RETHINKING AFRICA’S EDUCATION SYSTEMS- I
According to the World Population Review, Africa is estimated to have a population of approximately 1.34 billion people. Of these, 41% are under the age of 15, which means that there are about 549.4 million Africans of school-going age. As the second-largest and second most-populous continent, it is also home to the youngest population in the world. These young men and women are the future of Africa, but their future is also uncertain. Due to major limitations in education and other mitigating factors, the students of Africa fight an uphill battle to obtain their education.
Here are 10 facts about schools in Africa:
1. In 2010, there were still approximately 9 million children of primary school age unable to attend schools in Africa due to various reasons.
2. Girls, nomadic peoples, orphans, children with disabilities, children affected by HIV/AIDS, children affected by armed conflict, and children affected by natural disasters are at particular risk of missing out on education. Young girls are in significant danger due to the threat of bodily injury and sexual abuse while traveling to and from school.
3. For every two children who attend school in Africa, one will drop out before graduating.
4. Approximately 8 of the 10 countries with the lowest primary enrollment rates are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, 33 million primary school-aged children in Africa do not go to school.
5. Many schools are located far away from children’s homes. Only 7 in 10 children who live in rural areas will ever set foot in a school. Secondary schools can only accommodate 36% of students of age and qualification.
6. Regional primary enrollment rates now stand at 89% for boys and 86% for girls.
7. Rates for secondary school enrollment are significantly lower than primary schools. Regional enrollment averages 32% for boys and 29% for girls and many do not actually attend school. Approximately 28% of both boys and girls will attend secondary schools in Africa.
8. Enrollment in percent education programs is expanding throughout Africa. It nearly doubled between 1999 and 2012.
9. Primary school attendance has more than doubled between 1999 and 2012. Enrollment rose from 62 million to 149 million during this time.
10. Parents often can’t afford the cost of education, including books, uniforms, and tuition fees for their children to attend schools in Africa. In response, 15 countries have abolished school fees since 2000, enabling more children to attend primary school.
The facts above show the challenges faced in the course of getting an education in Africa, as well as measures, are taken to address them and improvements made. So while there is the problem of access to education, there is also the problem of quality of education. This has become imperative given the 4th Industrial Revolution which will be driven by data analytics, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc. The questions is: can Africa’s education systems as currently structured prepare its teeming young population to compete in a global world dominated by technology? The answer is a resounding no. It, therefore, behooves on African policymakers to begin to rejig our education systems to meet this challenge.
We suggest the following ways to help boost education on the continent:
1. “Catch Them Young”
It’s a phrase that’s always used when talking about identifying talent. A child’s brain is still developing and is thus easily able to adapt to new information. Exposure has proven to be critical in the development of new talent. For example, Bill Gates had the opportunity of attending a school that had a computer at a time when even universities didn’t have any. He and his friends exhausted their allotted time using it and he ended up learning programming as a teenager and the rest is history.
To raise a generation of tech compliant kids, we must start early. Primary schools should begin to have coding classes. However, there are many challenges to this. Top is having teachers with knowledge of code, able or willing to go to schools to teach. This is where e-learning comes in.
2. Digital Learning
The only way to have a continent-wide mass adoption of tech education will be by going digital. Courses can be created in the simplest of language, being very practical and very graphic that can be shown in schools across the continent, given that most homes don’t have an internet connection, may not have a television, and may not have access to electricity or struggle with epileptic supply. Courses can be done in the lingua franca, given that most of sub-Saharan Africa speak one of 3 languages (English, French, and Portuguese). Multilateral agencies, aid organizations, philanthropic organizations, and the organized private sector can contribute by helping schools with facilities needed e.g. TVs, computers, solar power, desks, etc. Governments should modify the curriculum and give directives to support the initiative.
3. A New Educational Model
Dedicating time to test score and achievements are no longer a useful way to educate the next generation according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Students should practice teamwork, leadership, and critical thinking and also be put through on important financial, health, and administrative skills. They should also gain exposure to entrepreneurship projects. This shift away from standardized learning will prepare students to make a positive impact on the social and economic well being of their communities.
The above is by no means an extensive dissection on how the education system should be revamped, but these are the ways that would bring about positive and long-lasting change to the current system.