This article highlights some of the major challenges prevalent within the education sector across Africa. It’s not only in Kenya where the problems described by this part-time teacher occur, but even in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia we have these kinds of challenges resulting in poor quality graduates.
Unfortunately, lack of funds, poor leadership and a shortage of teachers mean this situation is not about to change anytime soon. Further, there are too few organisations addressing the issue of poor education, including providing quality teacher training in Africa. In the absence of concerted effort to reverse this problem, it could eventually develop into a crisis, if it hasn’t already done so in some parts of Africa.
A few months ago, people celebrated a news report that World Vision had trained 121 teachers in Malawi. But that numbers falls far short of what would be required in a country with nearly 7 million children (UNICEF). On their website, World Vision still lists untrained teachers as a major challenge to Education in Malawi:
Thousands of school-age children in Mposa are not enrolled in school, and dropout rates are high. This is largely due to the poor quality of education and classroom environment. Classrooms are overcrowded and dilapidated, and most teachers are untrained. Most children start Grade 1 with no preparation. Of 3,718 children under five in the area, only 867 attend preschool centres where they can learn and develop.
Parent-teacher associations and school management committees lack the training necessary to improve the quality of education. Many parents are not educated – 38% of people in the region are illiterate – and most are not actively involved in their children’s education. Orphans in particular do not have the support they need to stay in school. More girls than boys drop out – and many are encouraged to marry early.
So how do you rectify this Situation?
- Firstly, there is an urgent need for more teacher training facilities to be built.
- There must be a review of teacher training standards and qualifications, and if necessary a rewriting of minimum standards, qualifications, length of training, etc. Similarly, there is a need to review syllabi, and the examination boards who write them to ensure that they are relevant and high standards are maintained or improved upon.
- More targeted funding should be allocated to support organisations like World Vision and others who are working to train teachers.
- There must be a balance between constructing new institutions for learning and recruiting talent to fill the jobs in those institutions. This means less focus on quantity, and greater emphasis on quality.
- Short-term / temporary contracts (2 – 4 years) should be offered to expats from abroad, to train teachers, and to fill lecturer posts in critical areas such as Medicine, Engineering, Nursing and Nutrition.
- More Unions should take up the grievances and challenges which teachers face, and begin lobbying African governments on their behalf. Unions should encourage teachers to join their ranks as members and should offer soft loans, free legal advice and other incentives to help them.
- There is a need for a teacher agency private sector which will supply temporary teaching staff at short notice, provide training and verify qualifications and other requirements before sending each teacher to an assignment at a school.
- Governments should send trained Quality Assurance officers to monitor the standard of teaching in schools across African countries.
- There must be an uptake on using technology to introduce greater efficiencies in the teaching sector. For example, instead of expecting 3 teachers to each take 13 classes in various cities of Kenya, Uganda or Malawi per month, a better strategy would be to have one well qualified teacher and an assistant providing one 2 hour long lecture to 6 classes spread across various cities in Kenya or Uganda or Malawi via video-link. This can be done 3 or 4 times per month. It means the equipment must be in place, but it also means there is less pressure to recruit underqualified teachers to take up a job which can be properly done with one qualified teacher.
- Finally, African governments should commit to building more housing and flats for teachers and their families to live in. In any case, if Education Ministries on the continent are struggling to pay teachers and lecturers on time, isn’t the least you could do be to put a roof over their heads? Providing teachers with housing will lessen the financial pressure on them and combined with all the other conditions above will most definitely improve the quality of teaching in our schools in Africa. While some people will frown at this, during the one party regime of Dr Hastings Banda, lecturers in Malawi were provided with accomodation, and I remember visiting my cousin in the late 80’s at his flat in Mandala, when he was a junior lecturer with the University of Malawi at Polytechnic in Blantyre. If it was possible to do then, it should be possible (with prioritised funding) to implement now.