Kenya, Kisumu- Hosted by Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, the First Pan African International Research Congress on Knowledge Generation and Dissemination (PAIRC 2018) Kick started with a round table session by Vice-Chancellors, academics and representatives from various African Universities.
The Vice-Chancellors round table session took place on Monday, 18 June 2018 at Grand Royal Swiss Hotel in Kisumu, Kenya under the theme ‘Harnessing Research Output for Sustainable Development’. This round table discussion considered critical issues relating to challenges faced by African researchers and institutions of higher learning.
The focus of the presentations and discussions were on collaboration and networking of African universities to promote and share knowledge emerging from the scientific research and how it can influence development in Africa in line with the Millennium Development Goals. Besides the Vice-Chancellors, other participants in the symposium included deputy vice-chancellors, professors, deans and directors from the partner universities. Other participants included research and development institutions. These institutions shared their work and role in the promotion of research and knowledge dissemination within the development framework agenda for Africa.
Photo Above: Prof Eng. Frederick Otieno, Vice-Chancellor of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST)
Prof Eng. Frederick Otieno, Vice-Chancellor of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) highlighted that, research outputs should be aligned to Millennium Development Goals. One of the reasons cited by academics in limited research activities is the burden of combining teaching as a core function and research. He advised academics to never cease to learn. Prof Eng. Otieno further said African universities have an obligation to disseminate any information which can benefit the society and this includes findings from research they conduct. However, he continued to raise some of the factors restraining research outputs such as lack of adequate budgets for research and equipment.
Photo Above: Dr Elphinah Cishe, Acting Director of the Directorate of Research Development at Walter Sisulu University
Dr Elphinah Cishe, Acting Director of the Directorate of Research Development at Walter Sisulu University, on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor of Walter Sisulu University, Prof Rob Midgely described the three types of South African Universities and their mandates. She continued to speak about the collaboration of the five African Universities and how it started which is traced back in 2016 during the UNIVEN-Walter Sisulu second International Research conference which took place in Polokwane, South Africa. Dr Cishe highlighted the importance of the collaboration of the five universities in research. She also alluded the fact that South African universities are ranked according to research output. In respect of how universities can harness research, she highlighted that it is important for research to inform policies and contribute towards development. “As a result, universities should ensure that research findings are communicated with the affected communities.” She reiterated that this collaboration of the five universities should influence development in the continent.
Photo Above: UNIVEN Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Senior Prof Base Khoza
Addressing the delegates, the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Senior Prof Base Khoza on behalf of Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Venda Prof Jan Crafford said that harnessing becomes too complex to answer the how part. However, she said that institutions should go back and determine as to how they could harness research. She further shared the importance of incentives in research in order to boost the morale of the researchers. The University of Venda introduced the Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Awards to reward the best performing researchers which also led to the increase of the research output. In order to achieve student throughput, Masters and PhD students were encouraged to complete their studies within stipulated time. She acknowledged that the experiences and challenges presented during the Vice- Chancellors’ round table session are universal. She also shared with the delegates the increase of graduation throughput wherein in 2017 alone Univen graduated 39 PhD candidates.
Photo Above: Deputy Vice-Chancellor of MMUST and Vice-Chancellors’ session Chairperson, Professor William Shivoga
The Vice-Chancellors’ session chairperson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of MMUST, Professor William Shivoga acknowledged the presence of the former Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Venda, Prof Peter Mbati who was instrumental when the First Pan African Congress was conceptualized in 2016. Professor Mbati is now the Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor Academics and Quality, at Botho University in Botswana.
There were presentations from other African institutions which confirmed that African institutions share common research challenges.