Kepler Aims to Expand Access to Higher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

Through the Kepler university project, a new generation of young, college-age adults in Rwanda can benefit from an accredited program of study leading to a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Kepler is a recent project of Generation Rwanda, a nonprofit organization that developed more than a decade ago to provide university scholarships to students in need in the war-torn country.

Formerly known as Orphans of Rwanda, Generation Rwanda has focused on assisting a variety of people in need, including women and young people orphaned due to war or disease. Now, with an affordable tuition of only $1,000 annually, Kepler students can access massive open online courses (MOOCs) in combination with in-person discussion and hands-on classroom learning to earn their degrees. The pioneering effort fits the needs of developing nations around the world, particularly in Africa.

The situation in Rwanda parallels that of a number of southern African nations. Higher education, in the modern sense, is a relatively new phenomenon. In previous generations, colonial European powers established systems of education without truly democratizing the university experience. Over the course of the last 40 or 50 years, as most of the nations in Africa claimed their independence, the number of institutions of higher education south of the Sahara has steadily increased. Today, several million students are enrolled in classes taught by thousands of faculty members.

Yet university attendance rates in sub-Saharan Africa are among the lowest in the world, averaging approximately 5 percent. Over the past few decades, the history of other nations throughout the developing world shows that increased university enrollment correlates with significant economic growth. For example, South Korea began its upward economic trajectory after a ten-fold increase in higher education enrollment.

The passion for education, as well as for the greater freedom and opportunity it brings, remains strong throughout Africa. Parents often struggle financially in order to send their children to college, and overcrowded university classrooms vividly demonstrate the demand for higher education. Yet traditional models of educational delivery may not be sufficient to keep up with demand. This is the reason why innovative programs such as Kepler offer so much promise. Kepler’s competency-based degrees signify that a student has mastered both theory and practice, and is ready to succeed in a variety of positions in sub-Saharan Africa or any other emerging economy.