Wednesday, June 19, 2024

UB Political Science failing to aid Botswana’s democracy – study

A study published earlier this year in the journal Higher Education confirms concerns that the University of Botswana is failing to create knowledge that would contribute to the development of Botswana.

According to the Act setting up the University of Botswana, the aim was “to provide higher education, to undertake research, to disseminate knowledge and to foster relationships with outside persons and bodies.”

study, ‘The unofficial curriculum is where the real teaching takes place: Faculty experiences of decolonising the curriculum in Africa’, published earlier in 2023 in the journal Higher Education, Dr Liisa Laakso, a senior researcher at The Nordic Africa Institute and Dr Kajsa Hallberg Adu, a researcher at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, however found that at the University of Botswana, “courses like political theory were still anchored in Western traditional political philosophy and lacked applied local research.”

The researchers interviewed 26 political science academics currently teaching at universities in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and Zimbabwe and their main objective was to establish what is being studied and taught about African political systems, African political thinkers, resources of political science, as well as employment opportunities for graduates in political science.

“A professor in Botswana recalled that an external reviewer of their curriculum had found it to be too Eurocentric and all faculty agreed that there had been very little change,” stated the study.

The reviewer reported that “90% of literature are books by North American and British authors and, what makes me sad is that they are writing about us, not for us”. He continued: “They are writing about us for their own audience and yet we have our own people who can write about us for us.”

But, whereas a lecturer in Botswana said lecturers had been teaching the same curriculum for years, a Kenyan interviewee described a hidden curriculum in political science.

“We usually have what we call the official curriculum and the unofficial part of it, as a lot of decolonisation takes place at the unofficial curriculum level, which is where the real teaching takes place,” said the lecturer.

In his explanation, he said: “It is not something very explicit, but you will not see it in the course outline, as that academic exposition, most of it, takes place in the classroom.”

Commenting on the lack of locally produced textbooks on the discipline, the lecturers often cited high teaching loads, large classes, unavailable national funding for research and volatile international funding that have constrained the ability of scholars to concentrate on research.

“Others complained that they have been unable to transform their research into high-impact publications or textbooks,” stated the study.
A report carried in University World News Africa Edition this weeks stated that, “ what emerges from the study is that political science teaching in universities in Africa and, more so in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, cannot abdicate the responsibility of analysing in academic theatres the colonial legacy of military coups, as well as economic and cultural dependency.

“In this context, political scientists in African universities are yet to produce quantity and quality research publications and books on conditions that give rise to many dictatorial and undemocratic regimes in Sub-Saharan Africa, or the roots of extremist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabaab in the Horn of Africa and affiliates of al-Queda and Islamic State.
“African political science students are still waiting for well-researched political books by local political scientists on the political agenda of brutal characters like Idi Amin of Uganda, Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central Africa Republic and Mengistu Haile-Mariam of Ethiopia that clung to power for so long in their countries, killed many people and eventually escaped justice.”

An independent investigation by the Sunday Standard confirmed that the University of Botswana Social Science Department’s impact as measured by SCOPUS falls far below the international standard.

Political Science Professor David Sebudu has a Scopus h-index of 4, which is the highest in the department. This is by far below the average international h-index for professors according to an academic study (Am J Clin Pathol 2019;151:286-91) which found that, on average, associate professors  have an h- index of 6-10 and full professors 12-24. This means Professor David Sebudubudu’s Scopus H-Index is below the international average for associate professors.

Professor Emmanue Botlhale on the other hand has an h-index of 3 while associate Professors Hazel Lekorwe and Dorothy Mpabanga have a Scopus h-index of 1 each.

The h-index is a means of measuring academics’ impact on their field, determined from two quantities: the number of publications they have and the number of times those publications have been cited. The h-index is the intersection of productivity (papers published) and recognition (citations). The higher the h-index, the greater a scientist’s academic footprint.

But why insist on Scopus?

This is largely because the academic world of education has given importance to Scopus index. Many universities favour Scopus when their academics seek promotion and present their publication record. Hence, authors seek journals with this indexing. Demand has, in some ways, led to its preferred status in this field. But there is a sound reason behind what might seem an arbitrary choice of indexing agency: academic rigour.

Scopus is an “abstract and citation indexing database of peer-reviewed literature: scientific journals, books and conference proceedings which requires peer review to be an integral component of anything indexed with it. There are also many other requirements that must be met by any journal seeking indexing. Some of these requirements are:

§  diversity in the geographical location of editors and authors;

§  academic contribution to the field;

§  quality of content;

§  publishing regularity.

In addition to meeting these requirements for initial indexing, the journals are re-evaluated each year and must demonstrate that they still meet the requirements. Thus, it behoves any indexed journal to also maintain academic rigour in the articles that it accepts. Journals are also evaluated on their citation statistics: it is important that published articles are cited.

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