SOE Nairobi, Kenya 2017

In May 2017, the Africa-America Institute held its 3rd State of Education in Africa conference. Our experience and the marketplace assures that discussions on university capacity- building, vocational and technical training, and financing higher education will remain as cornerstone topics at each conference. Meanwhile, AAI intends the conference will serve as a platform where presenters will share their bold visions and transformative ideas for handling the challenges presented by the rapidly changing political, cultural and educational landscape on the continent.  AAI brought together educators, policy makers and advocates, students and entrepreneurial minds to explore distinct opportunities for collective strategy development, collaborations and partnerships, and transforming higher education in Africa.

AAI is committed to the measurable quality of African Higher Education for industry, community and societal needs. To ensure and sustain this quality, discussions on innovative financing and equipping the next generation with skills to compete in global markets were paramount. The future of the continent relies on the sector’s ability to educate future leaders, managers, professional and business owners, while transforming first-generation college graduates into the middle class.  To ground these ideas and the conference in local and national issues, AAI contextualizes data, culture and research findings through speaker selection, panellist questions, and student participation. Our focus remains on innovation and solution-driven discussions to build and support globally competitive institutions. AAI will further the outcomes of the SOE conference by continuing to engage likely stakeholders with new and developing partners in the diaspora and private sector to outline actionable steps for African Higher Education reform.

After participating as one of Student Panelists in our 3rd Annual State of Education Conference in May, Ruth Nyakerario has been selected as a Rhodes Scholar and will attend the University of Oxford in 2018.

Below are her reflections on her experience and time at the SOE Conference.

How did you find your time at the SOE Conference?

My experience in the State of Education in Africa Conference was life changing.  I got to learn about it through my fellow scholars at USIU-A, beneficiaries of the AAI’s Future Leaders Legacy Fund. I got selected to be a student discussant in the fourth panel headed by Ford Foundation’s Vice President Hilary Pennington.

Being part of this panel itself was incredible…the speakers reinforced the importance of taking up voluntary work, gaining skills in the process as one pursued a paying opportunity. Second, the conference brought together key figures in Higher Education both from Africa and elsewhere, it gave me an opportunity as a young individual to network with individuals who were already where I wanted to be. It warmed my heart when some approached me for instance Crystal Rugege and offered to help me apply for graduate school. Third, I got people ready to mentor me, people who genuinely wanted to be a sounding board in my progress even after the conference.…..Oh and this one, when Steven Pfeiffer in his closing remarks at the end of the conference said… “You Ruth…are the reason we are here…” that still makes me smile and hopeful to date.

Did the SOE have any influence in your decision to apply for the Rhodes scholarship and your application to University of Oxford?

Yes…I would say it did. I applied for this opportunity in July-August a few months after the SOE conference.  Through SOE I got to interact with Kofi Appenteng and Hilary Pennington, Chantal Uwizera and Melissa Howell. They all were genuinely interested in my progress after the conference; they saw great potential in me and kept in touch even after the conference.

This made me see that indeed I was capable of getting to any university I chose. So when I came across the Rhodes scholarship I had no hesitation whatsoever, went ahead and made my application.

As you get ready to head to the University of Oxford, what do you plan on studying at Oxford and how do you plan on using this in your career? 

I am hoping to pursue a Master of Science in Refugee and Forced Migration studies.  I am passionate about sharing any new knowledge and Information I learn, I therefore hope to further specialize and teach and mold other upcoming students like me. Besides that I want to be fore front in making of policies with regard to this critical issue. I also want to be a career diplomat and represent my state in the International community in matters refugee and forced migration.


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