NAIROBI, Kenya, JULY 7, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Africa needs more Catholic universities, the bishops of Eastern Africa are hearing. But other voices are cautioning against growth without quality management.
These were the conflicting views presented to the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) at its 17th plenary assembly, held at one of the few Catholic universities in the region, reported July 1 the Catholic Information Service of Africa.
The association comprises eight episcopal conferences: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, with two affiliated members: Seychelles and Somalia.
Father Charles Kitima of St. Augustine Catholic University of Tanzania challenged cardinals and bishops to increase the number of Church-run institutions of higher learning.
The association of episcopal conferences, in fact, was established in 1961 with a goal of expanding into the area of university education.
Today, 50 years after the founding of AMECEA, the region boasts seven national Catholic universities.
But, Father Kitima observed, "In America, the Jesuits alone have 28 universities; in Tanzania we are planning to have 17 by 2020."
Father John Maviiri, the vice chancellor of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, was more cautious.
He called for a proper structure to ensure quality, recommending that the Church establish a Council for Higher Education to regulate Catholic universities in the region.
Proliferation of universities, he said, was already causing problems of quality in the region's higher education.
"A lot of [current education] is meant for exams; in the universities, they come to study in order to get jobs," Father Maviiri lamented.
In any case, proponents on both sides of the discussion recognized the value of universities as a forum to promote reconciliation, justice and peace, and to fight ethnic divisions.
"In our evangelization, tertiary education is our priority number one," said Cardinal Medardo Mazombwe, retired archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, and a key player in founding the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi. "We feel the people to whom we are preaching have developed, and they have new needs. We have to empower the people."