Administrators and support staff of African instituitions of higher learning have been urged to actively support research.
This was said during a meet organised by the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) at the University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics, in Kigali, on Monday.
According to the organisers of the meeting, a lot of focus has been formerly put on researchers, lecturers and professors and the university administrators have been neglected when it comes to clarifying them their role in supporting research and doctoral training.
As a result, quite a number of challenges have been experienced by students and researchers on the continent.
“If administrators are not sensitised on the need to support research and doctoral training, even if the lecturers and professors did their best, they cannot really produce the best quality,” said Professor Peter Ngure, the programme manager of African Population and Health Research Centre at CARTA.
“For example, in procurement, an administrator may probably prioritise some farm equipment or cleaning equipment over a certain small laboratory equipment not knowing that if this one equipment delays, a researcher will lose data for the rest of the year. Say if I was trapping mosquitoes in the rainy season and I had ordered mosquito traps and they delay and the season passes, I have practically lost a whole year,” he added.
Ngure said it is important to bring the administrators onboard and educate them on what the researchers are doing and what they can do to help them.
“We would want to create very conducive environment for research and doctoral training and we believe that all university staff play a critical role in that. It is not just the lecturers and the professors, but also the ICT people, the librarians, the procurement officers, among others,”
The three-day meeting has attracted up to 120 participants from different African universities, including junior staff, senior staff, librarians, deans of post graduate schools, finance officers, finance managers, registrars, Public relations and communication officers.
“We want to create a sense of responsibility for them to know that they are critical pieces on the chess board called research and doctoral training,” Ngure said.
Dr Pierre Claver Rutayisire, the focal point of CARTA at the University of Rwanda, said administrators should not be forgotten since they are the key players in research and training of post-graduate studies.
“Supporting the administrators is something which we were missing in African universities. When we talk about research, people directly think about professors, researchers, lecturers, but they forget the group of people that is helping in managing grants,” he said.
Segomotsi Makhutie, the Grants Operations and Development Manager from Witwaters Rand University in South Africa, pointed out some of the things an administrator has to do to make the researchers’ work easy.
“They (researchers) do not have to worry about whether their flights are booked, whether the grants have been signed because that is my role. I do all that and they have to focus on research,” she said.