More on squandered intellectual talentPosted: June 4, 2007
This is an NY times story on higher education institutes in Africa(registration needed sadly). Now while the reality isn’t quite as bleak as the story makes it out to be there are a couple of central points that are very true. The main one is how little attention has been paid to expanding public higher education in Ghana.
When the country gained independence it had a population of roughly four million people. Now it has a population of almost six times that size. Half of which is below 25 years old. at the same time the Universities meant to house them have not grown to keep up with the exploding number of students coming out of an equally troubled secondary school system. Hence, the problem of an increasing number of students competing for dwindling resources.
Now, thankfully the last decade or so has also seen the quite a few private universities arrive to soak up some of this crowd(Ashesi probably being the best of them) but frankly its far from enough. Education at this level really does not appear to be enough of a priority to anyone with the ability to make real headway in fixing it.
This incidentally is one of the things about projects like the OLPC project and Intel’s classmate sit a little strangely with me. The truth is that the idea of needy African children is sexy. Everyone is willing to agree that little Kwaku and Ama need to learn how to read, write and solve maths problems. Not as many people are as interested in Ama at 25 looking to write a thesis in remote sensor networks or Kwaku’s dream of building a probe to explore the edges of the universe. Its not as sexy and doesn’t lend itself as well to a certain brand of paternalism that tends to characterize foreign aid to this part of the world.
sidenote: Speaking of Ashesi, looks like a couple of their students got scholarships to TEDGlobal in Tanzania. I was really hoping for one of those too. Ah well, I’ll have to settle for reading summaries.