In our previous discussion with an educationist and second-year Ph.D. candidate studying Political Science and Administration at the Pedagogical University of Kraków in Poland, he argued that it was not serious to talk about higher education in the 21st century without institutions owning and hosting online libraries.

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, who founded the Africa Online & Publications Library, AOPL in that interview, which you can read here, continues to push for more accessibility and usage of advanced research tools across Africa. In this regard, AOPL has launched a call for abstracts.

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D student advocating for STEM disciplines

Our discussion rapidly shifted to the tricky issue of being a consultant for students wishing to study abroad and what programs African students should pursue to meet the exigencies of the international job market. The educationist recommends Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM Disciplines), and raises a debate about the value of the Higher National Diploma (HND) Certificate at the international level. Read on:

Thampers Media: We understand that apart from AOPL, you also manage Ngenge-Postgrad Solutions (NPGS); an application help service that focuses on studying abroad. What concretely do you do?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: This was my first venture as a social entrepreneur, and I have been doing that for close to three years. Ngenge-PostGrad Solutions (NPGS) is a study abroad consultancy firm. NPGS assists students worldwide in choosing study destinations and applying for admissions, scholarships, grants, conferences, bursaries, exchange programmes, and fellowships. On our website, you can find thousands of opportunities that we source and share. You can equally find tips on how to write CVs, statements of intent, and much more. Our contact details are also there for users who need further assistance.

Thampers Media: Why focus on studying abroad, an area some may consider tricky with complaints from many students about how they have been scammed?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: I am passionate about education. I am also aware that interacting with students who want to study abroad, particularly on scholarship, is not always simple. They are often afraid of being scammed and therefore only want to pay after service. Explicitly, the job of a study abroad consultant does not include a promise that the client will gain admission or win a scholarship.

What difference does it make? Photo: Collegepond

As a study abroad consulting firm, our work is to evaluate the credentials of students who approach us to determine whether they have a chance of winning a scholarship or gaining admission, build or review their CVs, write, or review their statements of purpose, review their Ph.D. proposals (for Ph.D. candidates), advise them on preferred study destinations, universities, programme choices and submit their applications. These, among others, are the services they are paying for and not whether they will ultimately get admission or a scholarship.

Thampers Media: Away from the study abroad consultancy that you do, could you make a quick assessment of the African educational system at the university level that it is expected to produce graduates who are expected to develop the continent?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: Some of the metrics used to evaluate the quality of education worldwide include the curricula provided, research impact, the top study destinations, and the employability of graduates. According to the eleventh edition of the QS World University Rankings by Field published on March 4, 2021, seventeen departments in African universities may claim to be among the world’s 100 greatest locations to study their subject.

University Campus Photo: People Daily

Only 22 in six countries were examined for inclusion in the academic list of best study destinations, out of more than 2,000 universities throughout Africa. University of Cape TownUniversity of WitwatersrandThe American University in CairoStellenbosch University, and University of Nairobi are the top five universities in Africa in terms of graduate placement in the labour market after graduation.

Thampers Media: Do you think the curriculum in African educational systems meets the exigencies of world economies or the job markets?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: African universities perform better in the social sciences, arts, and humanities, while just three of the top 100 departments are scientific or technical. Based on the above statistics, my conclusion is that there is work to be done as far as the higher education curriculum in Africa is concerned. This would be both in terms of the choice of courses, design, and implementation.

American University of Cairo, Photo:

Thampers Media: If you were to advise young students in today’s world what field of studies do you think they should engage themselves in?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: As the world becomes more digitalised, I would advise young students in Africa to pursue STEM disciplines. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but it encompasses a much broader range of academic subjects, such as Aerospace Engineering, Astronomy, Biochemistry, Biology, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Psychology, and Statistics.

Note that I do not want to minimise the significance of other academic specialisations in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, since each field has its own importance and use in society. Rather, the objective is to encourage Africa to catch up in those areas where we are still lagging.

STEM Programs. A way forward for Africa? Photo: World Atlas

Thampers Media: Some may claim that study destination, admission procedures, scholarships, etc are all available online and may not be seeing the need to pay for such services. Don’t you share that view?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: We recognise that many people can do these things on their own. We also feel we are in a better position to advise and work with the majority due to our years of expertise and success stories, as well as the fact that two of our team members have received several scholarships.

Thampers Media: NPGS is involved in the writing of statements of interest, cover letters, CVs, or preparing students for TOEFL, etc. Can you say your clients are satisfied?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: Since most of our clients are referrals, I can affirm that most of them are content with the work we do since they would not refer us to others if they were not. That is not to say that everyone who comes to us leaves satisfied, but if they do, we want to make sure it was not our fault. For this reason, before entering into any kind of agreement, we take the time to review their credentials, inform them of their chances and clearly outline what they are paying for.

University Students. Doing your homework or seeking help from consultancies? Photo: DW

Thampers Media: Is this not to encourage what some may consider as laziness on their part and criminal activity at the same time; writing for students?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: I would not use the term criminal because if that were the case, we would consider any commercial transaction, irrespective of the nature, that involves putting ink on paper for someone or providing a service as a criminal activity. In other words, we are just articulating their views in a manner that we feel will increase their chances of being selected for the opportunity(s) for which they are applying.

I would not also term it lazy on their side since not everyone is a good writer both language and structure-wise. What I consider unethical, and criminal is seeing “authors” published without really having contributed anything to the scientific articles but their names. This is widespread in the Cameroonian academic and research space since people engaging in these activities are typically unable to present or defend the research papers they claim to have written.

South African High School Students. Photo: News 24

Thampers Media: What are some of the challenges you have been facing?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: When I first began in December 2019, I did all the work by myself, but we now make up a team of four. Making clients understand what they are truly paying for is one of the toughest hurdles, in my opinion, since they often approach us thinking that they are paying us to secure their admission or a scholarship. Time management and consistency in sourcing and sharing study abroad opportunities are further difficulties.

Thampers Media: You are a student and you informed us that your Ph.D. dissertation is entitled “A novel approach to higher education policy orientation in Africa”. Why focus on this?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: Prior research and studies in higher education have shown that, like with all other aspects of life, if the foundation is not solid, the building cannot hold. The higher education institutions and policies in Africa are reminiscent of the colonial period.

Encouraging Vocational Education. Photo: The Times of Africa

Unfortunately, in most African countries today, as in the days of European colonialism, higher education institutions and policies in place are still geared to serve the interests of former colonial masters and do not fulfill the market requirements of the twenty-first century. I would ask anybody interested in my study to wait two years for the completion of my dissertation.

Thampers Media: Everyone cannot get formal education. What about vocational training on the continent?

Ngenge Ransom Tanyu, Ph.D. Candidate: The distinction between vocational and conventional universities lies in their approaches to training and the length of their programs. In contrast to education in conventional universities, which may emphasize theory and abstract conceptual knowledge, vocational universities integrate the teaching of both practical skills and competencies.

Does the HND have any international value? Photo

Most private institutions in Cameroon, for example, fall into the category of vocational universities since they provide so-called National Higher Diploma (HND) programs. The issue in Cameroon, like in much of Africa, is not the vocational universities per se, but rather the caliber of the faculty, which adversely affects the knowledge and skills transmitted to students.

The assumption that students should complete two years of professional studies at a private university or vocational school and one year in a public university in order to obtain a bachelor’s degree is another risky system. Remember that most universities outside of Africa do not accept this, so anybody hoping to further their education abroad should be aware of this. If your goal is to complete an HND plus one year of university studies in order to remain in Africa and create much-needed employment that will reduce emigration, that is great.

Interviewed by Ranibelle Sato

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