The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has awarded nearly US$5 million to academic centres at three Nigerian universities to prepare graduates to address national development challenges.
The support is to help build national expertise in key disciplines, broaden the universities' connections with the public and private sectors, and help them network with other universities in Africa and beyond. An emphasis will be placed on recruiting women into these new academic programmes. "MacArthur's support of Nigerian higher education is based on the belief that robust universities and intellectual freedom are essential to developing and sustaining healthy, economically vibrant, democratic societies," said MacArthur's Nigeria Office Director, Kole Shettima. "Support to these specific departments will help position these universities to address national challenges in such critical areas as health, energy, and economic planning", he said.
The University of Ibadan received three grants totalling $2.88 million. A $980,000 grant will help establish Master's and doctoral programmes in petroleum and energy economics at the university. The programme is designed to help build the pool of energy specialists, policy analysts, researchers and teachers able to improve management and regulation of Nigeria's natural and energy resources. It is to be jointly implemented with public and private sector partner organisations in the U.S., Ghana, and Nigeria, who will contribute staff and expertise. The goal is to produce at least 120 Master's in Science, 80 Master's in Law, and 15 Ph.D. graduates within five years.
Also, a grant of $950,000 will establish a new Master's programme in the University College Hospital on child and adolescent mental health - the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa.
The 18-month, full-time residential programme is designed to increase the pool of trained experts who can provide services to children and adolescents in the region and advocate for their improved care. West Africa currently has fewer than 10 psychiatrists with expertise in this field, yet it faces a significant and debilitating child and adolescent mental health burden.
A third grant of $950,000 to the University of Ibadan will strengthen its graduate training and research in population and public health through expanding Ibadan's participation in the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA). The grant will help train 42 faculty members, health researchers and graduate lecturers in population and health-related fields.
Ahmadu Bello University received two grants totalling nearly US$1 million, Shettima added. A grant of $950,000 to the University will help establish a new graduate programme in development communications.
The programme builds on the university's successful community theatre programme, which has helped to educate thousands of Nigerians about issues ranging from HIV/AIDS to democracy and gender. The funding will enable the university to train students in the use of information technologies, new and traditional media, such as radio, television, social media, and theatre to achieve development goals.
Graduates will be trained to serve as information and communications officers in national, state and local governments. The goal is to graduate 10 Ph.D., 30 Master's, and 40 Postgraduate diploma students within the next three years.
A $37,000 grant to Ahmadu Bello University will help them plan for a new programme in Veterinary Epidemiology.
Graduates of the new programme will work on the frontlines of disease control, emergency preparedness for diseases that cross the human-animal barrier, and food safety.
The University of Port Harcourt received one grant totalling $990,000 for its Institute of Petroleum Studies. The grant will be used to establish a new program in petroleum geosciences to train graduate students and conduct research in support of exploration of oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Guinea, the frontier for oil and gas exploration in the region.
The programme, which will be set up with support from government, the private sector, and academic partners, is designed to help improve the production and distribution of oil and gas in the region.
MacArthur is a private, US-based foundation that has been making grants in Nigeria since 1989 and opened an office there in 1994. Since then, the Foundation has awarded more than US$115 million in grants in support of efforts in the country. In addition to grant-making for higher education, MacArthur supports population and reproductive health, as well as human rights.