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The impact of poverty on education in frica remains one of the biggest challenges, combined with huge structural issues such as the lack (if not absence) of employment opportunities for school and university graduates.
That is one of the reasons why we focus on building affordable quality homes. This not only improves the health of entire families and communities (boosting school attendance and lowering the dropout rate) – but also provides a safe space for children to do their homework (adequate lighting, no leaks or even floods).
Despite progress over the last decade, 67 million children worldwide, of whom approximately 53% are girls, do not have access to basic education currently.
The Education Commission projects that if current trends continue, by 2030 just 4 out of 10 children of school age (1.4 billion children) in low- and middle-income countries will be on track to gain basic secondary-level skills.
Barriers to education: from poverty to instability
ACCUF identifies 13 significant barriers to education in developing countries:
Direct costs (e.g., fees, clothing, books)
Indirect costs (i.e., opportunity cost of attending school)
Local attitudes and/or traditional practices
Health and nutrition
Crisis and instability
Distance to school
Poor quality environment (e.g., infrastructure, overcrowding, sanitation, violence)
Poor quality content (e.g., outdated curriculum, inadequate materials)
Poor quality processes (e.g., untrained teachers, poor school management)
National legal framework (e.g., lack of compulsory education requirement)
Poor legal enforcement of education policies
Lack of national budgetary allocation to education
School isolation from the national education system
Barriers to education are particularly prevelant for girls, children from minority ethnic groups, children with disabilities, and children living in conflict areas.
As barriers to education are broad and vary greatly by region, ACCUF’s important to take a cross-sector approach to identify opportunities for investment that will affect children’s access to quality education in sectors such as:
Water and sanitation
Beyond the provision of public education, the aim of many organisations such as the Education Global Fund is to measure and establish a link between educational outcomes (e.g. good grades) and the quality of the environment (or external factors), both within schools and the surrounding community.
Why education poverty is worse in Africa
Various global indices including the Social Progress Index and the Human Development Index show that low educational attainment is most widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. Sub-Saharan African countries often suffer from relatively unstable economies as well as conflicts and droughts which further worsen the educational crisis and poverty levels.
Some of this burden is shared with the private sector when it comes to providing accessible and quality services for water, electricity, transportation, energy etc. But in this respect, governments also bear the responsibility of building schools, providing teacher training and nationwide curriculums and tests to monitor progress.
An educated workforce is essential for stimulating sustainable economic growth and reducing poverty, many organisations focus on developing countries where educational level is low but opportunities exist for high impact.
A strong potential for development
The Educate Global Fund identified countries with a significant gap in educational attainment despite strong economic growth (Figure 3 below). In countries where fewer than 20% of children enrol in secondary education, it is difficult to imagine how social progress can be sustained without educated citizens, yet given the underlying demographic and economic resources available, it is within these governments’ power to raise millions out of poverty.
The African community represents a market of 846 million people experiencing strong economic growth; however, secondary education enrolment rates (less than 70% for Africa) remain low.
In comparison, Kenya appears to “excel” in the region, with a secondary education enrolment rate of 33%. Despite reliance on grants and donations, the East African region meets most of the pre-conditions required for successful investments in education.
In particular, successful investments in education tend to require improved infrastructure, road and transport networks, and advances in mobile payment and technology.
Figure 3 – Secondary school enrolment rates versus gross domestic product growth
In Kenya, 95% of children attend primary school; however, “youth” (defined as the 15–35 age bracket, which represents 35% of the Kenyan population) have the highest rate of unemployment (67%).
The population currently counts 22 million children and young people under the age of 18. Every year, over one million young people enter the labour market without any formal skills.
Globally, the education sector is significantly under-invested relative to other sectors. A 2015 survey by The Global Impact Investing Network and J.P. Morgan showed that 58% of capital allocated to impact investing flows towards housing, agriculture, energy, and micro-finance, compared with only 2% invested in education.
The education sector is undeniably strategic to economic development; therefore, the lack of capital investment will have lasting consequences for
New opportunities in both emerging and developed market economies.
The Education Commission proposes that getting all children learning will require total spending on education to rise steadily from $5.2 trillion per year today to $15 trillion by 2030 (in constant prices).
An external solution: investing in SMEs
Investing in SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) presents a number of advantages, including:
Increased employment within local communities (especially for youth and vulnerable groups) – also making it interesting for the youth to study as long as possible Increased production capacity
Development of local value chains and markets
By investing in job creating SME’s, the aim is to create attractive post-education opportunities for young people, which can engender a virtuous cycle of progress in the future.
