The African Scholars & Institutions Initiative
It is of concern that while Africa has approximately 18% of the world’s child population, African scholarly leadership accounts for much less than 1% of all published international literature on children, their care, and their development. This initiative grows out of many inter-related activities, all connected by a commitment to promote advanced scholarly work that supports children’s well-being.
Survey and Compilation of Tertiary ECD Programs in SSA
In order to document which institutions across sub-Saharan Africa offered child development and/or ECD courses and educational programs, two surveys were conducted:
- in 2010, a survey of the east and southern regions was undertaken with support from the UNICEF-East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO), followed by a 2.5 day workshop that brought a junior and senior scholar from one institution in each of 12 countries to discuss ways to promote research and scholarly work in their countries; and
- in 2012, a second survey was undertaken in cooperation with UNESCO/BREDA office in Dakar to compile data from the western and central Africa region (WCAR).
The data analyzed from these surveys identified the gaps and strengths in ECD in SSA’s post-secondary sector. A summary of the data compiled, a summary of key findings (executive summary) and the full report can be viewed here:
1. February 2009: Victoria, Canada Funded by: Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) & ECDVU.
This one-week workshop was attended by 10 world renowned early childhood and child development scholars. The majority were known for their work in Africa, but several were specifically invited for their expertise in advancing ECD and child development research in other developing regions of the world. The SRCD proposal (Marfo & Pence, 2008) for the workshop noted: “[The proposal] is designed to help advance ECD, and child development more broadly, that is inclusive of African perspectives, priorities, values and scholarly leaders…This is not simply an African problem; left unaddressed, the under-representation of perspectives from other cultures places profound limitations in claims about the existence of a global developmental science knowledge base.” Papers from the event were published in the well-respected Child Development Perspectives journal.
2. July 2010: Lusaka, Zambia Funded by: UNICEF ESARO.
This 2.5 day workshop was a joint ECDVU-AS&I and UNICEF-ESARO supported event. The organizer (Alan Pence) invited a junior and a senior scholar from 12 African countries to participate in an investigation regarding what would be required at an institutional and individual level to support African scholars’ voices being heard internationally. The workshop was led by Pence and J. Anamuah-Mensah, former V.C. of the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana.
3. February 2013: Johannesburg, RSA Funded by: Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA).
23 scholars from 18 African countries participated in this workshop that worked towards, amongst other things, determining key research priorities in SSA. These priorities included:
- Indigenous language, knowledge and play
- Involvement of local communities, and issues relating to parents
- Developmental assessment, including concerns re cultural appropriateness
- Identification and inclusion of children with special needs
4. August 2013: Lusaka, Zambia Funded by: Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA)
A need identified at the Johannesburg workshop was the collaboration of African scholars to create regional, ‘multi-country/institution’ research proposals to submit for joint funding. The workshop was successful in identifying key features of a multi-country proposal, but funding to advance the work beyond initial stages of agreement on focus and methodology were not forthcoming. Such a pattern of international donor disinterest in supporting researach focused on locally identified priorities and led by locally knowledgeable scholars was noted at both the 2009, 2010 and 2013 workshops.
5. January 2015: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Funded as a piggy-back activity on an AKU-IED & ECDVU project reporting and conclusion activity.
The fertile exchange of ideas experience at the Johannesburg-SSA and Lusaka-Regional SSA workshops led to plans for an East African workshop, with key scholars from 5 SSA countries attending. As in Johannesburg and Lusaka, the exchanges and planning went well, but efforts to secure funds to move from a preliminary to a ready-to-submit stage were not forthcoming. Efforts to secure funding for ‘from drawing board through implementation’ are on-going, (but unfortunately fall under the category of ‘hope burns eternal’…).
6. October 2016: Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire Funded as a piggy-back activity on a U.S. Academies of Sciences iYCG Forum, with support from the Foundation for Open Society Institute (FOSI), EQUAL project NYU, AKU-IHD, ECDVU-UVic and the Africa Early Childhood Network (AfECN).
This unique African Scholars workshop brought together key groups (identified above) in support of a collaborative workshop designed to advance interests and objectives shared by the supporting organizations. Twenty-one participants from 10 West, Central and East Africa countries participated in the 2.5 day workshop.
7. January 2018: Pretoria, South Africa Funded through residual funds from the Foundation for Open Society Institute.
This key meeting brought together leaders and/or participants from a number of key, scholarly capacity promoting networks and organizations active in sub-Saharan Africa, several of which merged in the post-Abidjan workshop period. The objective of this workshop/meeting was to share current activities and to explore possibilities for enhanced coordination and potential synergies across initiatives.