Before its independence, 60 years ago, Algeria only counted a few hundred students at the Central University of Algiers. The institution was the only one in the country and it was French. Today, in its dozens of universities and research centers, Algeria counts over a million and a half students and many new challenges ahead.
One of the priorities of the authorities after the country’s independence was to eradicate the then massive illiteracy, estimated at 85% of the population in 1962. To do so it spread free and compulsory education in order to raise the literacy rate to over 81%. Among 15-25 year olds, it is now close to 100%.
Another priority has been to enable Algerians to take charge of the country’s economic development. In 1974, the architect Oscar Niemeyer designed the Houari Boumediène University of Science and Technology in Algiers. More than one hundred thousand of its graduates now work in Algeria and around the world, to the pride of the rector.
“At the time, when the university opened, there were 2,000 students, says Djamal-Eddine Akretche, addid “For a long time, it had the role of training future managers. Now there are 50,000 students”.
The rector of the Houari-Boumediene university of Science and technology (USTHB) also admits, back then there were very few women studying there. “Today, nearly 60% of the student body is female (….) But I remember that in the 1970s and 1980s, in technological and basic sciences, it did not exceed 10%”.
Tell the youth to be “creators of wealth”
“We talk a lot about entrepreneurship, start-ups, incubators… Our university has integrated these ideas, we started with a lot of interaction with the socio-economic sector and we are also challenging our students’ mindsets by telling them ‘you must be creators of wealth and not job seekers‘”, says Akretche.
This idea has spread through the University’s 73 research laboratories. And Rym, a pharmacology student doesn’t hide her ambitions. “Thanks to this training, maybe one day I could run my own company, maybe invent my own cream, which everyone would buy… that’s my goal !”
A professional Master’s degree has been launched in partnership with national companies, as Algeria aims to be a regional leader in the production of medicines. “We manage to cover up to 70% of the needs of the Algerian population with generic medicines, says Kamel Daoud, chemist teacher at USTHBn adding they plan to export some “to East or West Africa.”
The entrepreneurieul spirit is increasingly present among Algerian students. This is particularly true here, at the Algerian High School of Business. At the age of 20, in her first year, Rania created the school’s business club with her classmate Aymen. The two students dream of running their own business.
“I plan to work for one of the Big Four companies. I want to set up an industrial company and I am oriented towards subSaharan countries”, says Aymen. And his comrade, Rania admits she would like to set up in her country.
Founded in 2004, this college is the result of a Franco-Algerian cooperation, it is now one of 10 best business schools in Africa. It has always been open to opportunities and relations abroad and many of its students continue their studies outside Algeria.
One of the challenges of human development in Algeria will indeed be to offer a maximum of students the opportunity to grow in their country.