Associate Prof. Dick Ng’ambi

Why higher education in Africa produces square pegs for round holes: a call for innovative approaches


One of the challenges facing higher education (HE) sector in Africa in general and South Africa in particular is the non-stop production of ‘square peg’ graduates to fit ‘round hole’ jobs and societal problems. This phenomenon has huge implications for graduates whose notion of life-long/life-wide learning appear to start too early to most graduates’ expectations; it fuels debates on the role of higher education; creates disappointed communities that continue to look to these institutions as beacons of hope to both systemic and specific challenges including the a need to prepare a future for a technologically distracted generation. The irony is that the same instruments for distraction, are also potentially empowering when used as transformative tools to turn-around square peg to fit varying holes. However, the use of the emerging technologies to achieve this end is a non-trivial process. These challenges open up new spaces for creativity, research questions likely to lead to new knowledge to be generated to inform practice. In this presentation, I will provide an overview of the state of HE in Africa and draw from our work on an innovative approach of a sandpit for educators, as one of the possible solutions to the stated problem.



Dick Ng’ambi is an Associate Professor and a leading researcher in emerging technologies and digital practices in resource constrained environments. He is the pioneer and Stream Head of the postgraduate programme in Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town (UCT). He is currently the convener of a doctoral programme in the School of Education, Africa’s corresponding editor of the British Journal of the Educational Technology (BJET), and founder of a Sandpit for Educators (ETILAB), the only such lab in Africa. He has published widely in journals, peer reviewed conferences, delivered keynotes and invited talks at several conferences and higher education institutions. He holds a PhD in Information Systems from UCT, a master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Birmingham, UK, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Zambia.