Education in Africa

Abstract

Education is crucial in improving communities and society in general. However, not every individual gets the opportunity to go through formal learning process due to various reasons. The problem with the quality of education in Africa is the fact that it houses developing countries. Consequently, challenges such as poverty, political instability, and untrained tutors affect its progress. Nonetheless, there are measures that can be taken to improve the nature of education in Africa. Focusing on the students and teachers can help in the development of effective pedagogies crucial in changing the learning outcomes. Promotion of peace in nations characterized by war will also encourage more children to attend schools.

Introduction

Education is not only a basic human right because it is crucial in empowering people to transform communities and lead better lives. However, this is not the case in Africa where children struggle to go through formal learning processes and those who get the privilege to do so, do not experience quality education. According to Bowne et al. (2017) in a research conducted in 2016, 20% of African children aged 6 to 11 years and 33% aged 12 to 14 are out of school at a macro level. Changes have to be made in Africa’s education system if the region is to be at the same development level as other countries and continents. However, in suggesting the strategies to combat this problem, it is imperative to understand the factors that inhibit the quality of education in the region.

Review of Related Literature

Poverty and Education in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is widely known for its development challenges which have led to a poor economic state in the region. Subsequently, poverty, which is the main challenge in Africa, has affected all plans and policies meant to improve education in the area. For a long time, the United Nations has focused on establishing affordable housing in Africa and this is not only to safeguard the wellbeing of communities and families but also to support school attendance and minimize the number of dropout cases (Engelbrecht et al., 2016). Additionally, the homes are meant to provide a conducive environment for the students to do their homework with help of good lighting and the absence of floods and leaks.

However, despite the efforts by international organizations in the previous decades, poverty still remains to be a challenge not only in Africa but other regions as well. According to World Bank in a 2018 report, 67 million children globally of whom 53% of them are females lack access to basic forms of education. This exposition shows the extent to which poverty is denying the younger generation an opportunity to make a difference in their communities due to lack of education. Moreover, the Education Commission predicts that if no changes made to the impacts poverty has on education, only 4 out of 10 children within the school-age in African countries will be in a position to complete their secondary education by 2030 (Momo et al., 2019). Even though poverty is a problem in most developing regions, it worse in Africa. This is fact is evident from the reports released continuously by the Human Development Index and the Social Progress Index which both indicate that low education is more prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa than in any other parts of the world. The main issue barring African countries from developing at a normal speed is the unstable economy. Consequently, there is a need for a skilled workforce that can boost the long-term financial growth in the region, eliminate poverty, and create better education policies.

Local Attitudes and Traditional Practices

Before colonization and westernization, Africans had their own system of traditional education. Consequently, this has made it difficult for most of the communities to embrace modern education because they believe their customs are above any other. For instance, the Tumbuka culture in Zambia and parts of Malawi have been against taking their girls to school because they believe the education of the west teaches adolescents explicit marital content earlier than it should (Hakura et al., 2016). Consequently, young girls are denied the opportunity to attend schools because of their communities’ worldview of education.

Political Crises and Instability

Politically instigated violence is one of the main characteristics of the African continent. According to a study on children and armed conflict conducted by the United Nations in 2018, the same year saw the worst record of young ones trapped in war regions (Musau, 2018). More than 250,000 students were affected by the conflicts and thousands of learning institutions closed in the western part of Africa (Musau, 2018). These statistics are disturbing since international relations professionals and journalists believe that quality education has the capability of reducing conflicts in the region. Coincidentally armed groups who actively participate in the wars seem to understand this idea and most of them such as Boko Haram have a tendency of targeting schools in their attacks.

Untrained Tutors and Teacher Deployment Issues

Lack of quality education is the root of all issues affecting the African continent. For instance, successful schooling can only take place in the presence of skilled teachers. Unfortunately, that is impossible because there are few tutors in the region, and a majority of those who are there are not competent enough. Since few children make it past the secondary level of education, there are few teaching professionals who get trained in tertiary colleges or universities. As a result, there is a high demand for teachers with the developments in education yet there is no supply of learning instructors.