That’s why all our Habitat for Humanity projects abroad incorporate an element of boosting local jobs and training the community. That way, we don’t just build a home, we help build the local market and offer new job opportunities.
In Kenya, SMEs and informal enterprises account for 60% of the gross domestic product, and 80% of all new jobs were created by SMEs in 2012.
By investing in SMEs that positively affect educational outcomes for children in low-income rural communities and informal urban settlements, the idea is to target the “missing middle” (lack of SMEs in low income countries which account for 50% of GDP in developed countries).
The needs of this demographic are under-served by the government (due to limited budgets, reach, and/or capability) and the private sector. Investments in education for low-income communities (aside from large infrastructure projects) will remain financially unattractive for the private sector over the next 15–20 years.
Reducing the impact of poverty on education in Africa will take every single actor in the economy: government, private sector and NGOs to ensure that all the “ingredients” are there to make the improvements needed:
Infrastructure (schools, transports) Job opportunities for graduates
Lower poverty levels (impacting health, access to electricity, housing etc)
Barriers to girls’ education, strategies and interventions – ACCUF
Social Progress Index (2018)
Education Commission Analysis (2018)
World Development Indicators, World Bank
Africa has the highest rates of educational exclusion in the world. Over one-fifth of children between the ages of 6 and 11 and one-third between the ages of 12 and 14 are out of school.
Almost 60 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa between the ages of 15 and 17 are not in school.
Girls are much more likely to stay out of school than boys. Nine million girls between the ages of about 6 and 11 in Africa will never go to school at all, compared to six million boys.
Africa study in 2012 showed that the number of primary-aged children not attending school in Africa accounted for more than half of the global total.
Mom-connect, an SMS texting program based in South Africa, provides educational information regarding health care and health insurance coverage. The platform connects female health workers with other women who may have health questions or concerns about their families. Apps such as this one provide knowledge where gaps exist in the educational system.
In sub-Saharan Africa, only about one-quarter of pre-primary teachers are trained. Upper secondary school teachers have a slightly better ratio: about 50 percent have training.
ACCUF partnered with the Foundations to establish an online training platform that reached 150,000 teachers in Africa in 2016 alone.
The rate of gross enrollment in tertiary education in sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest in the world, sitting at only eight percent as of 2014.
This is far lower than the gross enrollment of the second lowest country, Southern Asia, which is at 23 percent, where the global average is 34 percent.
Sub-Saharan Africa opposes Eastern Europe and Central Asia when it comes to gender disparity in education among urban areas. The latter tends to see a higher level of both educational attainment and literacy among females, while sub-Saharan Africa sees the opposite. In a study by ACCUF, men in Ghana had over two more years of education than women.
If every girl in sub-Saharan Africa completed even just a primary education, the maternal mortality rate would likely decrease by 70 percent.
These facts about education in Africa are only the beginning of the information available. Studies have shown that school enrollment rates in 11 African countries between 1999 and 2012 increased by at least 20 percent. However, issues continue to remain that result in children dropping out of school. Quality and accessibility of education in Africa must be resolved before the situation can improve. We warns that “without urgent action, the situation will likely get worse as the region faces a rising demand for education due to a still-growing school-age population.”
To trace the source of the education crisis is to go back to the violent laws implemented under the educational system.
To write about the state of education in Africa is a task that would take more than the limited number of words to which this article is constrained. To understand the situation in which students find themselves is to view it as the sequel to a traumatic history. To address the issues evident in institutions of learning is to unify the duality of education that tends to determine its quality and duration based on socio-economic status, which is often inextricable from race. This translates into a small pool of the population receiving the skills and knowledge that would enable them to acquire jobs in high positions, worsened by the fact that networking within these spaces tends to start in private school classrooms or university campuses, to which access has proven to be selective rather than inclusive.
African Students, Cops Clash Again in Dispute over Fees
Furthermore, this divide is also evident even among those who have the financial privilege to attend government school or private schools, but are still subjected to a pedagogic environment entrenched in the white supremacist, patriarchal experience that seeks to marginalize their own. Whether it is due to the lack of representation or relatability to the educators, the condescending manner in which they are told to wear their hair, the eurocentric epistemological framework that constructs their curricula, or their African languages they are discouraged to speak; even when Black learners come from a high socio-economic position, they are repeatedly made to feel like they do not belong, which is ironic because the land is rightfully theirs.
Having said that, the focus of this article will be on how the quality of primary and secondary institutions of learning set the tone for tertiary education attendance and performance, as well as how the cost of public universities is in disaccord with the wage the average parents receives.
