Education is a sustainable means to alleviate poverty and bring lasting change. While childhood education gives young people a chance to develop social awareness and is key to cross-cultural understanding. The population of Africa is expected to quadruple in the next 80 years. Young people need prospects for the future and quality education.
Many boys and girls are enrolled in school, but drop out of primary school early. The situation is particularly dramatic in sub-Saharan Africa. Only 59 per cent of children there complete their primary school education.
Today, Africa is also the world’s most youthful continent. The continent population is “young” i.e. 50% of the population are under 15. While, the continent has the highest rates of educational exclusion in the world. Over one-fifth of children between the ages of 6 and 11 and one-third between the ages of 12 and 14 are out of school, according to UNESCO. 90% of a child’s brain development happens before the age of five, so the early years are crucial in providing a foundation for learning.
Children who receive pre-primary education are better equipped for primary school and less likely to drop out. But a severe lack of investment in early childhood education is putting millions of children at a disadvantage before they even start school. Large parts of Africa have an extremely low rate of early childhood education with only one in four children aged three to five attending some form of preschool in sub-Saharan, West and Central Africa.
Almost 60% of children in sub-Saharan Africa between the ages of 15 and 17 are not in school. Many children are forced to drop out of school because of financial hardships or inadequate funds. According to the United Nations, 42% of African school children will drop out before the end of primary education.
In 2018, Africa’s primary school enrolment rate is above 80% on average, with the continent recording some of the biggest increases in elementary school enrolment globally in the last few decades, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is tasked with coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. More children in Africa are going to school than ever before.
It is widely accepted that most of Africa’s education and training programs suffer from low-quality teaching and learning, as well as inequalities and exclusion at all levels. Even with a substantial increase in the number of children with access to basic education, a large number still remain out of school. There are also deficits with regard to the quality of teaching. According to UNESCO estimates, more than 50 per cent of primary school pupils worldwide and more than 60 per cent of young people in lower secondary schools are not even able to read at a basic level.
The impact of poverty on education in East Africa remains one of the biggest challenges, combined with huge structural issues such as the lack (if not absence) of employment opportunities for school and university graduates. Violence also negatively impacts access to education and a safe environment for learning. Under these conditions, it is impossible to provide quality education for all. Without urgent action, the situation will likely get worse as the region faces a rising demand for education due to a still-growing school-age population.
Various global indices, including the Social Progress Index and the Human Development Index show that low educational attainment is most widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. Sub-Saharan African countries often suffer from relatively unstable economies as well as conflicts and droughts which further worsen the education crisis and poverty levels.
Some of this burden is shared with the private sector when it comes to providing accessible and quality services for water, electricity, transportation, energy, etc. But in this respect, governments also bear the responsibility of building schools, providing teacher training and nationwide curriculums and tests to monitor progress.
An educated workforce is essential for stimulating long term economic growth and reducing poverty in Africa (or anywhere else). That’s why many organisations focus on developing countries where educational level is low, but opportunities exist for high impact.
Education is crucial as it is an investment in human capital.Globally, the education sector is significantly under-invested relative to other sectors. A 2015 survey by The Global Impact Investing Network and J.P. Morgan showed that 58% of capital allocated to impact investing flows towards housing, agriculture, energy, and micro-finance, compared with only 2% invested in education.
Even as many African countries in have stepped up their commitment to improving and expanding education opportunities, education has remained chronically underfinanced, with funding levels far below what is needed to achieve education benchmarks. The education sector is undeniably strategic to economic development; therefore, the lack of capital investment will have lasting consequences for security, social stability, community wellbeing, livelihoods, new opportunities in both emerging and developed market economies.
Much inefficiency in education spending results from poor targeting or misuse of funds. Performance-based financing mechanisms offer the promise to improve the efficiency of spending and the quality of education services provided. By aligning resources with outcomes, results-based financing can incentivise ministries, local authorities, schools and teachers, to the benefit of students and their families.
African countries need to keep education in consideration when allocating resources in other areas. For instance, evidence suggests that an investment plan targeting education and physical infrastructure would have greater long-term growth benefits than investing in either sector alone, thanks to strong complementary.
While education can be considered a public good, the private sector also can contribute to its provision and financing. Through public-private partnerships, businesses can expand school choice by offering voucher schemes, loans and scholarships. Governments should offer guidance by identifying priority sectors and by encouraging private sector participation in vocational education and training. In their regulatory role, governments can also enforce adherence to standards, policies and rules, while also instilling a favourable environment.
Countries can leverage innovative finance options to fill education-financing gaps. These include channelling international private capital into education through social or development-impact bonds or “pay-for-success” financing, where returns are conditional on the achievement of a specified education outcome. The International Financing Facility Education and the African Education Fund are two initiatives that aim to attract new funding.
Promoting education-linked conditional cash transfers, particularly for girls and poor families, and by developing student-loan markets, African countries can mobilise additional resources and ease the pressure on government budgets.