Universities in Africa must stand up for merit not political patronage

I studied in a British University-in London so I have no qualms of whatever African Universities do but as an African I feel concerned. When I hear cries all over the continent about bad Universities I get concerned. In Kenya and Nigeria, we have heard reports that universities just dish out academic papers to people who did not deserve them.

Likewise, awards in Africa have become controversial and universities have not been spared either. Universities are founded on merit and can really work if they are true meritocracies, awarding honors on merit and valor should hang around these institutions of higher learning like a cloud.

Our African universities need adhere to higher standards, more merit, not less. They need to make decisions, confer honors and name institutions within their jurisdiction in a way that will not create the cloud of doubt over merit.

It’s a great pity, of course, when our universities choose to celebrate villains. The truth is that today in almost all African universities, things have changed. Authorities have avoided impeccable academic and political accomplishments and resorted to political patronage.

If instead, we remain in denial about such Pan-African and historical neglect of our great academicians, we will only end up doing irreparable damage to our universities. Given that the era of African liberation has seen a huge downward adjustment of the school system. The last thing we should do is further depress university standards.

It is therefore extremely odd – and somewhat disturbing – to find a university vice-chancellor in Africa delivering a philippic decision against merit and meritocracy almost in principle. The truth is that most Universities in Africa have been taken over by MAFIAS.

Africa has never had a shortage of heroes and heroines. Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkurumah , Gamal Abdel Nasser, Robert Mugabe, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, Thomas Sankara, John Garang, and Nelson Mandela are living legends. The symbols of Africa. Freedom fighters. The most recognisable faces in the world.

In Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah envisaged the African Union long before it became a reality. His footprints
are still blueprinting for us to follow. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, a fearless Pan-Africanist of recent times fought for the land which belonged to his ancestors. They all remain Heroes in Africa.

Wole Soyinka Nigerian intellectual and writer, the first African Nobel Laureate in literature, excelling as a playwright, poet, and novelist – a vocal critic of Nigerian politics. These are just but a few scholars and founding fathers who deserve meritocracy honors by our institutions.

Anything that falls below the bar set by these African heroes is a gross insult to intellectualism and meritocracy. Our African universities should not lower the bar of meritocracy to accommodate shady individuals who reek of impunity and irreparable reputation in their institutions.

The writer is the Chairman of the founder and Chairman of Punchline Africa TV

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