Collaboration focus of education conference


Collaboration and Investment in education were the focus of the 10th annual conference on private higher education held in Addis Ababa from August 8-10.
The conference organized by St. Mary’s University College (SMUC), Association of African Universities (AAU), African Union Commission (AUC), the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), and Covenant University (CU) based in Nigeria had more than 200 participants from Africa and the Diaspora and with about 31 research papers presented. Wondwosen Tamrat, President of St. Mary’s University College, said that holding the conference in Ethiopia was important because Ethiopia, until the past decade, had been lagging behind other African countries and therefore would accelerate the coverage of private educational facilities, which stands currently at 18 percent and is now on par with other African nations. 
He said the percentage would have been greater if private vocational and technical educational facilities were included.
However Wondwosen acknowledged that the issue of quality education is a recurring theme in many African countries with no less than 20 having an education quality supervision and control agency. He adds that Ethiopia will soon be among them.
Reports stated at the conference indicated even though education is improving in Africa, the US and Europe still set the standard.
Ethiopia has 32 public universities and more than 60 Private Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs), while Nigeria has an impressive 36 federal universities, 37 state universities and 45 private universities well clear of Ghana which has six public universities and 42 PHEIs.
Michael Omolewa (Prof) Former President of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said most of post-independence Africa especially those from south of the Sahara were ruled by military men which didn’t give attention to education.
“The proportion of Nigeria’s population exposed to higher education barely registered at 10 percent,” said Omolewa adding that most other countries have a less than five percent ratio even though human resource capital is needed to be developed for the African continent.
Reports indicate that in the next five years, private institutions will double more than government institutions even though countries like Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia which receive about four billion dollars in aid annually have not diverted a sufficient amount of aid to public education choosing instead to focus on other issues. 
Jonathan Mba (Prof.) Research Director at the Association of African Universities (AAU) said there is a recurrent issue of private institutions graduating students with relevancy to a particular need of a country.
However he said private institutions have been forced to innovate and create niche markets in the field and in some African countries education policy has been gathering dust for up to 30 years.
Wondwossen added that private education can still align with public institutions.
He surmised that private institutions on average have a much higher proportion of female students  around 55pct, while national government higher educational institutions have difficulty filling the 30 percent female attendance quota.
Araba Botchway AAU project officer, Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program stressed that private institutions have usually little sense of entitlement unlike many government institutions and there is a need for a paradigm shift.