‘Education for All’ was a commitment to global education. Set in 2000, nations across the globe took action to make sure that by the year 2015 every child, boys and girls equally, would get to complete primary school.
Part of the reason for this push was the statistics. Out of all the regions surveyed, Africa had the lowest rate of enrollments, with only 57% of children in primary school. The majority of those enrollments went to boys. Girls in Africa simply did not get the opportunity to attend school in their early years.
The steps taken globally to reach the goal of Education for All were incredible.
- Abolishing school fees
- Investing in teachers
- Building schools
- Access to books and learning materials
- Funding school meals
‘Education for All’ Results
Many countries made significant gains and meet their Millennium Development Goals for education, however, for the actions to be successful the results needed to be global, and Africa remains a long way behind.
In 2013, regions in sub-Saharan Africa were only showing 79% of children of primary school age were attending school. An estimated 59 million children, the majority of those girls, were still not enrolled.
Roadblocks to African Education Success
There are some major pitfalls in the programs that were implemented. The first was that of languages. African nations have incredible linguistic diversity. In an effort to provide global language skills most of the schools in Africa were required to conducted lessons in French and English, languages that neither the teachers or the children had any knowledge of or connection to.
While funding was provided for teachers and facilities, African teaching wages were still horribly low, and there were simply not enough teachers to go around. Schools were overcrowded, class sizes were unsustainable, and teachers were overwhelmed by the number of students they were assigned to. Many of these teachers were unqualified. They did not have access to teaching aids, or even adequate text books.
Part of the reason for not being able to source enough teachers was pay levels. Those people who were lucky enough to gain education levels high enough for teaching usually used their skills to travel to big cities and work overseas, where pay and work quality were better.
The real losses came to regional and remote communities, where finding and keeping a schoolteacher was almost impossible. Even when a school in a remote area was available, the quality of learning was lower and test results were poor compared to urban schools. In one instance rural teachers were asked to do the same test as their primary school students. Three quarters of these teachers failed to pass.
‘Education for All’ Goals Fall Short
It meant that the goal of quality education for all fell drastically short, and these children, who put in the time and effort of attending school, could not further their education after graduation because their reading, maths and language skills were inadequate.
Parents also withheld their children from school because the did not feel they had a big enough say in the schooling. They are fearful of what their children will be taught in a government school, for a government they do not trust. Only 50% of parents in Uganda felt they had the power to influence decisions regarding their child’s education.
Sustainable Education in Africa
Sustainable education is a big factor for African governments. What’s the point in investing money in educating its people if those educated people leave? More money needs to then be spent on finding suitable replacements for these skilled people, only for the next generation of educated citizens to leave as well. On the other hand, what is the incentive to African people to get an education if they are not able to make a better life for themselves?
The final major issue with getting education on track in Africa is military spending. Armed conflict is the biggest threat to education in Africa. The need for African governments to protect their nations through war and military might means little money is left over to give to schools and health programs. Stories of illegal collection of school fees, embezzling school funds and falsifying accounting records were common. Children in refugee camps, fleeing with their families from situations of war are also less likely to have access to school and education.
Comparing Australian Education to African Education
In Australia we can take for granted that education is a right that every child is privileged to.
We come to expect the best education standards nation wide, qualified teachers, adequate spending and a safe environment for kids attending school.
Our girls are not expected to spend 60% of their day gathering water and bringing it home, or raising their siblings, or being married at age 12. It can be hard to fathom what a primary school aged kid in Africa is faced with.
2015 has come and gone and while the global mission for Education for All might have been a noble one, there needs to be more time and resources invested in teaching staff, teaching materials and in allowing children to start their early years of education in their own languages.
New education goals have been set for the year 2030, we have yet to see major action taken. We hope steps towards this goal will happen soon, in the meantime, charities for Africa all over the world focus on our goals for better health and education in African communities in the hope that if enough of us stand for the basic right for education for every single child, tomorrow will be a better day.
Our contribution will be through providing people with opportunities to sponsor and interact with a child by sending them to school and learning about their development, as well as our programmes that put change makers into schools to help children learn English. If you have teaching skills and would like to help drive change in Africa, please contact us today.
– Jess Charlotte