Will Science and Engineering Be Africa’s Redemption?

During the recently concluded first ever Next Einstein Forum- a gathering of some of the best entrepreneurs, scientists and lawmakers Africa has to offer- Rwandan President Paul Kagame made it clear that an emphasis on math and the sciences would be one of Africa’s saviors.

Calling for greater investment in science and engineering, as well as gender equality in the same, President Kagame’s sentiments hopefully reached the ears of those key in ensuring this happens.

However, while this is an admirable attitude and initiative, the reality on the ground can only be described as “terrifying”.

A recent study conducted by Kenya’s National Research and Education network, the Kenya Education network brought to light findings within the themes that have become typical of the Kenyan news landscape: operating with impunity and failing to recognize the rule of law.

Per the survey, an entire half of Kenya’s engineering students are enrolled at institutions whose Engineering programs have not been accredited by the Engineer’s Board of Kenya.

Read that again. Half of Kenya’s engineering students are at risk of graduating with engineering qualifications that could be considered worthless in the eyes of employers and the engineering community at large.

At the same time, other issues continue to plague the institutions considered “legitimate”.

There have long been complaints that students at some of our best public universities counted rioting among their hobbies, but we would be hard pressed to say that none of these demonstrations have grown from valid reasons.

The most recent riot come to us courtesy of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

A student alleged to have been suffering a bout of food poisoning is said not to have received appropriate medical attention at the university hospital, and sadly lost his life.

Students of the Juja campus promptly took to the streets to protest what they affirm is a life lost due to negligence.

Photo credit: Angie Harms/Flickr

Photo credit: Angie Harms/Flickr

This is amidst accusations that these accredited institutions have allowed their lust after tuition fees to spur a reckless expansion spree.

Dr. Fred Matiang’i, Education Secretary, has come out to condemn the haphazard establishments purporting to be “satellite campuses” or module II.

One wonders just how authentic a degree from a university with a supermarket downstairs can be, but perhaps we judge too harshly; we’d love to hear your thoughts.

In the midst of these discussions, there is also another key factor we must consider: will undertaking these courses enable our children to feed themselves after graduation? Already the employment situation in the country can be generously described as “precarious”.

With funds meant to develop the country and create employment opportunities being looted at an alarming rate, the effect on the economy is likely to be felt by us all, more so future graduates.

Entrepreneurship as an escape is also threatened: does the theft of youth development funds ring a bell? The private sector seems committed to taking strides in an effort to further the dreams of our young engineers and benefit the country in the process.

Currently, Total Kenya is working towards providing solar-powered kiosks in Kenya’s forgotten areas where electricity is fickle at best.

This in partnership with Solar Kiosk Kenya, brought to you by German-born Solarkiosk AG.

The project, which kicked off its pilot phase in 2015 not only promises to empower communities with the gift of electricity, but also promote sustainable energy sources and boost local entrepreneurship.

Where do you stand on this debate? A good week to you all.

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