On June 15, 2017, the Wilson Center’s Africa Program in Washington DC held an an event titled “Transforming the Education Sector to Meet Africa’s 21st Century Needs.” The event provided unique perspectives on the issue of education in Africa today. The speakers agreed that although Africa has increased primary education enrollment under the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, there are still many obstacles that need to be overcome.
In order to positively impact the economy and reduce the rates of unemployment, the quality of Africa’s education must be addressed. The three speakers offered some ideas about how to solve this problem. H.E. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Niger to the U.S., Hassana Alidou said that more emphasis needs to be placed on secondary education because students typically enter the labor force after this stage rather than enrolling in higher education. She also argued that one barrier to literacy is students not understanding the language that is being used in schools at the earliest level. Dr. Philip Clay, Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology defended the idea that education is critical to economic development in Africa and suggested that African needs a 10 year plan at the models of other countries, such as South Korea. Finally, Mr. Paul Mugambi, Chief Executive Officer of Kyrabu suggested that improving education would require collaboration between public, private, and industrial sectors in society. Mr. Mugambi also mentioned the importance of technological advancements given the prediction that 80% of children will hold jobs in the future that do not yet exist today.
At Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), one of our focus campaigns is Just Governance which looks at, among other things, addressing systemic corruption in Africa. Corruption is one of the factors that can limit the quality of education because it can prevent access, reduce quality, and limit resources. Dictator regimes in Africa do not show any interest in improving the education system. The efforts and resources that are required to make these improvements are not at the main concern of these regimes because without advancements in education, the dictatorship’s power is secure. Thus, advocating for improved education must be done in the context of human rights, justice, and good governance in general.
Written by Jamie Vieson