The Collaboration for Research Excellence in Africa
CORE Africa
"Strengthening Research Capacity in Africa"

'Strengthening Researchapacitypy in Africa'

Research Club Initiative for Secondary Schools in Africa (RCISSA)

All students in Africa are required to do research at the university. However, most African students have little or no background knowledge about research prior to university. In a survey on African university student's knowledge and attitudes towards research, 88.4% of African students reported having been introduced to research for the first time during or after University studies, while only 11.6% learnt about research before university. More highlights from the survey can be found here

In another study, university students highlighted numerous challenges they face with research at the university, some of which included a lack of awareness on the importance of research, a lack of motivation to do research and insufficient support available to help them choose a research topic. As a result, many university students see research as something they 'have to do' as a requirement to graduate. Several students also end up working on projects that they have no interest in, and such projects usually make little or no contribution to societal problems.  

African countries face numerous challenges, ranging from poverty to poor health, under-development and unemployment; and some of these problems can be addressed through academic research. Enabling African students to understand the importance of research to society and supporting them in their research efforts is a step towards building the next generation of researchers who can make a positive contribution in tackling real life problems in their communities and societies.
Secondary education is a key stage when students acquire background knowledge and skills required for future academic and professional work. This is also an important stage when students can develop foundational skills that prepare them for the real world. However, student learning in most secondary schools in Africa is confined to classroom lectures, and students are not encouraged to supplement learning with information from other sources. This challenges students' abilities to think beyond the classroom or develop real life skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving. A majority of university students who participated in our surveys felt that learning about research earlier on would have informed their research practices and decisions, especially relating to choosing what project to work on.

The RCISSA program aims to build a lasting community of students who are capable of tackling real life challenges through research. We work with secondary schools to create research clubs for students, where they can engage in fun and exciting programs that teach about research. The program also engages teachers in learning simple ways that can be used to promote student research; and also to identify challenges and opportunities for research-oriented learning in Africa.

Engaging students and teachers in research activities is a step towards creating a positive research culture in African schools, and building a lasting community of high potential students who are interested in and capable of undertaking quality research in the future.