By Kester Kenn Klomegah
As federal government scholarships are highly limited, Russia’s educational institutions are ready to train more and more specialists on a tuition-paying basis for Africa.
There are plans to boost the number of African students, but currently, approximately 60% of the total African students are on private contracts in the Russian Federation.
“The present and the future of Russia-Africa relations is not about charity, it’s about co-development,” stated Evgeny Primakov, Head of the Russian Federal Agency for International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo), and also a member of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum.
The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum was created last year and it works under the Russian Foreign Ministry. It has, under its aegis, three coordination councils namely business, public and scientific councils. Primakov heads the humanitarian council that deals with education and humanitarian questions for the Foreign Ministry.
While talking about initiatives especially the sphere of education in the relationship between Russia and Africa, Primakov explicitly pointed the changing state of affairs in education and added that the number of Russian state scholarships for African citizens – for the whole continent made up of 54 African countries – has only increased from 1765 in 2019 to 1843 in 2020. At the same time, the number of applications submitted has decreased.
According to Primakov, due to the coronavirus outbreak, some African governments have decided not to launch the application campaign for Russian universities for the academic year 2020/2021 as there are difficulties with transportation, safety, and financing scholarships allocated in the African state’s budget.
He, further, mentioned that the Russian system of higher education needs to be adapted to the new realities so that it could gain more value on the international market.
Reports made available indicate that the Russian Federal Agency for International Humanitarian Cooperation currently operates eight representative offices in Africa: Egypt, Zambia, Morocco, Republic of the Congo, Tunisia, Tanzania, Ethiopia and South Africa.
During Russia-Africa inter-party conference held in late March 2021, under the theme “Russia – Africa: Reviving Traditions” which was organized and hosted by the United Russia Party, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered an assuring signal in his speech that Russia is stepping up efforts to engage in multifaceted developments with Africa.
That Russia has a lot to offer to African countries in terms of mutually beneficial cooperation as it traditionally maintains very close relations with many of these countries in the continent.
Lavrov told the online gathering “in the past few years, Russia-Africa cooperation has been noticeably stepped up. We are deepening our political dialogue, developing inter-parliamentary ties, promoting cooperation between ministries and departments and expanding scientific and humanitarian exchanges.”
With the education and training of specialists for Africa, Lavrov said that “over 27,000 African students study in Russian universities.” Understandably, this represents a significant increase of 9,000 students, up from approximate 18,000 as the given figure in October 2019.
Just about four or five months after the first Russia-Africa summit, World Health Organization(WHO) declared a coronavirus pandemic, nearly all countries locked down and civilian (passenger) air transport or aviation links completely paralyzed throughout 2020.
Statistics on African students are, in fact, still staggering. When contacted, Russia’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education declined to give the current substantive figure for Africa.
In a transcript posted to the official website, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, answering questions at a meeting with the students and staff of Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) University, in September 2019, nearly two months before the Sochi summit, pointed out that there were 15,000 Africans studying in Russia, and about a third (that is 5,000) of them had received scholarships provided by the Russian state.
That same year during the inter-parliamentary conference, Chairman of the State Duma, Viacheslav Volodin, was convinced that cultural and educational cooperation could be equally important areas that needed to be developed and intensified in Russian-African relations.
Volodin further suggested to continue discussing the issues of harmonizing legislation in the scientific and educational spheres and reminded us that hundreds of thousands of African students studied in the Soviet Union and Russia and that approximately 17,000 African students, the majority of them on private contracts, were studying in the Russian Federation.
On June 21, 2019, Dmitry Medvedev spoke at the opening of the 26th annual shareholders’ meeting of the African Export-Import Bank. One of the aspects of the relationships, he mentioned educational projects as particularly important and informed that 17,000 African students are studying in Russia, but hope that this figure will increase in future.
“Friends, of course, we can achieve more in all areas. We simply need to know each other better and be more open to one another,” he stressed in his speech.
In addition to the above, Professor Vladimir Filippov, Rector of the Russian University of People’s Friendship (RUDN), formerly Patrice Lumumba Friendship University, has underscored the fact that social attitudes toward foreigners first have to change positively, the need to create a multicultural learning environment, then the need to expand and deepen scientific ties between Russia and Africa.
