BY HUMPHREY KARIUKI
- One fifth of children aged 6 to 11 in Africa are out of school, increasing to a third for those aged 12-15, and over 60 per cent aged 15 and above. (UNESCO)
- Across Africa, 9 million girls under the age of 11 will never go to school at all, compared to 6 million boys. 23 per cent of girls are out of primary school compared to 19 per cent of boys. By the time they become adolescents, the exclusion rates for girls is 36 per cent versus 32 per cent for boys. (UNESCO)
- A high school graduate in Europe is seven times more likely to attend university, college or a vocational education institution than their counterpart in Sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank)
- The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened educational inequalities in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an increasing likelihood of exclusion, the end of educational provision and children forced into labour. (Human Rights Watch)
Whether it is the steady hand of a welder, the level eye of a bricklayer or the rigorous analysis of a company executive, the gradual perfection of skills arises from our ability to continue learning from experience.
Learning is a never-ending process, as indeed is the application of our skills and experiences to the world around us.
For many, the learning of basic skills begins at home and in the classroom. While families across Africa expend everything they have to nurture their children to have the best possible start in life, the same cannot be said of Africa’s education system.
Over 20 per cent of children aged 6 to 11 in Africa are out of school. This proportion increases across older age groups as over three fifths of those above 15 are not in reception of formal education.
In context of sustained rises enrolment rates over the past few decades, this means that a greater number of children are falling through the system.
As Human Rights Watch has found the pandemic has worsened the causes for forced exclusion as educational funding runs dry, rural areas become further detached from urban centres and where the health and economic crises forces children to become breadwinners as their parents lose income.
But as Africans, I have always believed we need to be part of the solution. As a businessman I recognise there is a role I need to play, both in terms of putting into action steps that will alleviate the challenges facing African education but also encourage others in a similar position to do so as well.
In a recent article, I outlined four steps African business leaders can do, chiefly:
- Offer work experience during the holidays. Students taking part will go back with tales of the real world, helping others to choose a career where they’re more likely to find a job.
- Computers used to be an option for learning. In 2021 they’re vital. So when you upgrade your IT, donate the old laptops to a school in need. Or put up the funds to buy new ones.
- Start a bursary program and help schools that don’t have drinkable water. Where there’s no power, go solar.
- Go beyond your own borders. My company has spent more than $300,000 on schools in South Sudan. Why? Because instability anywhere in the region has potential to spread. No good looking at a problem in Zimbabwe or Ethiopia and asking, “Why doesn’t the world do something?” The question is: “Why doesn’t Africa?”
These steps are four concrete and workable solutions African business leaders should look to.
Our young people are among the brightest, ambitious, and determined people in the world. No different to their counterparts in Europe, America, and Asia, Africa’s youth are hungry to learn.
More importantly, they are more eager and determined that past generations to ensure that the challenges that have afflicted them are not passed to the next generation.
We owe it to them to invest today so that the future they build tomorrow is one in which Africa will be proud.