Research Methodology

The research methodology that best fits the study on the quality of Africa is review of literature. First, due to location constraints it is impossible to travel to Africa and conduct a physical research and collect primary data. Similarly, conducting surveys and interviews might not be appropriate considering the effects of the pandemic on interactions and communication. Review of literature will be instrumental for this research because it gives the basis for the development of knowledge that relates to challenges of education in Africa and probable solutions. Additionally, it helps in the development of evidence-based policies and practice for the identified problems and also lead to new ideas. The sources of literature are statistical sources such as the United Nations and the World Bank and previously conducted studies on the issues in quality education in Africa.

Findings and Analysis

There were several findings from the review of related literature. One, there are several expenses involved in ensuring that children attend school and get the necessary education. However, families in Africa have to decide between taking care of other basic needs such as food, shelter, and medical bills and paying for their children’s schooling. Aside from tuition fees, the caregivers also have to buy textbooks and school uniforms, which are quite costly for poor families (Momo et al., 2019). Consequently, a household’s total income is inversely proportional to the costs of education incurred.

Secondly, whereas parents in developed countries are privileged to accommodate their young ones’ education expenses comfortably, most guardians in Africa have to sacrifice if at all their children are to attend schools. Most of the students from such homes struggle to commit their minds to studies and the majority end up dropping out of primary and secondary schools. It is even harder for those families living in urban slums and streets who consider education as the least of their priorities.

Thirdly, there are instances where parents have withdrawn their teenage daughters from learning institutions so that they can participate in initiation rites. There are African communities that have held to their traditions. After such ceremonies, it is even harder for the children to go back to school because based on the African culture they are ready for marriage (Petroni et al., 2017). For boys, there are communities that treat cattle keeping as a sacred duty and therefore occupy young males with related responsibilities which hinder them from attending schools.

Aside from the cultural hindrances, there is a great need for better education in Africa because it is one of the solutions to civil unrest and politically instigated violence. If carried well, schooling can inspire change in the behavior of aggressive youths by instilling tolerance and promoting open-mindedness in African leaders. Schools are an easy target for militia groups in the region because they understand the importance of education.

Finally, qualified teachers in the region prefer to work in urban areas where they get paid considerable amounts. However, this fact affects rural areas that are in dire need of education and qualified personnel. Even though the Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) of primary school students has increased generally in Africa over the two decades to more than 95%, the number of teachers cannot match this number (Momo et al., 2019). It is meaningless to encourage education in Africa whereas there are limited instructors to teach them.

Discussion

Focusing on Students’ Needs

Whenever there is a faulty education system, it is the children who in this case are students that suffer. Therefore, in developing strategies to help improve their learning experiences, it is important to focus on the items they need. For a long time, education in Africa has been seen as an escape route out of poverty and even though the idea has an element of truth, it has ruined the importance of relationship (Tchamyou, 2020). In order to neutralize the negative perceptions developed by local communities in Africa about western education, the learning approaches need to change. Education should not only be about instilling information, the learning process should encourage creativity and independence. Although most of the techniques used are borrowed from the west, the needs of African children differ.

The methods used should consider the student’s culture and relate taught skills to the environment they are conversant with. This approach will also help minimize dropouts because the learners develop a connection with school. Furthermore, since education is as important to human development as food and shelter, African governments should carter for part of school expenses if not all of it (Tchamyou, 2020). The majority of children who have little interest in education cannot afford the tuition fee and other materials that require money. It is a country’s responsibility to ensure all its citizens receive all fundamental human rights, education included.

Making Teachers a Priority

The learning process involves two parties, teachers and students, and if at all it is to be successful tutors need to be equipped with the appropriate resources and skills. Teachers offer solutions to better education because they are the ones who transfer knowledge to the students and mentor them to become important people in society. Consequently, according to the African Ministry of Education, there is a need to implement teacher certification processes since there is a shortage of instructors with the capability of giving meaning to education (Raikes et al., 2020). This approach will ensure that teachers are diligent in their responsibilities and in the long run students will experience quality education.

