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Friday, September 14, 2012

Key issues on education in Africa

Public-private-partnerships are not the solution to quality education (Photo courtesy of reinventinggov) 
Although Africa has made significant progress towards the achievement of Education for All and Millennium Development Goals, a number of challenges continue to threaten the achievement of these international targets by, and beyond 2015.
Access to early childhood education, primary and post primary education, including vocational education and training, remains a key challenge for the continent. For example, of the 61 million children of primary school going age who are still out of school, 31 million of them (more than 50%) are found in  Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these are girls and children from poor and remote rural areas and those affected by conflict and discrimination. Continuing use of child labour has exacerbated the problem and denied children their basic right to learn.
Educational quality remains a serious challenge in Africa.  Many countries continue to experience shortages of basic facilities, infrastructure, equipment and teaching and learning materials. For example, children continue to learn under trees, exposed to harsh weather conditions and to struggle to learn without sufficient textbooks and reading materials. The unavailability of electricity, clean water and sanitation facilities, including toilets for both girls and boys remains a challenge, particularly in rural schools.  For example, UIS reports that at least 60 percent of schools have no toilets in Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar and Niger.
The shortage of qualified teachers is a serious challenge affecting the continent. UIS projections show that Sub-Saharan Africa would need to recruit more than 1.1 million additional primary school teachers between 2009 and 2015 to ensure that every child has access to primary education. Many countries have resorted to hiring unqualified or contract teachers, most often, without adequate academic qualifications and with no professional qualifications at all. This has had a serious negative impact on the quality of education.
Financing remains another challenge affecting education in most African countries. The inadequacy of investment in education and of international development aid has impeded access, quality and the achievement of international targets for education.
The post 2015 development agenda on education should address the above and other critical issues affecting education in Africa and across the globe. Human rights in general and the right to education in particular should be the explicit foundation for a new development and education framework. Education is a public good and a basic right; it is also a catalyst for the achievement of all other development goals and should therefore be at the centre of any new development framework.
The state should guarantee the right and access to quality education for all. Privatization and public-private-partnerships are not the solution to quality education for all; states should take their responsibilities seriously and not rely on market forces to solve problems in education.
Access to early childhood, primary, and secondary education must be a fundamental goal. International  targets must thus, focus on the entire basic education cycle. Equity needs to be a central concern, with particular attention to gender and other dimensions by which people are marginalized.
The post-2015 framework should pay particular attention to educational quality, viewed multi-dimensionally in terms of providing sufficient resources/adequate inputs, professional processes, attaining satisfactory immediate and broad-based outcomes. Quality education requires quality teachers.
The post-2015 goals must therefore place teachers at the centre of efforts to achieve quality education: to call for their training, professional development and support and to pay explicit attention to class size, teaching and learning resources, incentives and general conditions of service. A student to trained teacher ratio should be introduced  and used as a key quality indicator.  Teachers should be empowered and given the opportunity to exercise their professional autonomy, hence the need to shift from over-reliance on external evaluation and control to ensuring reflective adequately supported practitioners.   
Sufficient education financing is essential to ensure implementation and achievement of education and development goals. National governments should ensure that they allocate at least 6 percent of their countries’ GDP to education and development partners should allocate at least 10 percent of Official Development Assistance to education.
The author, Susan Hopgood, is President of Education International

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