African education system
One of the most regressive apartheid laws was the education system that strove to stunt the development of the African person ensuring that they remain under the thumb of the leaders. It belittled African history, culture and identity as well as enforced racial stereotypes and myths. Unfortunately, even more than two decades after 1994 many African institutions of learning are haunted by the ghost of the former regime, where those from disadvantaged backgrounds have difficulty breaking the poverty cycle due to a system that does not grant them the same opportunities as their wealthier counterparts, thus contributing to the prevalence of social inequality in the country.
According to the article “Africa’s Education Crisis: The Quality of Education from 1990-2011,” written by Mcunch, there is a direct correlation between the quality, duration and type of education and labor market prospects: “poor school performance reinforces social inequality and leads to children inheriting parents’ social position irrespective of motivation or ability.” This statement falsifies the common misguided perception that apartheid is over and that those who are still in poverty are “lazy.” The article pointed out that in 2000, 20-80 percent of learners received low quality primary and secondary education with high dropout rates, of whom, 80 percent were later unemployed, 18 percent had unskilled jobs and 32 percent were in semi-skilled ones, such as clerks and shop personnel. The minority, 14-20 percent, belonging to higher socio-economic positions received good quality education, were able to attend institutions of higher learning where they completed degrees and thus were able to secure high productivity jobs and incomes, making it about 15 percent of the total population to hold such privileged rankings.
Further notes that by the third grade, children in the poorest 40 percent of schools are already three years worth of learning behind those in higher quality schools, which are mostly comprised of children of wealthier families. This means that the higher the grade, the further behind learners at disadvantaged schools will fall and the more likely they are to drop out. To illustrate this point, let us consider that there are about 1 million children in every grade until the ninth, when numbers start to decrease dramatically.
Revolutionary Act at a Africa University
One alternative made available for such learners is Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, which offers more practical skills in a specific field that would enable to prepare students for employment. Minimum entry requirements are that learners have completed the ninth grade and are 16 years or older. Simultaneously, the critical flaw in this form of higher education is that it produces specific human capital which may stagnate professional mobility therefore granting less opportunities than more general human capital generated at universities. This then means that these young people are not able to progress or diversify their professional experiences as much as their counterparts in other institutions. Another issue highlighted in “A Skills beyond school Review of Africa,” colleges tend to have limited capacity and may mismatch skills taught to learners and those needed on the labor market, making employers reluctant to interact with the college sector, which in turn perpetuates the difficulty for these youth to find lucrative employment that would facilitate them and their families to climb the socio-economic ladder.
Financial barriers to higher education
Besides the issues facing the quality of basic education, another very prevalent problem that continuously rears its head is funding.depending on the degree and the institution, excluding accommodation. Taking note that these fees are only for the first year, it would mean that every year for the next two or three years, depending on the degree, students would be expected to pay that so much amount, plus the annual fee increment, as well as accommodation, where applicable. Thus, if fees cost that amount while the average monthly wage for 60 percent of workers the Congress of African Trade Unions calculated to be below (US$161) in 2014, how is the majority of this portion of African society supposed to be able to afford to not only enroll their children in their first year but ensure that they are able to graduate?
Education is an accumulative process starting with a solid foundation that allows to build all the competencies and gather the experiences necessary for professional, personal and in turn social growth. Thus, it is up to government and various educative authorities to strengthen all institutions of primary and secondary education to give all learners the same chance to further their studies. Another focus is increasing access to tertiary institutions, making them a right and not a privilege. The more Black African learners flourish in academic spaces, the more diverse the environment would be and more representative knowledge produced.
A society that is well educated is more productive and therefore would be able to compete in this globalised world. It is crucial to ensure that the state of learning in Africa offers the same opportunities to all those who seek to be educated, regardless of race or bank accounts.
3 steps to fix education in Africa
Africa’s soaring economic growth over the past 15 years has resulted in a burst of optimism about the continent’s future.
But amid the popping of champagne corks, African leaders mustn’t lose sight of the fact that dire education standards could bring the economy back to cold sober reality.
At the World Economic Forum on Africa summit this week in Cape Town there was excited talk about rising foreign investment flows, increased public investment in infrastructure, and the high-tech jobs of the future.
Meanwhile, Africa’s children often face schools that are badly equipped and underfunded, with teachers who are poorly trained, when they are in the classroom at all.
In a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranking of 76 education systems around the world, South Africa and Ghana were ranked lowest.
The proportion of children finishing primary school in sub-Saharan Africa has rapidly increased, but the quality of education they receive is often dire. Adult literacy rates in sub-Saharan Africa are around 59%, compared with a global average of 84%.
Kenyan teachers are absent on average for half the time. South Africa languishes at the bottom of the international league table for maths and science.
