The State of Education in Africa – Aligning the Present with the Future

“Education, particularly higher education, will take Africa into the mainstream of globalization.” – John Kufuor, former President of Ghana

Africa’s socio-economic position as a whole is in a perilous state.  One of the areas that demands robust and critical involvement, is the issue of education. To compete on a global scale, we need to be properly resourced and aligned to the overall goals of global development, as indicated by John Kufuor. For Africa, capacity has never been in question. We are, and will remain, the wealthiest continent in as far as natural resources are concerned despite exploitation by Western governments. However, the ability and capacity to transform these resources into what is necessary to make us resourceful, competitive and aligned to global standards, largely depends on human capital which, in turn, is dependent on the skills and intellectual capacity of our people. Education is at the core of this transformation process.

State of affairs

As in most socio-economic issues, women are marginalized, and this is evident in the gender gap depicted in this research which shows us that girls account for 53%  of the out of –school population of children who should be in primary school. This can be attributed to child marriages as an impairment in many African settings. Furthermore according to UIS data,   This disadvantage starts early: 23% of girls are out of primary school compared to 19% of boys. By the time they become adolescents, the exclusion rate for girls is 36% compared to 32% for boys. Over a fifth of children between the ages of 6 and 11 are out of school, followed by a third of youths aged between 12 and 14. Almost 60% of youths aged 15 to 17 are not in school.  A key obstacle to achieving the agreed target is persistent disparities in educational participation.

These statistics depict not only a gap in the development of human capital in Africa for resource purposes, but the ripple effect that a lack of proper infrastructure can have on developing Africans, and in return, the continent. There is a considerable amount of children who do not have access to textbooks, study under trees, find themselves walking for hours just to access schools, and, to top that off, a lack of basic needs such as food, which also plays a part in how active they are during the learning process.

There is also a question of the quality of education provided, and its alignment to global standards and its role in increasing literacy levels amongst Africans, considering the fact that 1 in 4 children in African developing countries are unable to read. From a quality perspective, inadequate time is apportioned to leaning, as compared to the global standard, were 850 to 1000 hours a year should be apportioned to learning. In Africa only 720 hours are dedicated to learning.


The aftermath: Global alignment and the impact of education

The lack of adequate infrastructure also translates to Africa lagging behind in the development of education itself, and failing to keep abreast of the global standard in terms of the content and structure of education.  Furthermore, the lower the literacy levels of a country, the less likely the country is to perform in terms of development from a financial perspective. There are a numerous causal effects to take note of from developed countries. According to the OECD, countries with more educated individuals earn more. Another factor is the political regimes of educated states, where a correlation between democratic states can possibly be linked to levels of education. A country’s level of education attainment is a key determinant of the emergence and sustainability of democratic political institutions, both because it promotes political participation at the individual level and because it fosters a collective sense of civic duty.

Education and ICT – Global network

The evolution of education in terms of access means that ICT (information and communication technology) plays a major role in virtually connecting countries across the globe. Not only does this allow access to the nuts and bolts of a high standard of education, but it also allows one to benchmark. this allows out-of-class learning as a viable alternative, which could cost more initially but can benefit individuals in Africa to remain competitive in the real world and on a global scale. Countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Niger and Senegal have already implemented the use of television and radio to capacitate teachers to be efficient in teaching, translating knowledge to students and also in promoting basic education. Due to infrastructural challenges in Africa, it may seem like quite a leap to go from studying under a tree to learning through an internet based medium. However, in playing catch-up, we can capitalize on lower ICT infrastructural costs by sourcing income and making it mandatory for governments to fund schools, as seen in the model used by first world countries. Inadequate investment will indeed impede on each states’ ability to keep the financial climate stable, considering the economic crises that affect African countries daily.   Countries need to enforce their constitutional right to education by requiring state policy to make provisions for access to education, as well as an adequate budget that caters for infrastructural means to achieve this. That is if Africa is serious about radical economic transformation. Policy on funding for education should target infrastructural means to provide adequate access to education, including adequate teacher training as well as ensuring that each learning outcome is met.

Featured image | classroom in Kibera slum : Michal Huniewicz | flickr 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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