Academic orientation and mentoring - tackling the gender disparities and higher education limitations in Africa

Morse, Tracy (2011) Academic orientation and mentoring - tackling the gender disparities and higher education limitations in Africa. Africa Academy for Environmental Health, online.

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    Most universities in the developed world have instigated orientation and mentoring programmes for probationary academic members of staff to allow them to reach their full potential as teachers and researchers. Orientation and mentoring programmes in most African Universities are lacking, not functional and/or not implemented which places new academics at a disadvantage and can be career threatening. Based on extensive consultation and questionnaire with environmental health (EH) academics indicated that up to 63% faced problems when beginning their careers in academia. The most common problem related to a lack of orientation and being appointed to a position for which they had no prior experience or support. Mentoring from more experienced academics in their department and faculty, particularly for female academics was absent or not properly applied in the majority of institutions. The disparities between men and women in their professional academic careers must also be taken into consideration in terms of mentoring and support to enable all academics to develop successful teaching and learning careers. With the lack of institutional experience held in some Universities, such mentoring schemes can be strengthened through the use of regional and pan African networks to allow academics to gain access to a wealth of experience and advice in their fields. The Africa Academy for Environmental Health (AAEH) recommends the following actions on the part of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and associated networks to address these challenges as piloted by the AAEH: (1) Development of standard orientation package for all new members of academic staff; (2) initiation of mentoring schemes for academic staff using traditional and innovative methods both institutionally and regionally similar to that achieved in environmental health.

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