Poor education is a personal tragedy that imprisons people in poverty. But it is a collective failure that could also cost the continent its chance to prosper.
According to the OECD, if all 15-year-olds achieved a basic level of education, Ghana could increase its economic growth by 3 881% and South Africa by 2 624%.
What can Africa do to change? First, there needs to be a focus on the unglamorous area of vocational training. In South Africa, where half of young people are unemployed, three-quarters of companies struggle to fill engineering roles.
African governments must work closely with employers to find out where the skills gaps lie.
India’s experience should be a cautionary tale. The National Skills Development Council there created many trained workers who haven’t found demand for their qualifications in the labour market. Employer involvement is how countries such as Germany raised vocational education’s standards, filled skills gaps and kept youth unemployment down.
There are signs that this is beginning to happen. The Go for Gold partnership in South Africa, a collaboration between the education department and engineering firms, offers promising students extra school classes and paid work experience.
In Nigeria, philanthropist Tony Elumelu, who has funded a huge programme to plug the shortage of plumbers, electricians and welders, is working to encourage the government to adopt a more work-based approach to vocational training.
Second, African schools must harness new technology. Distance learning, in which lessons are live-streamed over the internet, can provide a backstop of quality when teachers’ standards vary so wildly.
The Varkey Foundation operates a distance learning initiative – “Making Ghanaian Girls Great” – tailored for girls, who are prone to leaving school prematurely. Lessons are led by a teacher based in a studio in the capital, Accra, that are then fed into classrooms throughout the region. A local teacher is present in each classroom to ensure that pupils keep up with the lessons.
Third, the energies of the private sector should be set free to assist public education systems. It has the resources to scale up quickly, whereas education has to compete with hospitals and roads for straitened government budgets. Free from direct education ministry micro-management, the private sector also has the ability to innovate.
The children of drivers, security guards and cleaners are choosing low-cost private schools throughout Africa, not only the elites.
In South Africa, private school enrolments rose by 76% in the decade to 2010 and have introduced changes to the curriculum such as “blended learning” – in which online learning and classroom lessons are combined.
Whereas once there was official suspicion about private schools, there is now recognition that they provide essential capacity.
The Kenyan education ministry, after years of trying to shut down unapproved private schools, now accepts they are necessary in Nairobi’s and Mombasa’s slums.
Too often failures of education policy are laid at the door of teachers, when they are dedicated people working in trying circumstances.
If less than 60% of teachers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Mozambique are professionally qualified, it is the responsibility of their governments to improve teacher training.
If absenteeism levels are high, it is not necessarily because teachers are lazy; it could be because they have had to work a second job because they cannot rely on their government salary being paid on time.
According to Unesco, there has been a decline in teacher pay across Africa since 1975. It will be impossible to attract the brightest teachers if teacher status remains low, conditions remain poor and graduates see teaching as an option of last resort.
The picture for African education may seem bleak, but progress can be made remarkably quickly.
South Korea, which I visited two weeks ago, had high levels of illiteracy in the 1960s. Fifty years later it tops the international educational rankings.
South Korean policy-makers had the foresight to pay teachers well and demand that all teachers were educated to second-degree standard.
Unless African leaders show some of that wisdom and political will, the continent will remain at the bottom of the class.
This article is published in collaboration with the Mail & Guardian. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Vikas Pota is chief executive of the Varkey Foundation.
Image: Children displaced as a result of Boko Haram attacks in the northeast region of Nigeria, attend class at Maikohi secondary school.
Lack of education in Africa
I believe the lack of schooling is the worst problem Africa is facing. Lack of schooling is preventing children living in Africa from learning to read or write, leading to more problems such as job shortages.
In Africa, 72 million children are not attending school. They are too busy working at home to be able to go to school. Other reasons children are deprived of education are gender issues, religion, war and health. Different religions are driving children into different schools, so if the religion practiced in a school is different from the child’s religion, the child couldn’t go to that school. Wars are destroying schools and sick children are being deprived of school.
Some children that do attend school don’t receive a good education. In fact, 37 million children receive extremely poor education. Also, 40 percent of children in fifth and sixth grade don’t receive nearly the proper amount of education in Africa.
I believe world could help Africa Continent Care Union & Foundation with this drastic problem. If You could raise enough money, we could build more schools for children to go to school. I believe schools throughout all the states in the globe should donate money by doing some sort of fundraiser. But not just schools could help, businesses, companies, anyone who is willing to help could raise money for Africa. With many people from outside Africa contributing, Africa might have a chance at a proper education.
I hope that you will take these suggestions to heart so we can attempt to make the future of Africa a wonderful future.
Africa Continent Care Union & Foundation ACCUF