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Disparity in African education

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Disparity in African education

Access to universal primary and secondary education remains a priority among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, sub-Saharan Africa currently stands out as having the lowest enrollment rates among the six developing regions. The persistently high cost of education contributes to perpetuating inequalities within the region.

Educational exclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa

In 2020, nearly 64 million children worldwide were deprived of education, including 34 million girls. Simultaneously, 195 million children did not reach the secondary school. Recent UNESCO data reveal a total of 250 million out-of-school children, with a proportion of 48 % beinggirls and young women.

Educational exclusion is prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for nearly 30 % of the total number of out-of-school children worldwide. In this region, about 20 % of children of elementary school age are not enrolled in school. Moreover, nearly 60 % of adolescents aged 15-17 do not attend secondary school.

Country with the best education system

Evaluating the best education system of a country depends on several criteria:

  • Quality of teaching
  • Student outcomes
  • Access to education
  • Ability to prepare students for active lives

According to international rankings, the nation of Seychelles stands out as the African country with the best education system. This small archipelago excels thanks to notable developments in its education sector. Tunisia and South Africa also distinguish themselves with effective education systems. However, it is essential to highlight that, even in these nations, challenges remain, particularly in terms of equitable access to education and teaching quality.

Main issues in African education

Children’s education is a fundamental right. However, many are from vulnerable communities and households. Poverty and wealth disparities are evident factors favoring the dropout of children from school. On one hand, the high cost of education is unfortunately widespread in schools across sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, the majority of children on the continent live in precarious housing conditions, within low-income households. Due to financial difficulties, education becomes a luxury.

Numerous barriers hinder access to education in Africa, including the absence of infrastructure and educational institutions. The relatively low quality of education, combined with the low literacy or education rates of parents, leads to difficulties in understanding the education system within families. Additionally, schools lack sufficient pedagogical and linguistic support mechanisms.

Children from low-income households also face administrative barriers. Access to education requires requirements such as vaccination and administrative residency. Furthermore, discrimination based on gender, religion, culture and language prevents millions of children from attending school.

Tuition fees : A major financial concern

Despite the obstacles, parents want their children to get an education. This is evident in a dozen sub-Saharan African countries, including Kenya and Nigeria, where tuition fees are the main financial concern. According to new Global Findex data, 54 % of adults express considerable concern about paying tuition fees. About 29 % of them identify these fees as their primary financial concern, surpassing even medical expenses, old-age financing, and monthly bills.

Tight budget for quality and free education

It is worth noting that 21 % of enrolled students in Africa attend private schools. This proportion is particularly high in some economies, even in the presence of free education, due to the insufficient capacity of public infrastructure. Despite this, sending a child to a public school requires a certain budget, as is the case in Uganda, which offers free primary education. In addition to school supplies, parents have to pay for uniforms, exam fees, and textbooks.

To ensure the highest quality of education, parents often hire additional teachers. In Uganda, public school tuition is 168 USD, while private school tuition ranges from 420 to 680 USD. However, approximately 42 % of the Ugandan population lives below the poverty line of 2.15 USD per day, or about 785 USD. Despite this, over 60 % of Ugandan adults are very concerned about the cost of tuition. For the remaining 40 %, tuition fees are the main source of financial concern. The question of African debts is obviously one of the problems to be resolved.

Pathways for Improving School Access in Sub-Saharan Africa

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, there are only six years left to complete the SDGs, including the one on quality education. Apparently, funding of around 100 billion USD per year is needed to achieve SDG 4. This funding shortfall is due to insufficient government budgets allocated to education.

However, the latest UNESCO report highlights the progress made in the sub-Saharan Africa region during the 2015-2021 period. The proportion of trained teachers in pre-primary education increased from 53 % to 60 %. In terms of gender parity, the number of young women completing secondary education for every 100 young men increased from 84 to 88.

Fintech : Financial solutions opportunities for education

To ensure the continuity of children’s education, the adoption of digital financial services offers a practical solution for managing school fees. Global Findex data identifies three crucial opportunities to overcome financial barriers related to education:

  1. Digitize tuition payments : Digital transactions streamline the management of school fees, offering an efficient and secure method for both parents and educational institutions.
  2. Promotion Formal Savings : Formal savings mechanisms constitute a sustainable strategy for families to build funds for to school fees.
  3. Promotion Formal Credit : Access to formal credit provides families with a reliable source of funding for educational fees, facilitating budget management and reducing financial constraints.
  4. Education investment types

Given the increasing demand for affordable and quality education in Africa, it is imperative to explore investment opportunities in the education sector. Private schools and higher education institutions appear as particularly attractive investment opportunities. Investments in education can take several forms, the most common being the construction and operation of schools.

Technological advances open promising perspectives for investment in education. Thanks to the widespread access to mobile phones and the Internet, this type of investment allows targeting a broad audience of students. Online learning platforms and mobile applications are an affordable way to bring education to remote and underserved regions.

Another investment strategy in education is to grant scholarships and establish training programs. This approach is carried out in collaboration with organizations providing educational and training services to students and professionals in Africa.

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