As part of activities marking 100 years of providing research and teaching on Africa, a delegation from the School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS, University of London is visiting Lagos and using their visit to highlight the pressing need to educate girls.
Baroness Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS, University of London, leads the delegation to Lagos.
The highlight of the visit was a gala event at the Civic Center, which was attended by dignitaries and SOAS alumni. A panel discussion on ‘Education of the Girl child in Africa: Problems and Prospects’, featured Aishah Ahmad, Chair of the Executive Council of Women in Management, Chidi Odinkalu, human rights activist and Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, Founder of Murtala Muhammed Foundation, a human rights activist specialising in women and girls’ initiatives.
Baroness Amos told the audience that a continued focus on the education of girls was a priority for Africa and globally to achieve the sustainable development goals.
“Educating girls at primary level through to University level has a positive impact on major challenges such as the number of mothers and children who die in childbirth. Women and girls have an essential role to play in helping to secure economic growth and development. 86 per cent of the world’s girls are currently enrolled in primary school which is a major improvement,” says Baroness Amos, “but we cannot afford to be complacent.”
Also present at the centenary event were Nobel Prize winner and SOAS Honorary Fellow, Professor Wole Soyinka and Wellbeing Foundation Africa Founder-President and SOAS alumna and Centenary Ambassador, Her Excellency, Mrs. Toyin Saraki.
SOAS has one of the most diverse student bodies of any university in the UK with students from more than 130 countries, approximately 65 per cent of them women.
The SOAS was established in 1916 with the mission to advance knowledge about Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Today SOAS University of London is the only University in Europe specialising in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Uniquely, SOAS offers over 350 undergraduate degree combinations in law, social sciences, arts, humanities and languages and over 115 postgraduate programmes.
SOAS teaches over 25 non-European languages, many of which are not available to learn anywhere else in Europe. All are taught in the context of the political, economic, social, cultural and religious environment of the countries in which they are spoken. This combination of language scholarship, disciplinary expertise, and regional focus has produced many distinguished leaders across the world.
Scholars at SOAS grapple with the pressing issues of our time – democracy, development, human rights, identity, legal systems, poverty, religion, social change – while at the same time remaining guardians of specialised knowledge of the regions studied.
SOAS has risen in the 2017 QS Global University Rankings, released on 26/4/2017, with seven subject areas now ranked in the top 10 best in the UK.
SOAS has maintained a strong connection with Africa since its beginnings as the School of Oriental Studies in 1916. The School’s first linguistics degree was awarded in 1920 to Mr. W J Edmonston Scott for his thesis ‘The Laws of sound governing the Santal, Basque and Zulu Languages.’
Early plans to establish the School were being discussed before the outbreak of the First World War. But it was in 1916 that the School received its Royal Charter as a College of the University of London. Just over a decade, later the School was offering degree courses in a range of languages including Hausa, Swahili and other Bantu languages.
The University of London’s Centre for African Studies, housed at SOAS, is the largest Centre of expertise on Africa outside Africa. Founded in 1965 at SOAS University of London, where its administration is still based, since 1991 the Centre has assumed formal responsibility for coordinating, stimulating and promoting interdisciplinary study, research and discussion on Africa within the University; and promoting a wider awareness of African issues.
Today SOAS hosts many students from Africa and the School is in active contact with alumni in Africa. Some well-known African alumni include: BBC news presenter Zeinab Badawi; Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency, Mr. Francis K. Butagira; and Luísa Dias Diogo the former Prime Minister of Mozambique.
Students from Nigeria, as well as those with Nigerian heritage, make up an important part of the SOAS student body, including England International Rugby player, Maro Itoje, who is in his third year as an undergraduate at SOAS.