Wednesday 27 November 2019

The Association of Commonwealth Universities participates prominently at COVIDSET 2019 in Zimbabwe

by Prof. Dr Johnny Ogunji
Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State, Nigeria

The African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI), established a biannual conference of Vice-Chancellors, Deans of Science, Engineering and Technology (COVIDSET) as a forum for university leaders responsible for science and engineering education to meet and dialogue on strategic issues in science and engineering education.1 COVIDSET is a forum both for the exchange of ideas and experiences as well as for the sensitization of university leaders on trends in science and engineering education in the region and globally. 

The conference provides a platform for university leaders, policymakers, development partners, international scientific and engineering networks and the private sector to exchange ideas, examine challenges and opportunities, explore solutions and forge ahead to ensure the relevance of these fields in our new and changing world”.2 Organisations and agencies involved in Higher Education and the promotion of Science and Technology in Africa are also invited to participate in the conference.

The first edition, COVIDSET 2005, was held in Accra, Ghana, from 15-17 November 2005. The 7th African Regional Conference of Vice Chancellors and Deans of Science, Education, Engineering and Technology (COVIDSET) was just hosted by Bindura University of Science Education Zimbabwe in collaboration with UNESCO and ANSTI from the 20 to 21 November 2019. The theme of the conference was “Promoting Innovation and the Industrialisation of Africa through Quality STEM education”. It took place at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Interestingly, the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) participated prominently at the conference. Johnny Ogunji, Ben Prasadam-Halls and Verity Buckley contributed a paper titled “Strengthening Research in Africa and Improving the Competences of African Researchers: Lessons from Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa”. The paper was put together to address Objective 2 of the conference: “Strengthening/Enhancing capacity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education to achieve the New Development agendas (African Union Agenda 2063, STISA 2024); (Linkages and Partnership, Research funding, relevant programmes, Human Capital development, Value addition)”.

The African Union (AU) Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA-2024) places science, technology and innovation at the epicentre of Africa’s socio-economic development and growth. The STISA-2024 is the first of the ten-year incremental phasing strategies to respond to the demand for science, technology and innovation to impact across critical sectors such as agriculture, energy, environment, health, infrastructure development, mining, security and water among others. The strategy is firmly anchored on six distinct priority areas that contribute to the achievement of the AU Vision. These priority areas are: Eradication of Hunger and Achieving Food Security; Prevention and Control of Diseases; Communication (Physical and Intellectual Mobility); Protection of our Space; Live Together- Build the Society; and Wealth Creation

Participants to the 7th African Regional Conference of Vice Chancellors and Deans of Science, Education, Engineering and Technology (COVIDSET) in Zimbabwe
While reading the paper, Johnny Ogunji presented the outcome of several projects of ACU, targeted at strengthening research in Africa and improving the competences of African Researchers. Some of these include: The Nairobi process, the Structured Training for African Researchers (STARS) project and the Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement in Sub-Saharan Africa programme (CIRCLE). He pointed out that ACU through CIRCLE worked with participating institutions to develop better professional development systems for early career research staff via the CIRCLE Institutional Strengthening Programme (ISP). To make the engagement of researchers more effective, the CIRCLE lens was applied to the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) to guide the wider programme.
Prof. Dr Johnny Ogunji presenting the ACU paper
The Vitae RDF is an internationally recognized framework for the development of researchers’ competencies, encompassing the diversity of skills required to create excellent research with impact. In order to share learning from CIRCLE, a series of Six ISP Good Practice Guides outlining how to design, deliver and monitor an ISP at any institution were produced. On the other hand, while prosecuting STARS, ACU developed a robust, high quality series of nine online modules to universities across the developing world. The courses covered topics such as identifying your research niche, finding funding, managing research projects, time management, building effective collaborations and partnerships, communicating findings to non-academic audiences, academic ethics and research supervision. This will help to bolster the next generation of academic staff in Africa and strengthen the long-term vitality of their research and teaching.
In addition to the paper presentation Johnny Ogunji took part in a panel discussion of the Conference theme. During these presentations he emphasised the importance of Universities and researchers in Africa to key into and make use of the RDF as a very important instrument that will improve technical and professional competencies of researchers. He also stressed that institutions should adopt the Institutional Strengthening Program (ISP) of ACU to make real progress and enhance science, technology and innovation to bring about Africa’s socio-economic development and growth. He invited any University that needs help from ACU to indicate interest since ACU is willing to give assistance.

Prof. Dr Johnny Ogunji participating in the panel discussion at the conference

The Organizers were very excited by the participation of ACU in the Conference. During the vote of thanks, the organizers thanked the ACU alongside other companies and institutions for supporting the Conference. Prof. Dr Johnny Ogunji at the end of the conference was granted an interview with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Coorpration where he further advanced the course of ACU.

It was a good thing that ACU participated at the Conference. Many attending Universities have indicated interest to become members of ACU in due course. ACU is appreciated for sponsoring Johnny Ogunji to the Conference.




No comments:

Post a Comment