Established in 1960 to provide higher education to Third World students, it later became an integral part of the Soviet cultural offensive in non-aligned countries. His university has gained international popularity as an educational and research institution located in southwest Moscow.
In order to earn revenue, Russia’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education has already launched a large-scale educational campaign abroad targeting to recruit private foreign students on tuition-paying contract annually into its educational institutions across the Russian Federation.
Experts from the Moscow based Center for Strategic Research indicated in an interview with this foreign correspondent that the percentage of Russian universities on the world market is considerably low. Due to this, there is a rare need to develop Russian education export opportunities, take progressive measures to raise interest in Russian education among foreigners.
As part of the renewed interest in Africa, Russia has been working on opportunities and diverse ways to increase the number of students, especially tuition-paying agreements for children of the growing elite families and middle-class from African countries at Russian universities.
Worth recalling that Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his greetings to all African leaders and participants of the first Russia-Africa Summit published on the Kremlin website in October that year, that the summit would help identify new areas and forms of cooperation, put forward promising joint initiatives. Further hoped it would bring the collaboration between Russia and Africa to a qualitatively new level and contribute to the development of our economies and the prosperity for both parties.
Later at the plenary session, Putin reiterated that by the mid-1980s, Russia had built about a hundred educational establishments in Africa and half a million Africans have been trained for work at industrial companies and agricultural facilities in African countries. And that 17,000 Africans, including some 4,000 who on federal scholarships, were studying here in the Russian Federation.
It is worthy to say that Putin specifically noted the good dynamics of specialist training and education in Russian educational institutions for African countries. Russian and African participants mapped out broad initiatives in the sphere of education during the first Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi.
For the joint work, there was a final joint declaration, adopted by the participants after the Sochi summit. The document outlines a set of goals and objectives for the further development of Russian-African cooperation. The next Russia-Africa Summit, venue to be decided by African leaders, is planned for 2022.
Nexford University Raises $10.8m for Education Accessibility
By Adedapo Adesanya
Nexford University, an online learning platform that offers next-generation learning experiences, has secured a $10.8 million Series A fund.
The funding round was led by Dubai-based VC Global Ventures and other investors including Future Africa’s new thematic fund (focused on education), angel investors, family offices and unnamed VCs from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Dubai, Switzerland, Qatar, Nigeria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
The latest round brings the total funds raised by the company to $15.3 million, following a $4.5 million seed funding gotten in 2019.
The online school offers undergraduate degrees in business administration; 360° marketing; Artificial Intelligence & automation; building a tech startup; business analytics; business in emerging markets; digital transformation; e-commerce; and product management.
Its graduate degrees are business administration, advanced AI, e-commerce, hyperconnectivity, sustainability, and world business. Students study at their own pace once they get admitted into the school
The tuition structure is different from traditional universities. Its accredited degrees cost between $3,000 to $4,000 paid in monthly instalments.
In Nigeria, for instance, an MBA costs about $160 a month, while a bachelor’s degree costs $80 a month. The faster a learner graduates, the less they pay.
Nexford University has learners from 70 countries, with Nigeria being its biggest market. The school also has blue-chip partnerships with Microsoft, LinkedIn Learning, and IBM to provide access to tools, courses, and programs to improve the learning experience.
Speaking on the development, Mr Fadl Al Tarzi, CEO of Nexford University, “In 2021, it is not acceptable for less than 10 per cent of the world population to have a college degree, or for student debt in the US to be over $1.6 trillion. Now, with additional funding, we can invest in the technology and teams required to address these challenges.”
Adding his input, Mr Iyin Aboyeji, Future Africa’s founder and general partner, called the company a game-changer for higher education in Africa because it focused on the future of learning.
“During the pandemic, while many universities in Nigeria were shut down due to labour disputes, Nexford was already delivering an innovative and affordable new model of online higher education designed for a skills-based economy,” Mr Aboyeji said.
Launched in 2019 by Mr Fadl Al Tarzi, Nexford University is filling affordability and relevance gaps by providing access to quality and affordable education.
Nexford University is a Washington-based, tech-enabled institution that leverages machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to create a data and skills-driven curriculum.
The university was founded on the beliefs that a lack of education is the root cause of most world challenges and that people should be able to access economic opportunities irrespective of physical location.
