Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in East Africa have been severly hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many institutions in the region are facing financial challenges as a consequence and responding with cost-cutting measures. The pandemic also exacerbated the digital divide within the region and between the sexes. These are the results of a “Report on the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education in the East African Community (EAC)” funded by the Digital Skills for an Innovative East African Industry (dSkills@EA). You can download the report below.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only been a challenge to the entire globe but also to learning institutions. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the East African region are no exception to the negative effects of the pandemic. The pandemic has exacerbated the region’s HEIs’ heavy reliance on tuition to finance their operations. Consequently, many HEIs in the region are experiencing financial distress. As a result, many of them have instituted cost-cutting measures including salary cuts, increasing workload for their staff, among other measures.
In terms of continuity in teaching and learning, the HEIs in the region have shown great resilience in that most of them successfully transitioned into eLearning with basic ICT infrastructure. The COVID-19 driven eLearning implemented in the region has caused or exposed a digital divide arising from differences in access to the internet, affordability of ICT gadgets, and ICT skills. The pandemic has also caused a gender divide in relation to access to education, as male and female students have been impacted differentially. For female students, early marriages have been a major cause of disruption in their education. For male students, drug use and the need to engage in alternative sources of income have caused disruption in their education.
The pandemic has negatively impacted HEIs’ research activities, mainly because of restricted human movement and reduced research funding. The reduced research activities will have implications on HEIs’ rankings.
Collaborative initiatives with both the industry and other institutions of higher learning have also been negatively impacted. This will have negative implications on the integration of education standards in the region. Further, reduced collaborations with the industry have the implication of continued isolation of HEIs from the industry, yet the HEIs should be training their students for the same industry.
On a positive note, the pandemic has seen an increase in the number of HEIs’ students venturing into business. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also seen a reduction in the number of students’ business ideas being linked with the industry. At the same time, due to the pandemic, there has been a reduction in the internal funding of business incubation centres and in the number of business mentors willing to help students develop their business ideas.
The research and report were funded by the Digital Skills for an Innovative East African Industry (dSkills@EA) and implemented through a consultancy arrangement in collaboration with the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA). The project implementation team was composed of the following members: Prof Abraham K. Waithima, Director at the Daystar Leadership and Professional Development Institute at Daystar University in Kenya, and Dr. James Karau, Senior Lecturer at Machakos University, likewise of Kenya. IUCEA and GIZ have provided the quality assurance service in the project.