On July 7, 2021, a new Utafiti Sera House was born. This first convening of the Utafiti Sera House brought together education stakeholders to interrogate and evaluate the issues that are hindering equitable access to higher education, and to collectively look for solutions.
The convening was launched with words shared by Pauline Ngimwa (PASGR), James Jowi (ANIE), Anthony Mveyange (PASGR), and Mayank Dhingra (HP). All noted the changed landscape of higher education; the skills requirement of teachers and academics today are very different from what it was prior to the COVID 19 Pandemic. Instructors must be prepared to master the digital environment, and students must be equipped to participate in blended or wholly virtual classrooms. Success requires sustained engagement by education stakeholders who will champion the needs of higher learning institutions, instructors, and students to policy makers, promoting evidence-informed policy.
Steven Akoth introduced the Utafiti Sera approach. Utafiti Sera means research and policy, and this process brings together a community of practice to deploy evidence to inform policymaking through bridging the gap between research and policy. Utafiti Sera strives to achieve two things: to think through how to articulate policies that are evidence-informed and to ensure that policy actors will take this up. Multi-stakeholder voicing is very important in this process.
Jackline Nyerere prepared participants for smaller group discussions. Her presentation considered what is expected in the areas of access to education after the pandemic. She reviewed some of the areas of weakness with regards to access to higher education, noting some that were there before, or have become highlighted as a result of the pandemic. The presentation encouraged participants to reflect on three thematic areas with regards to equity and access to education:
- Equitable access to quality education before, during, and after COVID-19.
- Opportunities for public-private partnerships in strengthening access to higher education.
- Postgraduate training and early career research before, during and after COVID-19.
These thematic areas led to group discussions and presentations. Group presentations were important to kickstart the Utafiti Sera House process. The outcomes of these discussions will be used to update the synthesis presented by Jackline Nyerere. They will also be important cornerstones of the discussions in subsequent convenings, especially in the adaptive strategies adopted in the three strands this house will work on and the policy environment surrounding equitable access to education.