Factors Impacting Development of Education in Africa

Many contributing factors impacting development of education in Africa still terrify or stupefy the individual who takes interest in seeing the growth of the nation through the development that is engendered in education as a primary sector in nationhood.

Education is indeed a major tool to use in the development or reconstruction of any nation. The major focus being on the youth who are by extension the future, education is egg to the movement, and bridle to the horse race! Education is the transmission of knowledge, skills, and character traits.

There are many debates about its precise definition, for example, about which aims it tries to achieve. A further issue is whether part of the meaning of education is that the change in the student is an improvement. Education in the sense is basically on formal education.

The system of education is often defined from the perspective of formal education system. This includes institutionalized formal education from early childhood education, primary education, secondary education, tertiary education and university education.

The informal and non-formal education subsets are often assumed to be part of the formal education and if not ignored altogether, they are given little attention.

Factors Impacting Development of Education in Africa

Let us check out some of the factors impacting development of education in Africa:

Geographical Factor

The geography of any particular place is often natural, which means that it is undefined by man. Man in this respect ought to behave in accordance with the geography and nature in particular. In this regard the education system cum school system is influenced by the geography of the particular region.

By and large the geography of a particular area dictates the type of building and equipment, means and methods of transporting children to school, school going age of pupils among others. However, there are three major geographical aspects that influence the educational system directly.

These are, climatic conditions, population distribution and land configuration. In regard to climatic conditions they influence the system of education in terms of ,content of education depend on the continental climate, for example, training of doctors in the tropics is likely to emphasize more on tropical disease like malaria.

Extreme low temperatures in Continental Europe, affects accessibility to school by young children. Temperatures also affect the time at which schools can reasonably begin in the morning and when they end.

Climatic conditions also influence the education system in relation to time of vacations. In North America and many countries in Europe take school vacations during cold winter and others during hot summer.

In hot climatic conditions especially experienced in arid and semi-arid areas such as in Africa, learning often takes place during morning hours when it is cool. When it is hot in the afternoon very little learning takes place due to excessive heat.

By and large land configuration determines settlement and location of schools.

Language Factor

Many languages may be spoken in a country, but only one enjoys the status of a national language. In every country the national language occupies a special place. Also every government tries to ensure that every one acquires the capacity to express himself through the national language. Without one’s own national language, no country can be said to be strong.

Language in itself is a symbol of the people. Each community or group has an original language of its own which often suits its environment and stage of cultural development.

It is through language that individuals become members of a community and this is important in building the national character. Through the native language, the child has the first expression of himself/herself and the world.

However, in the modern world today, there is increasing use of foreign language especially in the school system. This requires a child before entering school to learn the foreign language. In East Africa, Kiswahili has slowly influenced features in the education systems in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Kiswahili is a compulsory subject in primary schools in Kenya and Tanzania.

Read Also: The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the Education Sector

In Tanzania Kiswahili is used as a medium of instruction in all primary schools. In South Africa, there are two linguistic groups, the English speaking and the Africans speaking groups.

After the colonization by the British, English was enacted as a medium of instruction in schools.

In most cases, before entering school the child acquires proficiency in mother tongue or native language and in so doing builds up vocabulary covering most of the objects of sense, impression and daily activities.

Economic Factors

The type of education largely depends on the economic strength of any country or continent. Also the economic factor determines the content and method of an education system. It is important to note that formal education is often possible where production exceeds consumption.

In indigenous traditional education people were trained depending on the economic conditions and needs of the community.

From an economic perspective, expenditure on education refers to the amount or percentage of national revenue spent on education by both individuals and the government.

If the economic condition is poor, education becomes backward in many aspects while if the economy of a country is strong, then educational aims and the curriculum are given a special direction for making the country prosperous.

Also, the poorer classes in communities tend to be content with minimum education for their children, and the richer classes are known to be able to keep their children longest at school because they can afford to meet the costs.

In a subsistence economy like Africa’s, that is, one is which people are just able to make ends meet, educational systems tend to be informal occurring on the job. On the contrary, where there are enough grants in systems of education, minimum requirements are met and thus the quality of education is often high.

Such is the case of developing countries, where funds are very scarce, which affects even payment of teachers salaries, essential resource materials such as textbooks are not adequate and in some cases not even available. As such, this greatly affects the nature of the systems of education in terms of the content and methods in learning institutions and in essence the whole system of education.

Lack of a proper national character, means that the national education system will not be able to realize its objectives. Consequently, with good leadership and people’s cooperation, there is much that can be achieved even when adequate economic resources are wanting.

Thus, there is evidence to show that there is a very close relationship between economic security and the national system of education of any country.