Baptist Girls Academy Wins CIIN Quiz Competition
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Baptist Girls Academy defeated four other schools to clinch the 2021 edition of the Secondary Schools Quiz Competition organised by the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN).
The second position was taken by Reagan Memorial while International School Lagos, came third, with Baptist Academy and Gideon International School taking the fourth fifth positions respectively.
Speaking on the competition, the President/Chairman of CIIN, Mr Muftau Oyegunle, said the quiz competition was borne out of the organisation’s desire to enlighten and introduce young minds to the amazing world of insurance.
He explained that the initiative is also aimed at promoting the significance of underwriting in humans’ daily lives, community development, poverty elimination, economic advancement and world peace.
“Insurance ensures that we have adequate safety nets against the misfortunes of life by providing compensation for its customers that enable them to survive the adversities of life.
“Hence, insurance provides us with a means of protecting ourselves and our families from unexpected but possible financial losses while also enhancing the capacity to build wealth,” Mr Oyegunle said.
He charged the students to consider insurance as a choice of career as the industry could do with the brightest minds the country has to offer.
“This competition is designed to create awareness amongst you, the young adults, who we consider the future of our industry, about the importance of insurance as a service and the career opportunities it offers to students like you.
“It is my belief that whatever you have learnt in preparation for the competition shall impact your lives positively. Similarly, the knowledge and information you receive here today would assist you in your carrier choice,” he said.
The insurance expert expressed hope that the students would maximize the opportunities which the competition provides and make insurance their course of first choice when going into the university.
He submitted that the competition was not all about winning but also about having fun while learning more about the sector.
Entries Open for QuickLearning Mathematics Contest
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Students who want to test their Mathematics prowess can begin to register for the QuickLearning Mathematics Contest (QLMC) Nigeria.
The organisers said intending participants have till Sunday, July 4, 2021, to enter the competition and entry into the competition is absolutely free with over N3 million cash prizes will be won.
QLMC Nigeria is open to JSS3 students attending full-time secondary education in both public and private schools in Nigeria and registration for the competition, which are in two stages: Stage One is the Qualifying Online Examination and Stage Two the TV Quiz Show, is going online at www.mathematics.quicklearning.africa
It was disclosed that for the 2020/21 maiden season of QLMC Nigeria, each school is allowed to register a minimum of five or a maximum of 20 of their best JSS3 math students, irrespective of their gender, religion, or state of origin, to write the online qualifying examination. This is to expose as many students as possible to computer-based testing methods at an early stage in life.
The qualifying examination will be on the QuickCBT platform which the students can write from anywhere, such as their schools, homes, or café using their laptops or smartphones thereby providing flexibility.
The idea is to encourage good participation without exposing the students to various hazards such as travel, logistics and health risks.
From the large number of students that are expected to write the qualifying examination, only the best 54 based on scores earned will be selected for the next stage – TV Quiz show for the ultimate prize (students and teachers) and bragging rights of ‘The Quicklearning Mathematics Champion, Nigeria’.
The contest, which is mainly for critical thinking math geniuses in secondary schools in Nigeria, is being packaged by JustMedia, Africa’s foremost developer of educational quizzes.
The organisers noted that there is a need to close the gap between the critical thinking ability of average African students and their peers across the globe.
QLMC Nigeria is a school-based mathematics competition for secondary school students across Nigeria specifically designed to identify, reward outstanding students and help highlight the benefits of critical thinking to solve everyday challenges.
It was disclosed that to assist the participants, all JSS3 students, including the duly registered students for the exam, will be offered free prep classes (weekend online classes manned by reputable math tutors) to help them prepare for the highly competitive qualifying exams with the support of the National Examination Council (NECO).
The free prep classes will be delivered on the Quicklearning platform, a secure e-learning platform for curriculum-based after-school studies, exam coaching and vocational studies.
The Quicklearning App is designed to deliver safe, high quality, online real-time, user-friendly, affordable and accessible interfaces between students and tutors.
Quicklearning offers unique features such as a secure teaching platform for students, a pool of verified competent tutors, a wide range of school subjects/curriculum, hobbies, periodic evaluation/aptitude tests with over 350,000 past questions – objective, theory and answers of major examinations, homework assistance and scholarships for outstanding students.
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