The university in Africa and democratic citizenship: Hothouse or training ground?

This study explores how African universities can contribute better to democracy in general, and the cultivation of democratic values and practices among students. Survey data from the universities of Cape Town, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi along with national survey data from the Afrobarometer show that students at these universities are not necessarily less supportive of democracy than their less educated peers and respective mass publics; however, students are far more critical of and impatient with the performance of the existing democratic order and far more engaged and politically active in civil society than non-students. The surveys find that these universities continue to offer a privileged space for critical political engagement and activity in these countries. While the findings indicate a potential hothouse effect, they also suggest ways of transforming the hothouse conditions that African universities can serve as training grounds for democratic citizenship.

 

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