For many, the thought of the African continent leading a revolution in education may be far off, but this generation could be the one that witnesses Africa reaching this milestone. On Friday, November 13, two revolutionaries: political and human rights activist, Graça Machel, and serial entrepreneur, Fred Swaniker, led a conversation in Lagos and shared their vision to make Africa the hub of innovative education models and partnerships.
Graça Machel is the Founder of Graça Machel Trust, which partners with organisations working to improve the future of children, advocates for the financial inclusion of women, and supports women in political participation and leadership. Her work is grounded by her experience as the first Minister of Education in Mozambique where she improved literacy rates by 20 percent through combining innovative community engagement models, in and out of the classroom. Speaking about the future of education models that she sees as having potential for tremendous impact, she said: “We need to culturally ground students in what it means to be African. They must graduate thinking about impact on a Pan-African level, not just their country.”
ALU Founder, Fred Swaniker, is making Machel’s vision a reality, by building the University of the Future. His vision is to build a network of universities which will develop 250,000 young leaders and entrepreneurs for Africa, with a vision to have five of those universities built in Nigeria.
In 2013, 1.7 million students competed for 500,000 spots in Nigeria’s centralized tertiary admissions examinations. The dearth of higher education opportunities in Africa’s largest nation is exacerbated by the fact that university graduates make up 20 percent of youth unemployment and often remain unemployed for upward of five years after graduation. There is clearly a large need in Nigeria and across the continent for governments and the private sector to partner and re-think university access, and for universities to dramatically revolutionize how they prepare students not just for the job market but to become future job creators.
Swaniker describes ALU as blurring the line between tertiary education and “the real professional world”. ALU curates the best courses globally and combines them with Africa-relevant courses such as Entrepreneurial Leadership and Employer Courses to prepare students for success as professional leaders and entrepreneurs. Coupled with innovative technologies and student-driven learning techniques, ALU is creating an environment where future leaders of Africa can develop the necessary critical thinking skills and intrinsic motivation to succeed in jobs that haven’t even been created yet.
Ngosa Chungu, an award winning Zambian film maker who was in attendance, posed a challenge to the panel to consider how tertiary education institutions can strengthen Africa’s creative industry and alternative careers. In response, Swaniker said that arts and culture are a vital part of society and that Africa has great potential to develop a creative industry. He however added that we need to equip those who study arts with entrepreneurial skills as well, so that they can actually make a living from their craft, while contributing to enhancing our culture.
In speaking about the need for world class learning models and standards, Swaniker said: “Our standards have to be so much higher than the rest of the world because we are far behind. That’s the only way we will catch up.”
By building affordable world class institutions which address African challenges, ALU is already on track as a pioneer in the field of revolutionary educational practices that have the potential to become a the new standard for Africa, and even the world.