Today, January 24 is International Day of Education, a day instituted by the United Nations to honor education and its centrality to human wellbeing and sustainable development. The day is commemorated to advocate for inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all people.
Access to quality education remains a serious challenge in Africa, especially for children. The ‘monetization’ of the sector has denied millions of young people the right to education and therefore the right to learn and shape their future. Cost of education, in terms of facility user fees (school fees), continue to soar, even as parents, guardians, and young people struggle to acquire basic educational resources and materials.
Africa accounts for more than half of the global number of primary-aged children who are not enrolled in school. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, less than 40% of girls complete lower secondary school while some four million children and young refugees are out of school. This situation is the consequence of lower investment in the continent’s educational sector. Public investment in higher education has generally been lower over the last 15 years, constituting about 4.17% of the continent’s GDP in 2017. This decline in public expenditure per student is having an adverse impact on the quality and relevance of education and educational programs in Africa.
Notwithstanding these challenges, some countries in Africa are pursuing a raft of reforms that ensure inclusive education. Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, among others have instituted free education policies at certain levels of education, allowing many students from different economic and social backgrounds to access education at no cost to themselves or their families. This has resulted in increased enrolment in those countries.
Despite these strides, African countries need to do more. They must commit more resources into the continent’s educational sector to build the human capital needed for its development. As this year’s International Day of Education theme will have it, “Learning for people, planet, prosperity and peace” is a necessary means to accelerate progress and end poverty and the underdevelopment in Africa, and government and stakeholders must see to this need.
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