News / Africa

Experts Tackling Education in Africa

Pupils at the Toi Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, sit in a classroom and study, September 6, 2011.
Pupils at the Toi Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, sit in a classroom and study, September 6, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Gabe Joselow
This is Part 1 of a 12-part series:  Education in Africa
Continue to Parts: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 /
6 / 7/ 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 /12

 

How do you fix education in Africa, where students have far fewer opportunities than their counterparts in other parts of the world? There are two schools of thought on the subject: do you invest bottom up? Or top down?

The statistics are hard to ignore.  Sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest-ranked region in the world on the United Nations' education development index.

The U.N. education agency (UNESCO) says a quarter of all children in sub-Saharan Africa do not go to school, and account for 43 percent of the world's out-of-school children.

Meantime, the African Union (AU) has said the continent will need to recruit more than 2 million new teachers by 2015, just three years from now.

While the U.N. and the AU agree on the scope of the education challenges facing the continent, they are from two separate schools of thought on how to remedy the situation.

UNESCO, for instance, develops individual programs catering to each country's needs based on the U.N.'s Education for All initiative (EFA).

"Every country or every region, we look at those and see what is important," said Joseph Massaquoi, director of UNESCO's East Africa office.  "For instance in Uganda they have decided that teacher training is what is important, in Sudan it is literacy that we are emphasizing, similarly we are doing the same for Rwanda.  So every country we pick an area that we strive to emphasize."

EFA lists six major goals, including improving child education, gender parity and literacy.

UNESCO says the initiative has made major strides, especially an effort to attain universal primary education, with countries like Ethiopia, Guinea and Burundi improving rapidly since 1999.

Education for All is also in-line with the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, which seek to eradicate poverty, stop HIV/AIDS and improve other aspects of life in developing countries.

But the head of the Education Division at the African Union Commission, Beatrice Njenga, says the U.N. initiatives are misdirected.

"EFA focuses on basic education and a few years later we have MDGs whose education goal is primary education, but they go on to list other goals to do with development, to do with child mortality, food security and all that," said Njenga.  "And you look at those goals and you think with primary education, with basic education shall we be able to meet these goals?  One reason we might not meet MDGs in terms of, for instance, child mortality is because we don't have human resources. Where do human resources come from?  Not basic education."

The African Union has established its own "Plan of Action," education goals to achieve by the year 2015.

Instead of focusing on a bottom-up approach that promotes basic education for all, the AU plan is geared more toward developing stronger African universities, that will produce graduates who are focused on solving African problems.

Njenga says here too, on the university level, Africa is lagging behind.

"Higher education, higher education," added Njenga.  "The world average for access to university is about 27 percent. The average for Africa for accessing a first degree is between two and seven percent.  We've been told we need to at least double it to 12 percent if we are just to get the human resources that we need."

The AU has established a Pan-African University which will have institutes in five separate regions focused on different disciplines.  Njenga says three of the schools, in Kenya, Cameroon and Nigeria, will be ready to accept students this year.  Another two are planned for Algeria and a country yet to be determined in southern Africa.

UNESCO's Massaquoi objects to the African Union characterization of the U.N. as being too focused on primary education.

"We cannot make progress with basic education unless we also strengthen higher education," added Massaquoi.  "Teachers come from higher education.  So when we talk about teacher training we are really talking about the higher education level.  So we are now doing that.  So whereas the emphasis would appear to be on basic education, all of the other inputs that we strengthen and bring about quality of education, closing the gender gap and so on are also addressed by other programs including higher education."

The challenges to providing education in Africa are vast, but Massaquoi says he is optimistic.

"We should not look at where we are and assess ourselves on that basis," noted Massaquoi.  "We should look at where we are coming from, we should also look at impediments we have overcome because some of these countries have had wars and conflicts where everything was either destroyed or stagnated for a while, so when we look at all of that together and we see some progress, we feel very optimistic that by 2015 we'll be able to obtain some of those goals if not all."

Both the AU and the U.N. are looking at 2015 as the benchmark year to reassess the effectiveness of their two programs.

You May Like

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by a joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop billions of dollars from illegally being moved out of continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid