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Education

8 mins

The evolution of education in Africa: Our reality and our future

Stephanie Odili

By Stephanie Odili on Aug 21, 2019

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The State of Child Education

According to UNESCO, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of education exclusion. Over one-fifth of children between the ages of about 6 and 11 are out of school, followed by one-third of youth between the ages of about 12 and 14. According to UIS data, almost 60% of youth between the ages of about 15 and 17 are not in school. Nigerian Punch newspaper as at October last year said that ‘…the population of Nigeria’s out-of-school children has increased from 10.5 million to 13.2 million.’ This is particularly alarming because @UNICEF report shows that 175 million children are missing out on the benefits of pre-primary education. This means that 7.5% of the education lacking children around the world are Nigerians. Even though child education has been rendered free for all children in Nigeria, these children are unable to enjoy their basic human right.

2015 outlook of the total number of children we currently have at an increase rate of 3 children per female
2015 outlook of the total number of children we currently have at an increase rate of 3 children per female

Educational Literacy in Africa

In spite of the poor child educational statistics in Africa, there doesn’t yet seem to be a significant silver lining on the standard of education. For those privileged enough to attend school, the job hunting is strenuous, as their education and understanding is questioned. When one calls someone an “illiterate” —usually as an insult— they are referring to their inability to speak, write, or read English impeccably; as opposed to their lack of formal academic training. In 2019, If someone is “educated”, we’re usually referring to their competence in speaking/writing English. Not really in their knowledge of a particular skill — as it should ordinarily have been. Each year thousands of young Africans graduate from universities and still some find themselves unemployed or underemployed. Something is going wrong in our education systems and thus yields such unfavorable outcomes.

litracy ratio in sub sahara Afria
Source: Fadzayi Mahere 🇿🇼, 2017

Finding out Information

Interviewing and speaking directly with the first hand people involved in education—students, teachers and school owners, here’s what they have to say about the educational system and state of the country.

Juliet Omisheyin, a teacher at Chrisland, said of our current educational “Nigeria has seen an increased growth in the past years; in Lagos state for example, education is no longer in a deplorable state like it used to be.”

Zikora O, an SS2 student at Engreg High School is of the opinion that “our education system lacks the practical aspect of learning and the correct equipments… learning should be computerised and done from places other than school”. A future ready student indeed.

Sir Eugene Ezenwa, proprietor of St. Leodelyn Nur & Pri School, Ikeja described the state of the educational system as ‘falling’ and he blames the parents 60%, students 20% and teachers 20%. He further states that the parents are overzealous and seek promotion off their children, hence try to outrun the system. “These parents rush underage children, don’t care about their results, and force us to push them up in classes”. With such behaviour it is impossible to promote future ready learning.

The Evolution and Growth

Africa as a continent has evolved over the years. Citing Nigeria as a case study; the country has progressed from what it was to what it is today. If we want to find reasons and solutions for Africa’s poor performance in education, we need to look at our history. The past, as they say, has a way of affecting the future.

Generation after generation, children in Africa learned their skills and gathered their knowledge from their parents, relatives and their community. These skills were mostly to do with farming, and the knowledge was mostly about their environment, social and cultural traditions.

Throughout history, better access to education and better quality education have gone hand in hand with better incomes. But it is hard to decide which comes first — the improvement in education or the increase in incomes. Better education helps people to get a higher income, but a higher income also helps people to get a better education. The extra income means they can afford what helps them to benefit from education. From basics such as electric lighting and better food to more advanced educational aids such as books and laptops. So improvements in education and improvements in the economy reinforce each other.

Over the years, education and educational tools have changed and are very different. One day, we’re using slates and today we are using high definitions laptops to create the most unimaginable developments.

Even though many African countries have made important improvements over the last 20 years, too many children still do not have the basic conditions necessary for going to school. 
Source: WENR
Even though many African countries have made important improvements over the last 20 years, too many children still do not have the basic conditions necessary for going to school. Source: WENR

A Future Ready Education

As we go further, the real future of education is to be future ready. Future ready teachers, students, school and classrooms. It must go beyond one-to-one device initiatives and teaching apps. Schools, administrators and teachers with a future-looking view on education should already start thinking about the larger ecosystem, forecasting the emergence and impact of new technologies, and quickly adapting to the rapid changes taking place in the learning environment. The first step to approaching a future-ready education initiative is to identify and envision your organization’s end goal. In today’s learning environment, it should be students at the center, not the educators. For many learning instructors, this paradigm shift from a traditional teacher-led classroom to a student-centered one can be a challenging transition. While teachers and administrators play a critical role making a classroom future ready, students should be more involved in technology decision-making and deployment.

In identifying the future ready skills to focus on, it is important to note that first of all, education needs to evolve, so as to teach and prepare students for the needs of our future workforce, and the skills needed to drive this continue to change. It’s important that schools forecast and prioritize learning for those needs. In an effort to equip the next generation workforce with the skills needed to succeed, the Urban Technology Project in Philadelphia (UTP) trains and certifies students in computer support with its “Geek Squad.” UTP places them in Philadelphia public schools as technicians, so students are directly immersed in the field in advance of, or as an alternative to, a four-year college. Similarly in Nigeria with the KOYA platform—a software technology that enables learning beyond the classroom. Learners can take courses on specific paths that enable them to build critical job ready and entrepreneurial skills.

Future ready students are students who will be ready and available to absorb new learning. A future ready teacher is the 21st century educator open to different learning systems and building a future ready classroom. This is basically the structure of how classrooms will look like. A collaborative space that can be virtual. A future ready school manages and detects trends. The first step to approaching a future-ready education initiative is to identify and envision your organization’s end goal. In today’s learning environment, it should be students at the center, not the educators. For many learning instructors, this paradigm shift from a traditional teacher-led classroom to a student-centered one can be a challenging transition, but it’s attainable. While teachers and administrators play a critical role making a classroom future ready, students should be more involved in technology decision-making and deployment

Looking on and Moving Forward

It is possible that you can develop an entire plan based around future-ready learning, implement it to a T, and still fall short on expectations if you don’t remain mindful of its core. Ultimately, future-ready education is about making content relevant to students’ lives and creating opportunities for students to interact with each other, with teachers and with other knowledgeable adults in authentic learning experiences. Aligning your team around a number of strategic priorities that personify your vision will ensure the success of your future ready initiative. All for productivity and growth.

productivity growth
Source: World Bank

In conclusion, overcoming the misconception that future-ready initiatives are all about the technology can be challenging. It’s important to start seeing students and teachers as partners in their education and recognize that student voice and choice are at the helm of successful future-ready education initiatives. Technology and the devices used are only secondary to that mission. Ms Omosheyin adds that “…a lot can still be done to help children express their right to education and get the best of it.