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Quality Basic Education for Human Development in Africa
June 2, 2014
Quality Basic Education for Human Development in Africa
The first nine years of education which include primary and lower – secondary education is regarded as Basic Education and generally accepted by scholars as a powerful driver of human well – being. The Basic Educational level of learning provides fundamentals, such, as literacy and mathematics, cognitive skills, as well as general knowledge, like health and hygiene that enhance human capabilities. Scholars are in agreement that these in turn lead to increased productivity and economic growth. Additionally, improved Basic Education brings about positive changes in social values and demography which inadvertently creates an enabling environment for improvement in welfare, health and governance.
There is no doubt that the benefits of universal basic education are enormous, however its attainment for most African countries remains a distant reality. According to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Africa seriously lags behind other global regions in primary, lower/secondary and upper secondary enrolment as well as in primary completion.1
With the United Nations (UN) establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the African continent has recorded considerable progress towards universal education in recent years, specifically in increased enrollment rates, attributed largely to the innovative use of state funding in a few countries, though the goal of universal primary education by 2015 remains unattainable.
While enrollment of children in schools in Africa seem to have increased, the quality of education has remained unaddressed by various African governments, resulting in persistent poor performance of students, high drop – out rates and its attendant societal problems.
The poor quality of education in Africa is mostly attributable to many causes. These include lack of adequately trained teachers, poor access to quality teaching and learning materials, non – availability of modern instructional technological teaching aids, inadequate teacher/pupil ratio, poor classroom infrastructure etc.
Obviously, there is an urgent need to address this issue of poor quality of education, for human development to take place in Africa. Several studies examining the impact of basic education on national development in Africa indicate that the more Africans that are able to receive basic education, the better their lives will be and the more developed their countries and the continent will be. Starting with the economy, Shultz concludes that there is an unambiguous connection between additional investment in primary and secondary education, and private wage returns.
In a follow up study Shultz found that, wage gains of 5 – 20 per cent for each additional year of education were observed in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.4 In another study Psacharopoulos concludes that, in the case of Africa, a full 17.2 per cent of the economic growth rate is explained by education.
No doubt, a better economy which can help give more Africans better lives can be made possible by more qualitative basic education, however many other areas would also be greatly impacted. For instance, as far back as in 1980, research showed that for each additional year of education that a mother in a developing country had, there is a 5 –10 per cent reduction in infant mortality.
Additionally, Appiah and McMahon found that education in Africa leads to direct and indirect improvements in infant mortality, longevity, democratization and political stability.7 From these studies, it can therefore be safely concluded that funding education in Africa is a key investment in the economic and human development of Africans.
Recent events in our dear country Nigeria, where nearly 300 young girls were abducted from their Secondary school at Chibok, in Borno State, by members of the Boko Haram sect, brings to the fore front the multi - dimensional hazards associated with a lack of quality basic education in Africa.
Furthermore, it re-emphasizes the fact that, African leaders can no longer afford to “foot drag”, while the rest of the world looks on - for the longer African children and youths are deprived of quality basic education, the more unemployment, poverty, increased crime rate, poor infant mortality and general health standards, increased terrorist activities and political instability, we can expect to experience, all over the continent and beyond.
The time to act is now. For leaders in Africa, all it takes is the political will to do so. For friends, supporters of Africa, as well as other stake – holders, it takes a simple sincerity of purpose to help solve this global problem. We can all do something.
For our part, concerned by the persistent mass failure of students in Mathematics in Nigeria and in fact, all over Africa, we at Frontline Television Limited have taken the initiative to research, design, develop and produce an Interactive Instructional Technology Mathematics package – “The 1, 2, 3 of Maths”. The material is designed as an instructional system of 16 DVDs, a student’s workbook and a teacher’s guide - for the teaching and learning of basic level Mathematics, in a fun and interesting way, using everyday situations, drama sketches, animation, etc that learners can relate to.
The challenge now is getting this material to the millions of teachers and students who need them all over Africa. In Nigeria Frontline Television Limited has successfully partnered with organizations like Total E and P Nigeria Ltd., the Nigeria Air Force and several private school proprietors, to deploy “The 1, 2, 3 of Maths” to some community schools in the Niger Delta, Nigeria Air Force primary schools and select private schools. However, more needs to be done.
For more information go to - www.frontlintvonline.com and www.the123ofmaths.com.
UIS (UNESCO Institute for Statistics), Global education digest 2011: comparing education statistics across the world, Quebec.
Michael A Clemens, Charles J Kenny and Todd J Moss, The trouble with the MDGs: confronting expectations of aid and development success, World Development 35(5) (May 2007).
T. Paul Schultz, Health and schooling investments in Africa, Journal of Economic Perspectives 13(3) (July 1999), 67–88.
Ibid. Evidence of returns to schooling in Africa from household surveys: monitoring and restructuring the market for education.
George Psacharopoulos, Education and development: a review, World Bank Research Observer3 (1) (January 1988), 99–116.
Susan H. Cochrane, Joanne Leslie and Donald J O'Hara, The effects of education on health, World Bank Staff Working Paper no. 405, Washington, DC: World Bank, 1980.
Elizabeth N Appiah and Walter W McMahon, The social outcomes of education and feedbacks on growth in Africa, Journal of Development Studies 38(4) (April 2002), 27.
Author: Dolly Esindu (President/C.O.O., Frontline Television Ltd.)