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Vast and Fertile Ground in Africa For Science to Take Root

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Makerere University

A classroom at the new computer science college at Makerere University in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. A Ph.D. program has also begun.

Credit: Tadej Znidarcic for The New York Times

Uganda's growing economy has produced an expanding middle class that wants advanced training in science and engineering.

To meet that need Venansius Baryamureeba recently founded a new college that includes departments of computer science and computer engineering at Makerere University. Baryamureeba also created a graduate program that aims to turn out dozens of Ph.D. scientists that he hopes will become college professors.

"Uganda offers several unique research challenges and problems whose solutions can actually have a greater marginal benefit than, say, solutions to problems in Europe," says Makerere doctoral student Ernest Mwebaze.

Meanwhile, the spread of cell phones has led young Africans to have an interest in the practical uses of science and technology. "Computer science appeals to a generation of urban students raised on a diet of digital devices," says Zambia Online's Chanda Chisala.

However, computer science in Africa is held back by the perception that it is better to study and work in Europe or the United States. African educators need to reinforce efforts to design computer science courses that meet local needs in order for the field to grow in the region, according to a recent Georgia Tech report. Another problem facing the future of computer science in Africa is a lack of skilled teachers.

From New York Times
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