A leading academic says next week’s education conference in Namibia will help tackle the education gap between Africa and the rest of the world. Just 8.2 per cent of people in Africa have gone to university or technical school – the lowest participation rate in the world.
Elaine Unterhalter, Professor of Education and International Development at University College London, says that’s because higher education in Africa faces challenges of equality, access and quality. Many of these issues are evident in Namibia, host-country of the conference.
“To be discussing those issues right on the chalk-face where it matters with people who know from direct experience what confronts them and what they’ve been trying to do to change things is a really great opportunity,” she stated. “So it’s very relevant to be having this conference in a country which faces, very acutely, the challenges and the opportunities of higher education.”
More than 230 people will attend the annual conference of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth in Windhoek from 28 to 30 August.
Professor Unterhalter added that the conference is also an important opportunity to review the relationship between institutes of higher education and employers. She also praised the Commonwealth’s ability to bring people together to discuss some of the most pressing challenges.
“There’s a huge research agenda which I hope the conference will start to map out. In particular, there’s a huge need for people to understand where each is coming from, as too often those groups talk past one another. We need to respect that and try and build the kind of capacity to translate and communicate, which I think has always been one of the things that the Commonwealth has been really great at doing.”
For Professor Unterhalter, higher education and employability must be regarded as a partnership, and she believes the conference will make an important contribution to the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers next year.