01 October 2017 – Given that billions of low-skilled jobs will be lost to automation all over the world, quality education -more than ever before – plays a vital role in equipping the labour force of sub-Saharan Africa with the requisite skills and competencies they will need to be competitive with their peers across other divides of the world in today’s globalised world.
However, due to several unpleasant socio-economic constraints confronting the vast majority of persons in countries of sub-Saharan Africa and Africa as a whole, quality education appears to be an unaffordable commodity for the far larger fraction of people in the continent. Thus university enrolment rates in sub-Saharan Africa are among the lowest in the world. In fact, a great number of persons in sub-Saharan Africa cannot even boast of a complete secondary education.
According to Ms. Irina Bokova, Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in a UN high level event tagged ‘Inclusive, equitable and quality education’ on 28 June 2017 said “if adults completed secondary education, 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty, reducing the number of poor people more than half globally, by almost two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa… and yet, aid to education has fallen for the sixth consecutive year. ”
In fact, aid for education in Africa is down substantially. In low-income countries across sub-Saharan Africa, only one in 10 children will gain basic secondary school skills by 2030 – the target year for the achievement of the UN-agreed sustainable development goals. The vast majority, nine in 10 children, will barely complete primary school.
Early this year, the British government’s office for international affairs came under fire owing to its questionable claim on its goal to support the agenda to achieve the provision of basic primary education for all in Africa by its choice of funding for-private schools under the guise of such schools being low-fee paying schools. Any thinking mind knows that the term low-fee paying schools is also relative and controversial, for what is low to Peter may not be low to Paul – given the differing levels of their adverse socio-economic living standards.
This shortcoming and more informed the criticism of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, last June, of the UK spending aid money on for-private schools; which could undermine the sustainable development goal of inclusive and equitable education for all by 2030. Equally, the relevant British parliamentary committee said the majority of low-cost schools were not serving the world’s poorest and marginalized children. In the same vein, Education International (EI) , a federation representing 32 million teachers and support staff also expressed its displeasure; in a letter to the Department for International Development (DfID), EI said the UK government’s ongoing support for BIA is “beyond justification. “ Aisha Dodwell, a campaigner at Global Justice Now, said: “Aid money could and should be used to support the development of robust services to deliver education rather than supporting a controversial private-sector approach that has been shown time and time again to worsen conditions of inequality.
Many of such schools in Africa founded by the Bridge International Academies, Spark Schools, etc. across Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Libya as well as in India have been discovered to be guilty of vices which range from engaging the services of unqualified teachers, providing unsanitary learning conditions, not meeting basic educational standards, etc. But interestingly, the voice of the relevant regional governance authority, the African Union and those of national governments of affected countries of Africa – expected to speak out in the interest of the protection of the education rights of its citizenry – were not heard in this matter.
Warning of a learning crisis in global education, flowing from the details of the World Development Report 2018: ‘Learning to Realise Education’s Promise’, the World Bank said “…that millions of young students in low and middle-income countries gave the prospect of lost opportunity and lower wages in later life because their primary and secondary schools are failing to educate them to succeed….Even after several years in school, millions if children cannot read, write or do basic math…. The report notes that when countries and their leaders make ‘learning for all ‘ a national priority, education standards can improve dramatically. Of course, it is popular knowledge that Africa houses the far larger fraction of countries and humanity on the low and middle-income level. As the report also noted among other recommended steps “… mobilising a strong social movement to push for education changes that champion ‘learning for all’ is also an invaluable step.
Though among other continents and their constituent countries, African countries have on the average allocated the largest share of government expenditure to education at 18.4 per cent, yet none has met up with an allocation corresponding to the 26 per cent benchmark set forth by the United Nations for quality education that will qualitatively empower all humanity. Interestingly, the allocation of government expenditure in the national budget does not always translate to the actual disbursement of such funds to the officially designated ends.
In line with the foregoing, in Nigeria, the Academic Staff Universities Union (ASUU) only recently announced a conditional suspension of its strike action stating that if the federal government in its characteristic nature fails to implement the agreement reached, the union will not hesitate to take appropriate action. This in addition to the 30-day ultimatum that was given by the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) on 14 June to 19 states of Nigeria owing its members several months of salary to settle such a backlog or face an indefinite strike action.
The foregoing sordid situation is a lamentable addition to a groundbreaking study of the Nations Development Programme (2017) which revealed that “Deprivation, marginalisation and perceived state violence and abuse of power are pushing young Africans into the clutches of violent extremism,…” Thus as a result of the insecurity crisis in North East Nigeria, according to UNICEF (2017), “about 57 percent of all schools in Nigeria’s Borno State, worst hit by the Boko Haram insurgency and the subsequent humanitarian crisis leaving an estimated 3 million children in need of emergency educational support, even as the new school year begins,… ”
According to the Centre for Universal Education at Brookings (2017), “It’s unfathomable that of Africa’s nearly 128 million school-aged children, 17 million will never attend school. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that another 37 million African children will learn so little while they are in school that they will not be much better off than those kids who never attend school. As a consequence, the prognosis for Africa’s economic and social development is poor.
Sure, for any thinking mind, the outlook of the management of affairs in the education sector – or across many countries – of Africa leaves much to be desired. That said, answering the clarion call to do the needful becomes a moral imperative for all the relevant stakeholders on the African continent and beyond if the goal of quality education for all will be excellently achieved.
As Africa looks forward to joining other continents in celebrating the World Education Day come 5 October 2017, evolving pragmatically effective plan to address the challenges in her education sector across the countries of Afriand in the continent holistically may be a quantum leap in the right direction.
Olubankole Daniel Olulana
Column Bio :
Afriscope is a bi-weekly column of Humanity Voice Watch that seeks to analyse the outlook of current issues on the African continent along law, policy and practice lines with a view to seeking the achievement of the welfare and development of all humanity on the African continent.
Olubankole is a political scientist cum political economist and management expert interested in research, writing and consulting on issues that revolve around -inclusive and good – (public and corporate) governance of the economy and society. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.