Educational System: Understanding Africa Educational Context And The Way Forward
Understanding Africa through the lens of Education
Africa has often been described as vibrant, rich in natural resources, talented with a young growing population (60%), beautiful, diverse cultures, languages, and geography, emerging market in technology, innovation, and green solution, etc. Looking at this description it sounds normal just like a developed continent and one of the Western countries. This could not have been in contrast to how many view Africa like it is poor, always in wars and not trustworthy, corrupt, lazy, dependent on others, and most importantly under-educated. As such one of the ways to better understand Africa is through its educational system. Education is the game changer to any growing economy and continent and Africa is no exception. Thus, this blog will focus on addressing the following key questions: what is the educational system like in Africa? What are the challenges faced by this sector? What can be learned from the Western educational system, opportunities in this sector and what is the way forward for Africa? The area of interest in higher education in Africa, specifically the University level.
University Education in Africa
University education in Africa is like most of the world, Asia, Europe, America. Mostly made up of young people with big ambitions to change the world. African higher education falls in different categories. First is the highly developed with self-sustaining researchers such as Stellenbosch (SUN), University of Cape Town (UCT), Makerere University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT)- Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana etc. Also, there are the less developed Universities dominating the African continent that was created during historic times. Then, are the public Universities that rely mainly on government and public funding. Finally, are private Universities that are self-funded. With the understanding of the differences of the African Universities, in general, there are some challenges that exist among these universities as presented below:
Challenges faced by African Higher Education
Some of the common challenges in African Higher Education include:
1) Access to the University: Even though the slogans say no one is left behind when it comes to higher education in Africa, going to the university for some is a luxury due to the financial investment involved.
2) Poor infrastructure like internet connection which affects online learning especially during Covid-19. This has led to the slow adoption of technology and the capacity to make learning more effective difficult.
3) Over-reliance on Government funding: Many universities in Africa rely on the government for funding. Unfortunately, many African governments are also financially strapped.
4) Curriculum is not aligned to industry needs: This affects the quality of the graduates and has created more unemployed university graduates. This is due to the curriculum being designed in a way where students are taught to be more job seekers rather than jobs creators. This is creating high rates of unemployment as the government in the end cannot provide jobs for all the jobs seekers.
5) High rate of school dropouts because of poverty: According to a statistic conducted by UNESCO in Africa, the enrolment rate across Africa is 12% comparative to the global rate of 32%. This is of concern to any continent that wants to compete and grow on the world stage.
6) Big classes to be managed with fewer professors: This affects the quality of education.
7) Lecturers are underpaid and always busy with other things: This has affected the quality of the educational system. Covid-19 greatly illustrated how less paid teachers and professors are since most parents had a hard time keeping up with teaching their kids at home.
8) Poor quality education: mainly due to too many scandals at the Universities. For instance, favours for marks.
What can be learned from the Western world
In a way, Europe and Africa are facing some challenges in one way or the other in higher education, but the scenarios are different.
When it comes to Europe, they have the know-how, technologies which they also incorporate in the educational system, and the capacity to accommodate their students and others.
Also, they invest immensely in the education of their citizens because they are the future of the continent in terms of loans, scholarships, voluntary teaching assistance, etc. There is structure, inclusivity in higher education and no one is exempted. Evaluating students are at different levels and not fix to a particular way to avoid scandals and fraud.
Looking at what the EU offers to its citizens; it can be customized to the real Africa needs and context and in a nutshell are some of the things that Africa can learn from Europe. Also, Europe can also learn from Africa some of the smart technologies that they have especially among the youths since they are very active and talented like smart agriculture.
For this to happen, there needs to be strong collaboration and cooperation between Africa and Europe like in the capacity building using exchange programs and exchange of professor’s visits. The most important point is the change of mindset among Africans that this is possible and the type of quality educational system in Europe can be achieved in Africa as well.
The Way forward for the educational system in Africa
Education is the key to unlocking the world’s potential and Africa is no exception. A country most at times is defined by the quality of its educational system. The gateway into the country and competitive edge on the global stage.
To overcome the challenges stated above, the following needs to happen.
1) Investment in infrastructures and upgrading lecturers/professors’ skills.
2) Adjusting the curriculum to include more practical lessons, current affairs, and the ability for students to be job creators after studies. Thus, strategic education approach from the very start.
3) Agenda setting for the interest of skills development and not along party/political lines.
4) Growth funds from the local, national and international partners to invest in the students.
5) Encourage more inclusivity in the educational sector in closing the gender gap and target group. Like encouraging young girls to go to school and vocational schools for adult women, institutions for differently able people.
6) Policies and institutions reform that are conducive for studying.
7) Better salaries for professors.
8) Localisation of schools
9) Best practices.
Opportunities in Africa
Investors. universities or anyone interested in Africa, there are various opportunities ready for collaboration,
Firstly, is research about technologies that work best for Africa context and target rural areas. As such Africa could be the testbed for some of the solutions for prototyping, like offline services and services without the use of the internet. Africa has researchers who could assist in the research and highlight the needs on the group.
Secondly, is the availability of data sources like access to university data and direct contact with end-users to address their needs.
Also, opportunities for diverse solutions for European companies. E.g collaboration with EU universities and startups to design courses/programs that address specific needs in Africa. Solutions that can work with no internet or electricity. Solutions that work in difficult-to-access environments and can be replicated in Africa.
Finally, designing solutions that target young people since 60% of Africa’s population are youth. So solutions that take care of the Africa population, entrepreneur skills for youths are key. As such youths should be part of the solution as well as the labor market.
Education is the key to unlocking all the other sectors because one cannot do what they do not know. Creating the right environment for students and their parents/guidance for engagement through policies and changing mindset should be primordial. Africa needs to know what they want.
EuroAfri Link is out to facilitate learning possibilities for both Africa and Europeans. We provide mentoring services to African students/professionals seeking to study at accredited agri and tech universities and institutions in Europe with a focus on exchange programs.
Be part of the everyday solution and join us. For we are stronger together!
Authors: Professor Nobert Jere Walter Sisulu University, South Africa, and Patience Chindong, Co-founder, EAL