Historical Factor

Each country of the world has its own history that shapes the nations aims, aspirations, activities and destiny. This is often reflected through the educational system. Colonialism has been an important historical factor that can be said to have shaped the education system of many African countries and others in the world. For example, the Berlin conference in 1815 was dabbed the scramble for Africa.

At this conference the European powers shared African states like a cake. This latter meant that; the colonies had to take up much of what was in their colonial masters homeland and to date features in education of these former colonial master are reflected in their former colonies.

The missionary factor also contributed a great deal in shaping the systems of education in most African countries. Christian missionaries in particular from Britain, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and USA among others, have largely influenced the development of the education system in Africa.

In this regard, the present systems of education in many countries of Africa, Asia, North and South America are actual products of past colonial influence. As such, most of these countries in their present endeavors in education represent in most cases, heroic efforts of their colonial heritage.

Another historical element is manifest between periods in history when attempts were made to try and bring together groups within close geographical boundaries, for example, East Africa, South Africa, West Africa and North Africa.

A close look at these groups reflects features in their systems of education that tend to have similarities. While on the other hand, historically there have been struggles for the creation of national states, with each state wanting to have its own unique national identity.

The national factors of these countries often show differences that are reflected in their education system. As such, similarities and differences of education systems all over the world have a history behind them.

Social and Cultural Factor

Schools at large often and closely reflect the social patterns prevailing in a particular country. As such the education system is usually seen as a social factor which must reflect the ethos of the people that it serves.

In this regard, it is the prime aim of education to ensure cultural continuity through fostering the growth and development of national characteristics that often act as stabilizing forces. In its simplest definition a culture of a society is the total way of life of the society.

Every society consist of human beings and in whatever state they find themselves they always have some kind of educational system. This form of education of the society will always strive to perpetuate and protect its traditions and aspirations.

As such a close study and analysis of each education system will always reveal the cultural concept and pattern of the community in question. Also the social patterns of the people in any particular community or country are reflected in its system of education.

It is important to realize that the culture of the people often changes at a slow pace. In each culture, there are certain values which are not affected by time and place, for example, faith in God, love for truth and non-violence and the ideal of universal motherhood and justice are the permanent values of many cultures of the world.

However, radical reforms in a society may be slowed down or blocked at the level of implementation because of the cultural lag.

In Africa, the various projects for educational reform does indicate that there has been basic cultural charges in the life of a people from the colonial period into the post independence period.

In many countries of the world today, changes have occurred in the attitude of the youngsters towards their elders, for example students do not show due respect to their teacher as students did some twenty five or thirty years ago. The teachers also now care more for the increments, in their salaries and other allowances then for teaching. In many meetings of teachers, there is more talk of groupism, backbiting and salaries, than of students’ welfare.

Another view of cultural and social change is in the reshaping of the educational machinery to make for equality of educational opportunity for all. This has led to the widening of the school curriculum and increased emphasis on the importance of the right kind of technical educational for the new technological age.

As a result, the old dichotomy between a liberal and a technical education is slowly broken down and the social distinctions which existed mainly because of that divide have become of no consequence and has been minimized with time.

Technological Factors

Technological changes cannot also be ignored in education. Technology and especially modern technology also influence the education system of the country. Historically, emphasis on industrial and technical education followed the industrial revolution. Technology affects the type of education as well as the means of instruction.

With the emergence of computer technology, internet technology, this has revolutionized the whole education system especially in the developed countries. Through information communication technology, home learning has been made possible.

Universities are also adopting projects like AUV and e-learning. Today the influence of technology in education cannot be ignored.

Indeed the challenge is for the educational administrators and policy makers to see to it that the right infrastructure is in place in order to allow the use of information communication technology fully and be able to reap its maximum benefits in the education system especially in the developing world.

Political Factor

The political philosophy which controls the government of a country often has its inevitable impact on education, especially in Africa. The political factor dictates the kind of administration the system of education will have. They also underlie the features in education system and the functioning of the same. For example, the fundamental ideas of socialism as a political philosophy were about the exploitation of labor by capital and this resulted in class mass.

As a political philosophy, socialism recognizes property as the basis of the economic structure of the state which results in the concentration of civil and legal power in the hands of the property owning class.

Socialism advocates for the nationalization of the means of production; where owners of means of production do not work and workers who produce do not own anything. A change of such a social order can only be achieved with reform in education.

This would be through a state mechanism with full control of education and the curriculum and this means that the citizens must be trained by the state, for the state and in state institutions.

In such cases, the details of the curriculum are often decided by the state authorities and involve functional training of citizens. The curriculum may also involve scientific training for social utilization purposes.

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  1. Peter Sifuna

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