Education in Africa: looking beyond 2015
"If the youth of our continent are going to be successful in the modern workplace they need more than just books and pens. They need to be immersed in a technology-rich environment from an early age."
Ensuring that all children in Africa receive some sort of education at all is a challenge in itself. A much bigger challenge is to provide the means for every child to have access to a quality of education that will not only expose them to the new, essential tools of the world of work and give them access to well-paying jobs, but will see African thought leadership as a driving force behind the next generation of products and services.
This is essential for the continent’s economic prosperity, raising the standard of living of all Africans and seeing the proliferation of products and services that are developed from an African perspective.
Other developed countries have already shown what can be achieved by forging a close relationship between government and the private sector. African governments need to break away from the siloed approach to education planning and start to see the industry as their ultimate ‘customer’ - and partner. It is the industry that will ultimately employ a large number of their young population, and if the youth is educated from a supply-driven perspective only, many of them won’t find jobs. But, if government works closely with business to assess industry needs and then jointly develop education programs that address these, they can better ensure that curricula remain relevant and that students are employable. This is the only way the dynamics of the ‘supply and demand’ job market can be met – especially at a time when the workplace changes so frequently, old skills easily become redundant, and businesses who can’t find in-country resources are forced to source skills from abroad.
Companies who wish to prosper in Africa need to start investing in their future employees and leaders on the continent. There is a huge opportunity for them to do so by leveraging their legacy of expertise to provide quality education. This can be particularly powerful in specific fields where a large skill deficitt exists or education quality is particularly low - in subjects like mathematics and science. For example, Samsung’s Electronics Engineering Academies are a core part of the company’s efforts to fast-track the entry of African youths into the electronics job market, with a short-term goal to develop 10 000 service technicians across the continent by 2015. Three Academies have been rolled out across the continent so far in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. The creation of a skilled workforce of engineers will play a key role in the company’s longevity and success on the continent.
If the youth of our continent are going to be successful in the modern workplace they need more than just books and pens. They need to be immersed in a technology-rich environment from an early age. Most of these children will not have the luxury of a personal computer or tablet at home. They need to be exposed to technology while at school or they run the risk of falling so far behind that they will never really ‘catch-up’ to the rest.
To really achieve access for all, rural areas cannot be ignored. Many of these still struggle with lack of basic infrastructure like electricity. In these circumstances, true innovation is needed to get around these challenges – another area where the corporate world needs to direct their efforts. This was the thinking behind one of Samsung’s most recent projects, the world-first mobile Solar Powered Internet School, launched last year, designed particularly for use in remote rural areas with limited or no access to electricity.
If we can build strong partnerships across the public and private sector, it will truly be a win-win-win situation for business, government, and the people of Africa.
This article was first published on This is Africa and is reproduced with permission.
As the international community begins defining a post-2015 development agenda, Africa faces a twin crisis of access and learning. With new research, in depth coverage and perspectives from leading thinkers, This Is Africa considers the role learning might play in a post-MDG development agenda on education.
This September This is Africa is taking an in depth look at the state of education in Africa. With less than three years remaining until the 2015 deadline to meet the Millennium Development Goals, there are mounting fears that low income regions - in particular sub-Saharan Africa - are at risk of falling well short of MDG2, which focuses on equal and universal access to primary education.
To coincide with the launch of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Education First Initiative on September 26th, This Is Africa has produced a special report on education, which includes perspectives from leading figures in the field, new data on learning in Africa and in depth reporting on key issues shaping the global education debate. They are also widening the conversation on the This Is Africa website, and will be running an extensive series of perspectives from a broad range of voices in business, development, policy and civil society in the run up to and beyond the launch of the Barometer.
Visit the Access+ site for regular updates on the debate around access and learning.