Policy

Next Generation Professors with BEBUC

A Germany based training programme has been set up in 2009 to fight the brain drain that hampers universities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It already delivered seven professors, and hundreds are to come.

Today, the universities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are in urgent need of permanent professors. With no political measures to renew the over-aged academic staffs and improve working conditions as well as antiquated practices, the profession is no longer attractive for young people. Many academic positions are thus vacant.

Numerous universities, mostly in the province, often function only thanks to visiting professors, coming from abroad or from other national institutions. The academic year is continuously not respected and graduate programs are not organized everywhere.

A devaluated profession

The salaries of the professors are yearly ensured and have even been increased after several strikes, but the profession as such has been totally devaluated. Higher education in the Congo has failed in its mission to develop autonomy, career and life plans, cooperation, innovation, self-expression, and self-reliance. Without support by the family, access to education in the Congo is closed. Many people are unable to afford the high study costs and cannot hope for governmental funds.

Launched in 2008, the Excellence Scholarship Program BEBUC (Bourse d’Excellence Bringmann aux Universités Congolaises) has been committed to install an innovative educational model in DRC. The main objective is to provide access to higher education for outstanding students, for women in particular. The scholars pursue their bachelor studies in the Congo and high-level postgraduate studies abroad. A tailored pertinent curriculum equips them with the pre-requisites to qualify for professorship when returning to their home institutions.

Retain excellent people

The new professors contribute to the implementation of relevant research, to the improvement and harmonization of curricula for delivering a high-quality education. With the rejuvenation of the Congolese higher-education environment, the availability of skillful professional manpower will gradually increase to respond to the urgent needs for food, health, peace, and security. By retaining excellent young people in national institutions to fill the vacant academic positions, BEBUC promotes human development and poverty alleviation.

To organize the Excellence Scholarship Program initiated by Gerhard Bringmann (University of Würzburg, Germany) together with Virima Mudogo (University of Kinshasa, DRC), the NGO Förderverein Uni-Kinshasa e.V. (fUNIKIN) was created in 2009. In view of the tremendous headway made by BEBUC, from 4 scholars in 2008 to 190 presently, the position of a General Manager was set up in 2012. It is held by Karine Ndjoko Ioset (University of Würzburg and University of Lubumbashi), active in the program since 2009.

Prestigious members

Today, fUNIKIN gathers over 1,900 international members from 58 countries, among them prestigious professors like Roald Hoffmann (Nobel Prize 1981). BEBUC collaborates with 16 Congolese universities and 9 schools.

The concept has convinced the University of Würzburg, which has signed partnership agreements with all 25 involved Congolese institutions. The scholars benefit from a free access to the virtual library in Würzburg.

Funding by private sponsors and foundations

BEBUC receives funding from private individual sponsors and from foundations. The by far largest portion comes from the German foundation Else-Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung, which has supported BEBUC since 2010. The Holger-Pöhlmann Foundation finances practical trainings, symposia, and English courses.

As much as possible, the scholars are triggered to apply for international scholarships like from DAAD, PAU, NRF South Africa, Bayer, Norvartis, Fulbright, Chevening, and from the French, South-Korean, Russian, Chinese Governments, and others. The success evidences their quality and enhances their international cooperation capabilities.

Hard and continuous selection

To become a BEBUC scholar, the candidates have to compete. The selection is hard and challenging, but also fair and accountable. It is part of a well-optimized concept – from the candidate to the BEBUC Professor, involving the pre-selection by the Local Committee, an oral evaluation at the blackboard; constructive criticism after the interview, renewed reviews every year, and, in particular, the individual mentoring throughout the "pipeline" until the very best of the candidates reach their professorship.

Every year, the international Evaluation Committee is involved in selection trips all over the country. Its long-lasting experience and scientific expertise are appreciated by the rectors and deans - and by the candidates. In the context of an environment where fraud and corruption prevail, BEBUC’s transparent personal evaluations and face-to-face interviews are trustworthy. The scholarship opportunity ensures inclusive education for all young talented Congolese, regardless of their gender, social status, identity, ethnic origin, and physical or social disadvantage.

A renewed higher-educational environment

With ca. 190 young academics, 34% of women and the first 7 already nominated professors in the Congo, BEBUC forms a kinship of scientists evolving at universities all around the world. In their institutions, they are organized in a community with democratically elected speakers. The Council (i.e. the scholars’ parliament) elects a chair person, the Prime Speaker. This leading position is presently held by a woman, Tania Bishola, PhD student in molecular biology at the University of Heidelberg (Germany).

The interdisciplinary seminars organized locally in the BEBUC rooms or, virtually, for the externals, allow the scholars to develop joint scientific projects. A promising higher-educational environment is being shaped by the youth of the Congo. BEBUC has fostered women inclusion, has nurtured excellence, ethics, leadership, and international cooperation.

Karine Ndjoko Ioset and Gerhard Bringmann

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