Africa’s educational systems are suffering from growing pains. More students than ever are enrolling in school, but the supply of teachers and infrastructure have not kept up with demand.
Educators say about 80 percent of African students are completing primary school -- thanks in part to the push to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. They call for universal primary education by the 2015.
John Daniel, the president and CEO of the intergovernmental organization the Commonwealth of Learning, says success is bringing more challenges.
“The African countries achieved in 10 years what it took many developed countries 100 years to do two centuries ago," he said, "and they don’t have many resources left over to do secondary.”
“Girls who have secondary education … have on average worldwide one-point-eight fewer children than girls who don’t," he said. "That’s a difference of two or three billion to the population of the world by 2050. There is [one educational researcher, Joel Cohen] who says therefore girls’ education is best way of stopping population growth and climate change.”
The Commonwealth of Learning proposes open schools, using new technologies and new ways to meet the needs of school aged children, drop-outs, mothers who want to learn at home and working adults.
He said the schools cut costs and save time by using new technologies, including cell phones. Secondary school curricula can be created and shared among schools without costly intellectual property rights.
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That’s exactly what’s happening in a project involving six Commonwealth countries that develop and share course materials – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Seychelles, Zambia and Trinidad and Tobago.
Some secondary schools in Africa are considering the use of cell phones to reach students who cannot attend traditional classroom lectures. Instead, they can listen to lessons sent by voicemail and even take tests by phone.
The world urgently needs to recruit more than 8 million extra teachers, according to UN estimates, warning that a looming shortage of primary school teachers threatens to undermine global efforts to ensure universal access to primary education by 2015.
At least 2m new teaching positions will need to be created by 2015, the UN said in a report published this week. An additional 6.2 million teachers will need to be recruited to maintain current workforces and replace those expected to retire or leave classrooms due to career changes, illnesses, or death.