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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid