In sub-Saharan Africa,52% of children were enrolled in primary schools in 2000, the smallest enrollment rate of any region. Significant gender inequalities were also reported by UNESCO: in most African regions, most parts have a higher enrollment of males and in some others, there is a high rate of female enrollment, this is often caused by the fact that boys assume the family responsibility at a very tender age. They have to stay home and take care of the family asset-which could be a farm or a herd of cattle.There are more than 42 million children in Africa, and almost half the school-age child population, getting no education. Of these, Two-thirds are girls. According to the USAID Center, as of 2005, 40% of school-age children in Africa do not attend primary school and there are still 46 million school-age African kids who have never entered a classroom.
The systems of education that were inherited from colonial masters were tailored for the public administration. This form of education is useful in administration but is of little relevance in production. Nonetheless, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is now conscious of the role the informal sector plays in the economy of third world countries and has emphasized the need for increased vocational school training so as to respond to the needs of the informal sector.
Challenges facing the African education system
Lack of qualified educators and adequate facilities
The lack of proper schooling facilities and unequal opportunity for education across most third world countries is another reason for the low education rates in Africa. Because of the high costs associated with hiring qualified teaching staff, most African schools resort to rather hiring people who lack the necessary skills to teach the students. This is often the case for African schools located in remote areas. More so, those who succeed to receive the education will prefer to move to the larger cities to further their education or travel overseas to get better quality education and exposure to higher paid jobs. Hence, there will be a high average number of students per teacher in a school and overly large class sizes. Furthermore, most of the teachers are not qualified with poor textbook provision and few teaching aids. The direct result of this is that children attending schools in the suburbs and rural areas usually have poorer grades compared to their urban counterparts when it comes to standardized tests. These have been confirmed in the reports given by SACMEQ (Northern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality. Children taking the tests in rural areas often score much lower than those in small towns and urban centers. This simply shows that the children lack equal education opportunity in different parts of the same country. Notwithstanding, since some teachers are more qualified than others in the urban areas, the teaching to learning environment has a toll amongst the children. In one scenario, teachers were compelled to take the same tests as their students and almost three quarter of them failed. In one instance teachers took the same test as their students and three fourths of them had failed.More so, students who receive their education out of the urban areas still have problems reading, writing or even doing math even after graduation. It is obvious that students who do not attain the same equal education to those in urban settings do not achieve the same results in creating a successful career. With education being a principal concern towards establishing a future and achieving a career, the African continent needs to be conscious of the fact that equal education opportunities needs to be put in place within all African schools.
Military and conflict
Government expenditure on Military is causing education spending to decrease considerably. Armed conflict is the biggest threat to education in Africa according to a report by UNESCO (march 2011). While the number of dropouts across the African continent has been increasing dramatically over the years, one of the impacts of conflict and war on education is the diversion of public funds from education to spending on military. A system which already lacks funds is losing more money. 21 African countries have been identified as the biggest spenders of gross GDP on military in the world compared with the amount directed toward enhancing the educational system. Also, Military and conflict can result to the displacement of children in affected areas. Usually these children are forced to remain in refugee camps or flee to neighboring developing countries where they cannot go to school.
Very little access and not enough learning
A good area to get a glimpse into Africa’s education crisis is the town of Bodinga, located in the poverty-stricken Savannah region of Sokoto state in the northwestern region of Nigeria. If you by chance run into one of the classes of the local primary schools, you’ll typically find more than 50 students crammed into a tiny classroom. Only a few of these children have textbooks. If you are lucky to find a teacher (since they are often absent) the children will be on the receiving end of a monotonous recitation directed towards rote learning.
There is really not much learning taking place. A recent survey found out that 80% of Sokoto’s Grade 3 pupils are unable to read a single word. They have been through three unfruitful school years. It is also important to note that those who are in those classrooms are the lucky ones, particularly if they are girls. A considerable percentage of the state’s primary school-age kids are out of school – Sokoto has grown to become one of the world’s largest gender gaps in education. A very small percentage of the children succeed in making it through secondary education. The overall goal of any education system is to provide children with the literacy, numeracy and wider skills that they require to showcase their talents– and that their countries need to create jobs, technological advancement and economic growth.
These African schools are only an expression of a wider crisis in the African educational system. After rapid steps were taken to enhance universal primary education after 2000, progress has halted.The rate of school-dropouts keeps increasing – and the gap between the quality of African education and the rest of the world keeps increasing. This gap focuses not only on enrollment and the number of years in school; it also focuses on learning. Considering countries like South Korea, China and Singapore, economic growth has been established on the foundations of learning achievement. This said, far too many African children are not learning irrespective of the fact that some are in school.
The crisis of African education does not make media headlines. Children are not eager to purchase or even read textbooks, they lack good teachers as well as a chance to learn. But this is a crisis that is associated with huge costs. It is directing a whole generation of youth and children to a future of insecurity, poverty and unemployment. It is starving companies of the skills that are the backbone of innovation and enterprise. Also, it is neglecting prospects for sustained economic growth in the world’s most impoverished regions.
Dealing with the crisis in education will necessitate national and international measures on two fronts: Governments need to encourage children to go to school – they need to make sure that children get something meaningful from their time in the school. In order words, they need to ensure proper access to education and adequate learning.
Improving Education in Africa
Recognize the issues: nepotism and corruption have contributed to the failure of African higher education. For instance, in Nigeria, some universities are facing a financial crisis and are unable to pay staff salaries since they spent so much cash on the election. There is a need for our senior management to change. A concerted movement for a revolution in the African education system is called for.
Put an asterix on internet literacy: IT skills are necessary for young Africans to access better paid jobs. More so, without an IT literate workforce, nations are less able to widen their economy and get access to the benefits of the information revolution. The lack of IT literacy in Africa has also been noted to be a barrier to further education, with students struggling to complete dissertations and course work without making use of computers. Some institutions have such limited resources; a single pc has to be shared amongst 20 students, while other African schools ask for faulty computers just to explain the basic elements of computers to their students. Over the years, most African and other developing countries have embraced the use of IT technology in various ways- the provision of school computer labs and internet centers and also providing free internet connection on campus for students. For instance, in 2016, the government of Cameroon started a project to provide 500,000 laptops to university students all over the national territory. IT technology has helped reduced the knowledge gap existing between African students and their overseas counterparts. They can now do their research easily, remotely and even apply for studies overseas.
Follow Ethiopia’s footsteps: The Ethiopian government is a good example of a government that prioritizes higher education and tailors it to meet demand from the private sector. For instance,the government has rapidly expanded its higher education system recently, and introduced a policy tailored to shift the balance of subjects in all public universities away from the humanities and tilt them towards the sciences and technology. The University of Jimma has experienced great success in this manner. Ever since the department of material science and engineering started in 2013, it has grown rapidly to become one of the most renowned research schools in the sub-Saharan region.
Scientific collaboration: Faced with a lack of essential services such as water, transport, power, healthcare and educational systems, and a government that is not willing to invest in research, figuring out how African nations can carry out cutting-edge research to solve problems related to local demands can be a daunting exercise. One way to solve this, is to form collaborations among scientists in different universities.
Utilize e-learning mediums: online universities are transforming learning and Africa has a chance to think deeply about providing quality education via online platforms, and figure out how to make it more interactive and cheaper.
Enhance quality research: African researchers are faced with the challenge of performing on an international stage, and also demonstrate how their work responds to local needs. When the former pushes for publishing articles in the high impact journals this can often be conflicting with methods of communicating research which responds better to the latter. What is considered as quality usually, is defined in the north, and that puts things on an irregular scale. The measurement of quality (journal rankings and related metrics) is a limited measure, but can be very influential in international debates on higher education.
Collaborate with the private sector: the private sector is the leading source of job creation and can help institutions endow the continent’s youth with the necessary skills for the workplace. For instance, companies can form partnerships with local universities to establish high quality STEM curricula. Companies could help faculties to tailor and deliver courses that provide students with both a deep comprehension of science and technology together with practical skills for the workplace.
Governments should understand that universities are instruments for development: African governments need to be convinced that investing in higher institutions will help their nations reach middle-income status faster, which is one of their greatest objectives. For instance, South Korea in the past, received aid from several countries (including other developing countries). Today, she has transformed into a donor country via rapid economic growth and welfare in just 50 years.
Give some meaning to academia: it is important for African researchers to focus on addressing the challenges and needs of the African continent. It could be climate change, human right violations or technological advancements. The key is to establish reliable African channels of knowledge production, and encourage collaborations for African researchers all over the continent and with the African academic diaspora, as well as with other international counterparts.