Tom Asher, the founding director of the Next Gen program, traces the historical rationale of the program, explains the program’s achievements, and presents some of its potential scalable challenges. Asher provides insights into how the Next Gen workshops seek to foster and embed excellence in African universities, and how the Next Gen program’s ethos turns individual inquiries into collective enterprise.
The SSRC’s Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa program (Next Gen) turned ten this year. In this time, the program has awarded over 400 grants to over 390 doctoral students registered in universities in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Thus far, over 100 doctoral students have successfully completed their PhDs. To commemorate this achievement, Next Gen former and current program staff, selected alumni and workshop facilitators, and two advisory board members of Next Gen wrote essays reflecting on the past, present and future of the program.
This series has been curated by Duncan Omanga, program officer of the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa program, and edited with the help of Tejas Dhindsa, editorial and communications assistant.
Contesting Tradition in Interpretive Social Science Research Methodology: Reading the Work of Next Gen Fellowsby Eunice K. Kamaara
Eunice Kamaara, an advisory board member of the Next Gen program, reflects on some of the work of Next Gen fellows she has interacted with, to make a case for the need of doctoral students in Africa to challenge tradition, and at the same time prepare for disruption.
Anthony Diala, a Next Gen alumnus and workshop facilitator, reflects on some of the conceptual and methodological challenges that confront many a graduate student in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as how to manage the “social” aspects of completing a PhD in Africa.
Next Gen alumna Siphokazi Magadala observes that having worked with Next Gen fellows, most of them tend to over rely on scholarship from the Global North and use theories and concepts with little relevance to their research. She sees her intervention as that of guiding fellows to embed their research within lineages of African thought in the humanities and social sciences.
In their article analyzing the copious amounts of data Next Gen has collected for the past decade, Duncan Omanga and Shana Pareemamun, all staff of the Next Gen program, use this data to argue that Next Gen has consolidated its place in higher education funding in Africa. They conclude that the impact of Next Gen fellows and alumni within the social sciences and humanities has been considerable and shows the importance and need for more such funding of African doctoral students.