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The Disgraceful State of Higher Education in Ethiopia: How TPLF/EPRDF Killed Higher Learning

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by Alem Mamo

TPLF/EPRDF’s major bragging source over the last number of years has been its ‘achievements’ in the education sector, particularly in university education. The ruling group constantly brandishes its statics about the ‘expansion’ of higher learning in Ethiopia. What is not included in the fraudulent statistics is the obliteration of quality and depth of teaching and learning in these so-called ‘universities.’  As we have seen in most of the TPLF/EPRDF failed and corrupt policies the establishment of these so called ‘universities’ is nothing more than a construction contract to its own business conglomerates and university administration appointment to its loyal cadres.

A university is more than a building. A university in its true form requires several contextual, philosophical, and logistical grounds to fully carry out its historical and traditional role as a place of higher learning.
The higher learning landscape in Ethiopia under TPLF/EPRDF suffers from four acute problems. First, there is a chronic lack of academic freedom and autonomy, which is an essential component for any university to discharge its responsibilities. Second, there is an absence of qualified and competent instructor and mentors. Third is the almost non-existent nature of 21st century tools, such Internet communication, and finally there is the occupation and control of higher learning institutions by uneducated TPLF/EPRDF cadres. These key factors, coupled with the overall social, economic, and political problems, continue to plague the country’s higher learning landscape equating to a level similar to the mass wedding ceremonies orchestrated by a religious group lead by a self-proclaimed messiah, such as Reverend Sun Myung Moon[1]
In fact the assault on higher learning began in 1993 when TPLF/EPRDF fired 42 seasoned academics from Addis Ababa University and replaced them with its loyal cadres.[2] Ever since then the ruling group has continued to destroy higher learning under the guise of ‘expanding’ education. Universities and educational institutions in general are places where students are taught how to think, instead of what to think. Furthermore, universities are places in which curious learners are provided with the tools and the support to conduct research that has practical values in the social, economic, and political life of the society. Instead, the regime has built political re-education camps[3]where political cadres have the final word on the academic, social, and administrative life of an institution.
Indeed merit and qualification has never been TPLF/EPRDF’s s strong suit. Starting from senior cabinet positions to all the way to the lowest level of the administrative body they have appointed their cadres to run the country, and, quite frankly, the regime is not going to treat universities in any different way.
‘Massification’ of higher learning in Ethiopia, preferring quantity of graduates to quality, has reached a critical stage, and it is becoming very problematic to use the term ‘university’ to describe these diploma mills. In TPLF/EPRDF’s Ethiopia every institution is forced to be subordinate to the twisted ideology of the regime. The first and foremost pillar of a university anywhere in the world is autonomy and academic freedom. These two elements are the oxygen of a free learning and teaching environment. Contrary to this the ruling group maintains full control over these institutions depriving them the oxygen of freedom they desperately need to breath and function freely.
Maintaining its well-established destructive role TPLF/EPRDF is moulding higher learning institutions in its own image, and the image is not pretty. Infused with ugly and hate filled propaganda, the image of these so-called universities looks like this: (a) all of these institutions must maintain perceived or real ethnic polarization and tension;
(b) These institution must serve to promote TPLF/EPRDF’s divisive agenda; (c) all ‘university’ senior management, including presidents, must be members of the TPLF or TPLF manufactured political organizations; (d) critical thinking and questioning the prevailing orthodoxy equals terrorism; and (e) university campus informants are part and parcel of the security and surveillance structure of the regime.
The overall decline of the quality of higher learning in Ethiopia is evident in the African and world university rankings.  Currently, according to the African Economist University Rankings, only one university out of 35 so-called universities in Ethiopia appears on the ranking chart.[4] The rest are nowhere to be seen on any of university rankings.
We have come to be accustomed with TPLF/EPRDF lies, such us tyranny is democracy, repression is freedom, concentration of wealth in the hands of its inner circle is economic growth and development. The most tragic one is their political re-education camp ‘universities’.
Finally, one cannot understand the sad state of higher education in Ethiopia without understanding TPLF/EPRDF’s distractive political and economic agenda. Ultimately, these daunting challenges are intertwined and interconnected, therefore they only can find a solution when the fundamentals of the governance parameters are addressed.  Freedom, justice, and democratic accountability are the only solution. In the meantime, those who are enrolled in these institutions should continue to demand better quality as part of their struggle for a free, just, and democratic society.
The writer could be reached at [email protected]