Moreover, branches and departments in the African governments charged with improving education should create policies that strengthen teacher recruitment processes. The teaching profession is influenced by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Therefore, schools should hire tutors who are self-motivated and passionate about the profession. However, it is also imperative that instructors are well-motivated to operate within the strict standards and therefore should receive enough monetary compensation. Lack of inspiration among teachers results in poor quality education because they have no reason to work hard.

Promoting Effective Teaching Methods

Having highly skilled and competent professionals will not make a difference in Africa’s quality of education without the correct pedagogy. Researchers on effective learning techniques for the sub-Saharan Africa region suggest that countries should introduce learner-centered pedagogies that promote active-learning processes crucial in peer to peer and student-teacher interactions. Education is not all about instilling information but also empowering the learners on basic life concepts such as communication skills. Nonetheless, issues such as insufficient learning materials, contrasting cultural beliefs, and large class sizes act as hindrances to the implementation of the sustaining learning approaches (Bowne et al., 2017). Training teachers to be effective in their practice will equip them to handle the high number of students and also help them modify the pedagogies to accommodate their values and the learners’. For instance, traditional songs used in community events should be used instead of using borrowed content. The goal is to make the learning activities unique to the specific group of students.

Improving Education Management

Teachers cannot work their own because they need administrators and school managers to coordinate the resources required for effective learning. It is important to note that there are international organizations such as the World Bank and the Education Program Development Fund that have been running projects meant to improve education in sub-Saharan Africa for more than two decades. Aside from financial plans made by respective governments, these global bodies have been providing monetary aids. Misuse and abuse of the funds hinder the efforts to improve the quality of education in the region. Consequently, there is a need for better accountability and management of local schools and universities. Even though World Bank notes that there has been tremendous growth in the rate of primary school completion since 2000, the current progress is not enough to meet the Education for All (EFA) goals (World Bank Group, 2018). As a result, World Bank suggests that countries should introduce EFA school-based management plans at the grassroots levels.

Focusing on University Enrolment

With all the challenges facing the education systems in sub-Saharan Africa, most countries tend to focus on improving primary and secondary learning and forget about tertiary levels of education. According to studies conducted by Harvard University in 2017, the rate of college and university enrollment in Africa is 5%, which is the lowest globally. Higher education has been ignored by most governments, investors, and international donors (Ilie & Rose, 2016). Students who complete secondary education have nowhere to go because the existing universities are too few to accommodate them. Governments should therefore give university education the same attention given to primary and secondary schools. They should provide local scholarships to accommodate youths who cannot afford post-secondary studies. Universities encourage innovation among young people and also lead to a more educated country. Students do not need to go to western countries to further their education. There should be well-established institutions of higher learning in Africa.

Unity in Fighting Political Instability

Political instability is a major hindrance to quality education in Africa. Countries, particularly in West and Central Africa such as Nigeria, Mali, and Cameroon, are often faced with internal wars spearheaded by militia groups. As a result, there is no consistency and continuity of education in majority of the countries (Mngomezulu, 2019). The African Union needs to work together in this matter because it affects the entire continent. They should involve the United Nations in ensuring there is peace in the affected areas.

Limitations of the Research

From the research findings and the discussion of the same there is discrepancy between theory and evidence. For instance, ideally there is a connection between poverty and the quality of education because without finances it is impossible to meet the related costs. However, there are practical factors identified that do not relate to lack of finance. For example, attitudes towards western education influenced by African cultures is one of the barriers to effective learning in the region. There is need to reconcile the theoretical principles and practical evidences. Moreover, the literature does not list the educational policies and strategies already in effect.

Conclusion and Recommendations for Further research

First-world countries are fortunate enough to experience education as a fundamental human right because they have enough resources to do so. However, the case is different in Africa where attending school is regarded as a privilege. Challenges such as poverty, political instability, and untrained teachers prevent children in the region from receiving a quality education. Nonetheless, organizations such as World Bank have been keen to work with African governments to change the situation. Discussed strategies including focusing on students’ needs and improving university enrolment can improve the quality of education in Africa. More studies should be conducted, on the existing education strategies and policies in Africa to improve their general effectiveness.

References

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