Despite having achieved independence at different points over the past 40 years or so, the countries of Africa are still undergoing a major struggle today: liberation from ignorance and illiteracy!
As the access to education gap widens between industrialized and developing countries, Education For All (EFA) remains the long-term goal of African governments and civil society. This was particularly in the minds of the continent s policy makers and citizens alike as they commemorated Education for All Week during the last week of April.
An initiative that was introduced at an international conference on education held in Senegal in April 2000, EFA seeks to make education attainable for all people by 2015. The Dakar framework reaffirmed the vision of the World Declaration on Education made in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990.
Although governments and civil society groups have taken measures to get more children enrolled into school, African countries still have to face a myriad of social, economic, political, and cultural problems. Some of these challenges are highlighted in this education issue of AFRICANEWS.
We begin in Zimbabwe, which has one of the best adult literacy rates in sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately, the high cost of education is now threatening the future of Zimbabwe s children, reports correspondent Rodrick Mukumbira. Ever since the introduction of economic reforms in 1991, it is hard for many families to provide their children with basic education. With the country s inflation rate, now hovering at 116 percent, the cost of education, like any other basic commodity, has not escaped the effects of poor fiscal policies.
Kenyans are also finding it tough slogging when it comes to affording school and related fees, writes correspondent Zachary Ochieng. As 60 per cent of Kenyans live below the poverty line, the majority has no wherewithal to pay school fees. Observers note that the government s intention to achieve universal primary education by 2005 and education for all by 2015 is a lofty idea that is not realistic. And the government s statistics are even grimmer. Only 47 per cent of children enrolled in primary schools complete their primary education, while only 27 per cent of those eligible are enrolled in secondary schools. A staggering 4.2 million adults are illiterate.
Lessons learned from Malawi show that politics can have a negative impact on the quality of education. As correspondent Brian Ligomeka reports, a government-appointed commission of inquiry blamed President Bakili Muluzi for the deplorable conditions in schools and the severe shortage in properly trained teachers. His election campaign promising free primary education for all failed to take into account the fact that there were not enough qualified teachers available. This oversight has proved disastrous to the education system.
Not to be forgotten is the plight of vulnerable children in the education system. AFRICANEWS Managing Editor Cathy Majtenyi reports how the constant threat of bombardment by the Sudan government makes learning all but impossible for students in Narus, south Sudan. There, classes are frequently interrupted when students rush to bomb shelters or the bush as soon as they hear the distant wine of the Antonov. In southern Africa, children in Botswana belonging to the Basarwa or San ethnic group face constant harassment and degradation from their non-Basarwa teachers and classmates.
Elsewhere in the news, correspondent Linda Frommer describes how the Uganda and Sudan governments once cold and distant neighbours are collaborating to eradicate the dreaded Lord s Resistance Army (LRA) from the area. Meanwhile, activists in the tiny landlocked country of Lesotho are calling on the tobacco industry to act responsibly, especially with the marketing and sale of cigarettes to minors, reports Rodrick Mukumbira. And correspondent Brian Adeba looks back on 19 years of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) and outlines the challenges that it still faces.