Reflecting on the diaspora’s tangible and intangible contributions – University World News

Posted By on June 29, 2021


In addition, the concept note advances the notion that African higher education institutions should consider the need for country policies and funding to harness diaspora academics.

This could be achieved through the adoption of institutional and long-term approaches and the development of a practical blueprint on how all willing diasporans can, and should, each adopt one African higher education institution to mentor and call a second academic home.

While the suggestions are bold and encouraging, there is a need for political will on the part of African leaders. In addition, higher education policy leaders in Africa require a radical shift in their mindset and to view scholars in the diaspora as significant collaborators and partners who can play a critical role in helping to revitalise higher education in Africa.

The good work being done by the Carnegie Corporation of New York by establishing and funding the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP) for educational projects at African higher education institutions needs to be supported and sustained.

Thus, since its inception in 2013, the CADFP offered by the International Institute of Education (IIE) in collaboration with the United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa), has provided a total of 527 African Diaspora fellowships to scholars based in Canada and the United States to travel to various universities in Africa.

While several scholars, leaders and policymakers in Africa have come up with numerous success stories and theories of how African scholars in the diaspora can positively contribute to the development of higher education in Africa, in this article, I would like to share my lived experiences as a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow.

I was very fortunate to serve for two months (June and July, 2017) as a visiting Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow at Kenyatta University (KU), my alma mater. I was also very fortunate to have been hosted by Professor Frederick Q Gravenir, my great professor who taught me at undergraduate and graduate levels at KU talk of practical coaching, great mentoring and reverse mentoring in reality and practice, not theory!

Fellowship work at Kenyatta

My visit to KU as a CADFP fellow provided me with the great opportunity to engage in some of the activities recommended by the AAU concept note such as strategic thinking about faculty research productivity and offering of innovative curricula.

I was hosted by the Division of Research, Innovation and Outreach (RIO). I cooperatively and collaboratively worked with Professor Gravenir, the deputy vice-chancellor, RIO; Professor Vincent Onywera, the registrar of RIO; Dr George Adino Onyango, the dean of the school of digital and virtual learning; Dr John Ndiritu, the chair of the department of education policy, management and curriculum studies; and faculty scholars in the school of education.

My research work involved working with academic leaders and faculty to develop a strategic plan for the Division of Research, Innovation and Outreach based on Kenyatta Universitys Strategic and Vision Plan (2016-26).

KUs strategic plan is grounded in the RIO divisions vision, mission, goals, resources and the expected impact. The plan specifically outlines faculty research productivity measured by an increase in grants and contracts awards.

In addition, the research division aims at inculcating among Kenyatta University faculty the culture of grant writing, publication of refereed journal articles in top-tier research journals, books, and book chapters published by reputable publishers.

The plan also sets out to increase faculty productivity indicators, including a rise in citations and the h-index (a measure of a researchers scientific impact) of KU faculty. KUs strong will and commitment to research productivity is being realised with faculty success in external grant funding. I can correctly observe that, Where there is a will, there is a way.

During my two months stay at KU, I saw the will among talented KU faculty and graduate students with whom I worked during my fellowship.

Curriculum development

In the area of curriculum development, I worked with faculty colleagues in the department of education policy, management and curriculum studies to revise their curricula.

We developed new and innovative curricula in four areas, including a masters of education in higher education leadership and management (MEHL) and a masters of education in student affairs in higher education (SAHE). The MEHL and the SAHE are not offered in any other Kenyan public university, while the demand for student affairs and services expertise is very high.

The masters of education in education policy and organisation leadership and a PhD in education policy and organisation leadership have both been revised after many years to make them current again.

All four of these drafts have been discussed by KU colleagues and revisions are ongoing with the hope of implementing the new curriculum soon.

As I reflect on the curriculum development activities, I realise how the revised curricula made a major departure from the previous ones since students will be expected to participate in integrated learning activities and to draw linkages across disciplines to respond to complex problems facing their communities.

Utilising theories or concepts or ideas from multiple disciplines, students, through writing assignments and discussions, will demonstrate knowledge-based responses to an array of complex practical and research problems.

The revised programmes will encourage the application of distinct realms within social science to address pressing leadership and policy problems via coursework, collaboration with local school leaders, and analysis of social change, business and industry in the Kenyan context.

In the revised curricula, graduate students will be required to take a proposal development class and a literature review course which will expose them to the canons of research writing with a strong emphasis on integrating complementary disciplines.

Other courses, such as in the area of qualitative research which requires the study of sample methods which, in turn, addresses multiple viewpoints, will be introduced. To support faculty, the division of research, innovation and outreach committed funds to acquire research software including Stata, NVIVO and Atlas.ti, which could be used in data analysis.

In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to various institutions and organisations. First, my employer, Texas A&M University, for giving me permission to take up the CADFP fellowship, second to the Carnegie Corporation of New York for funding this noble fellowship programme, third, to IIE, which manages and administers the programme, including applications, project requests and fellowships, and the USIU-Africa for providing the strategic direction through the Advisory Council, and fourth, to KU, my host institution, not forgetting, fifth, to the many individuals who did the groundwork to establish the fellowship programme.

For meaningful collaborations and partnerships between the African diaspora scholars and institutions of higher education in Africa, sound planning is not only a necessary but a sufficient condition.

For scholars in the diaspora with an interest in Africas higher education development, I would like to strongly encourage you to apply to the CADFP, and to higher education institutions that are not participating in this noble programme, I highly encourage you to consider hosting African Diaspora scholars by participating in the programme.

Fredrick Muyia Nafukho is professor of educational administration and human resource development and associate dean for faculty affairs in the college of education and human development, Texas A&M University, United States. The views expressed in this article are his own and not those of his employer. He can be reached at

The Association for African Universities has invited delegates to continue to register for the free conference that takes place from 5-8 July.

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Reflecting on the diaspora's tangible and intangible contributions - University World News

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