By Vision Reporter
in Libreville, Gabon
AFRICAN Development Bank has called for a refocus on higher education and announced a policy shift in its future financing to emphasise the higher educational sub-sector, science, technology and research.
The bankâ€™s vice president Zeinab El Bakri told the on-going education conference in Libreville, Gabon that higher education plays an important role in socio-economic transformation and effective learning at lower levels, but has for years been neglected.
â€œWe need to envisage a return to the holistic approach to the development of education systems, where the interaction between different levels can lead to improved quality,â€ Bakri said.
While saying the bank, which has since 1975 disbursed over US$3b towards educational programmes, will continue supporting the sector, Bakri said they hope to increase support to higher education and science and technology, particularly for relevant education and research that will contribute to poverty reduction and economic growth.
â€œWe all know that investing in higher education, science and technology and research has a positive impact on economic growth and poverty reduction,â€ Bakri said.
â€œThe East Asian example is there for us all to learn from. Focusing on higher education is also important for capacity building in public administration but it should not be done at the detriment of quality basic education for all. The challenge is how to find a balance between the two, given our resource constraints,â€ she added.
African ministers of education are among the 400 participants attending the five-day biennial of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA). Ugandaâ€™s delegation is led by education minister Namirembe Bitamazire.
Bakri said the conference theme, Effective Schools and Effective Learning, would be difficult to achieve without heavy investment in higher education. â€œEffective schools require sustained financial resources and adequate capacity and skills. The latter can only be furnished through investment in effective higher education systems, a sub-sector that has long been neglected by development partners and governments,â€ Bakri said.
In Uganda, 65% of the education sector budget is spent on the primary sub-sector and less than 15% on higher education, but Bitamazire denied the sector was neglected.
She said the government was refocusing its attention on higher education now that Universal primary Education had taken root.
Bitamazire said the proposed introduction of Universal Secondary Education and the change in government scholarships to focus on university programmes considered critical for economic developments were cases in point.