October 14, 2011

An entire continent without worthwhile access to education!

This December, I am supposed to be speaking on education in a summit in Africa. As I was researching on what to speak, I realized that while the entire world is leapfrogging to state-of-art technology to impart education to their children, there are a few unfortunate countries – rather, almost an entire continent – still struggling with blackboards and chalk pieces. On the one hand, developed nations are all set to impart knowledge through varied technology platforms, and are modernizing their syllabi to suit the new learning curves; on the other, we have Africa, a continent that has still not been able to teach basic reading, writing and arithmetic to its children. The continent is still lagging behind the rest of the world in school enrollment – evidence to the fact that dramatic global improvements in education haven’t touched the continent yet. In the last 40 years, while most of the world improved its enrolment trends by leaps and bounds, Africa could only showcase discomforting educational profiles – only about half of Africa’s children are enrolled in primary schools, most drop out; and more than 60 per cent of the adults and over 50 per cent of women are rank illiterates!

With these kinds of figures, Africa doesn’t stand a chance to harness its human capital, leave aside meeting the challenges of the 21st century. There are 15 countries (Angola, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal and Somalia) with less than 50 per cent school enrolment rates – these have been targeted by the UN System-wide Special Initiative on Africa, by providing educational support for a ten year period. The focus on these 15 countries has become an imperative as their performance in education has been appalling. Enrolment of boys in these nations ranges from 23 per cent to 49 per cent and for girls the figure ranges from a pathetic 13 per cent to 31 per cent! The plan of action is being prepared separately for each country taking into account the fundamental problems of educational access for each of them. The mesh of problems includes very poor students-to-teacher ratio, unqualified teachers and poor provision of text books. This has engendered poor learning methods and poor learning accomplishments. Further, the apathetic governments are doing little to bridge the rural-urban divide and the gender gap (In a set of 19 African countries, female literacy was found to be below 30 per cent). The penetration of educational institutions in rural areas has been a major blotch – with figures suggesting that more than 80 per cent of children without the access of education live in the rural areas. The widespread HIV (even amongst children) epidemic in mostly rural belts has spelled its curse on education too. Western and Central Africa is the worst hit with food crisis, epidemics, violent conflicts, and natural disasters – all have a cascading effect on enrolment rates. On top of that various social taboos and ills, like early marriages, sexual aggression on women and early pregnancies have contributed to gender disparity on education. The little rise in enrolment rates among children is often offset by poor retention rates and early dropouts.

Yes, rising enrolment in higher education lately has been a silver lining for Africa. At present, there are 4 million students pursuing higher education in the continent – that figure can’t be compared when viewed relative to other developing regions in Asia and Latin America. But even among the students pursuing higher education in Africa, there is a low Students’ Course Completion Rate as pursuing education becomes unaffordable to many and hence they drop out. The dropouts are becoming more common because of budget constraints – because unlike in the past, the impoverished African states cannot finance the educational programs anymore; as a result of which, they are increasingly getting dependant on IMF, which puts forward the capitalistic conditions of cost sharing. This is increasing the number of students who need to self-finance themselves! Sensing the opportunity, private players have started mushrooming; with more than 450 ‘private’ colleges and universities in the continent today. In spite of this progress, the millions in need cannot avail of this opportunity as the cost for such programs is beyond their affordability. Besides the high cost of private education, ‘donations’ are also rampant across Africa. Around 90 per cent of parents in Morocco for example pay extra money to get their children admitted to schools.


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15 comments:

sailaxmi said...

Education is important part of human life........

ANUP KUMAR said...

It is the major issue of any country where people should have right of education.... good topic to discuss about it....

sujit said...

Illiteracy is always a backdrop and disadvantage of any nation....

gaurav said...

Without education no country can grow and survive.

Brijesh Chaudhuri said...

Knowledge is power. So promote education among every child..

simran said...

Education system is too costly that poverty-stricken people cannot think of it....

Mukesh said...

We all support right to education for all children. But we should stop saying and start doing it for everyone.

preeti said...

Government provide facility for poor children but that is not so good that anybody appreciate.......

pramod singh kandasi said...

Education is basic foundation of children life. If a child is not properly educated then that child become a burden for nation.......

subhash said...

In rural areas it is important to spread education because our country's largest population lives in villages but political people only use these people for election purpose and then forget them...

vijaykumar said...

Every child must be educated up 158 years. If that child is poor it is the responsibility of government to educate then upto 18 years..

mohit said...

Our political leaders won't have time to think any of these major issue of our country. They are busy with their own problems...................

ishika said...

Mayawati instead of investing crores of money in parks or monuments she should utilize major issue of our country such as illiteracy, corruption etc.

anuj sharma said...

Early marriages also one of the major problem of our country..

Gaurav said...

Getting education is not easy thing now.. donations all make it impossible for middle class people.................

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