DEVELOPMENT TOPICS: EDUCATION
Education is the most important driver of development in Africa today, unlocking solutions to poverty, inequality and unemployment. The Trialogue Knowledge Hub explores a range of solutions to these challenges in education that companies can get involved with.
A basic human right, education ensures people can participate in society and the economy. But the sector faces innumerable challenges from overcrowded classrooms, crumbling infrastructure and poorly qualified or resourced educators to entrenched inequality and exclusion. This is partly because most African countries devote less than 20% of their national budget to education.
This has led to poor educational outcomes, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations, where around 17 million teachers are needed to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030. In this region, around 60% of youth between the ages of 15 and 17 do not even attend schools.
Although encouraging strides have been made to reduce school drop-out – around 35% of primary-school-age children on the continent dropped out of school in 2000, only 17% dropped out in 2019 – a US-based think tank has noted that up to 50% of students attending school are not learning effectively.
Covid-19 pandemic setbacks in education
The challenges faced in education have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. In Eastern and Southern Africa, more than 32 million were out of school due to pandemic closures, in addition to an estimated 37 million out of school before the pandemic, according to UNICEF.
Blended and remote learning provided some support, but the overall disruptions meant that many learners lost significant amounts of learning time. Data from early grade reading assessments in Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania and Uganda indicate half a year’s worth of learning loss, and suggest learning deficits for children in grade 3 could lead to 2.8 years of lost learning by grade 10.
In South Africa, learners are estimated to have lost around 1.3 years of schooling, according to Stellenbosch University’s 2022 Reading Panel Background Report.
Company support for education
About one in five African children is enrolled in a private or non-state-run school. However, this does not mean all schools have the equipment, furniture, textbooks and digital devices they need to learn effectively.
Basic literacy and numeracy are the most pressing priorities, since without these foundational skills children cannot advance at school. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) typically receive the most private sector funding as they help to prepare youth for the future world of work. The private sector also funds teacher development and other systems levers that can transform the sector.