realised.
They are largely a waste of resources that could be used effectively elsewhere.
Africa is well endowed with the world’s mineral resources far more than any other continent on plannet earth.
It, therefore, becomes logical that if we are to heed the divine principle that we are stewards and the more we are given the more we shall account for.
For Africa to be comnensurate with her bountiful endowment of mineral resources, she should excel more than any other continent in the processing of her mineral resources to benefit her citizens.
Such knowledge can be attained from the universities’ faculties of science.
It is also known that no country can create incremental wealth for its people without engaging in the processing of its resources — manufacturing.
It baffles the mind to realise that in spite of the plentiful availability of mineral resources in Africa, there is no university in Sub-Saharan Africa that specialises in the teaching of the beneficiation of the continent’s mineral resources.
Instead, foreign countries that do not possess such minerals import them from Africa and process them to sell finished products at exhorbitant prices to Africa — a sure formular of transferring wealth from Africa to the countries importing the raw material.
Wealth is donated by Africa to developed countries indirectly through trade.
Now, the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent has seen Sub-Saharan countries queue for vaccines from China, the USA and European countries in spite of these African countries boasting many medical schools at their universities.
These universities have not developed a ventilator for use by coronavirus patients, let alone a vaccine.
When one examines the causes for this paucity in development, one realises that it has less to do with lack of knowledge than with management — the mindset of receiving.
For example, it takes a policy to engage in beneficiation of mineral resources and to ensure that science faculties, as part of their thrust to solve national problems through research, improve the standards of living of their people.
They ought to focus on how mineral and other resources could be processed to improve livelihoods in Africa.
Why would African universities see it as normal, the processing of diamonds into rings and other diamond products by Belgium, a country that has no single diamond mine, sell to Botswana or Zimbabwe diamond products at a higher price than such products would be sold in Belgium?
It is the role of universities to engage in research on local content to bring solutions for national benefit.
The priority of any nation is to raise the standards of living of its citizens and to have peace within its borders.
The role of institutions of higher learning, therefore, is to do research fundamentally in those lines to feed the State with knowledgeable technocrats who will enable the country to satisfy those priorities. University curricula have to be connected with the realities of a country and not the other way round.
It is high time African institutions focused on issues of local content to ensure relevance to their nations.
This is supposed to be the duty and a service they owe to the citizens and it should be mandatory.
Surprisingly, most of our African universities have memoranda of understanding with Western universities.
They tend to pattern much of their syllabi in line with such Western universities.
This is uncalled for.
The focus on the local content and relevance to solutions of local problems goes out of the window.
In this day and age of acute scarcity of resources, financial and otherwise, every marginal dollar ought to be accounted for as contributing meaningfully to the benefit of citizens.
African universities cannot afford to waste financial resources on programmes that do not measure up to world-class standards.
Why should African countries order COVID-19 vaccines from other continents and we do not even hear about any attempts by African universities in researching on a vaccine?
Why does Africa not have its own locally manufactured car?
Why, for example, should Africa be content with assembling German and Japanese cars and take that to be an achievement when there are engineering science faculties at African universities?
Africans should not cite colonialism as an excuse for this, because the latest an African country attained independence was 26 years ago and the earliest was about 65 years ago.
African countries should either establish universities that are visible and feature in the satisfaction of international human needs or not establish them at all.
There should be no room for fake models.
Funding and time are too precious for leisure preoccupations.
- Reinford Khumalo is a Professor of business leadership and organisatuonal behaviour. He writes here in his personal capacity.