Skills training following the completion of a doctorate is critical to enable early-career researchers to become research leaders. Yet very few African universities offer postdoctoral training, in many instances due to a lack of senior, qualified staff to provide the necessary support. Moreover, early-career researchers from Africa face additional challenges such as a lack of access to resources at their home institutions, and a lack of mentors and supervisors. Where postdoctoral posts do exist, they tend to be poorly paid.
To help build Africa's researcher population and promote scientific and research excellence on the continent, SU International's Africa Centre for Scholarship (ACS) launched the Emerging Scholars Initiative (ESI) in 2020. The ESI is a collaborative project that will see several multidisciplinary joint schools hosted with partners of Stellenbosch University (US) across the African continent. In doing so, it will draw on the experiences of the ACS's Joint Schools in Africa programme, of which the ESI serves as an extension, as well as the flagship African Doctoral Academy (ADA).
Following Covid-related delays, ESI started delivering on its brief in 2021 by co-hosting three virtual joint schools with Strathmore University (Kenya), the University of Lagos (Nigeria) and the University of Rwanda respectively. Approximately 200 delegates were taught by more than 20 facilitators from both SU and partner universities. The schools focused on two streams – one for PhD students and another for early-career staff members identified as emerging scholars by their own institutions. Courses addressed research methodology, supervision, academic writing and publishing, as well as generic skills, depending on individual institutions' needs and priorities. The programmes were co-designed by SU facilitators and facilitators from the partner/host institutions.
More joint schools are in the pipeline for 2022 to further deliver on the ESI's mandate of providing affordable yet quality competency-based learning in support of scholarship development and career training. This mandate is also well aligned with the ACS's overall objective, namely to contribute to the development of the continent and its people by connecting new and emerging scholars and creating opportunities for research and higher education teaching and learning to thrive.