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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.