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Education Issues in Africa: 3 Key Problems and Solutions

Education is a fundamental human right and an essential component of sustainable development. However, for many young people, access to education in Africa remains a challenge. 

One of the worst affected areas is sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 1 in 5 children between the ages of about 6 and 11 are out of school, and 1 in 3 between the ages of 12 and 14. The problem only gets worse as children get older, with almost 60% of youths aged 15-17 being out of school.

Education is the backbone of any society, and Africa is no exception. We examine some of the key education issues in Africa and explore potential solutions.

Problem 1: Access to education in Africa

Alt: A teacher writes on the blackboard in a run-down school in Africa

One of the most significant education issues in Africa is access. Many children do not have access to basic education, and those who do may face significant challenges in accessing quality education.


While the number of children attending school has increased in recent years, significant disparities remain. In some areas, particularly in rural or remote regions, schools are often far away, and children may need to walk long distances to attend. This can be particularly challenging for girls, who may face safety concerns on their way to and from school.


In addition, many families are unable to afford the costs associated with education, such as uniforms, textbooks and school supplies. This is especially true in impoverished communities where parents may need to choose between paying for their children's education and meeting their basic needs. 


Conflict and instability also present a significant education issue in Africa by restricting access to schools even further. In some areas, schools are forced to close due to violence, and students and teachers may be displaced. This can lead to interruptions in learning and a loss of education opportunities for children.

Potential solutions

To address the issue of access to education in Africa, governments and charitable organizations must work together to provide more schools and improve infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. This includes building new schools, classrooms and libraries, and providing safe and reliable transportation for students. 


Scholarships and other forms of financial assistance can also help to reduce the financial burden on families and ensure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds can access education.


Mobile learning and distance education can also play an important role in improving access, particularly in remote or conflict-prone areas. This approach can leverage technology to provide educational opportunities to children who would otherwise be unable to attend school, alleviating one of the key education issues in Africa.

Problem 2: The quality of education


Alt: School books on a dirty natural floor

Improving access to education in Africa is an essential first step, but ensuring that the education provided is of high quality is just as crucial. Unfortunately, many children across Africa who do have access to education attend schools where the quality of education is poor, and they may not receive the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. This is why quality education is undoubtedly one of the most pressing education issues in Africa.


One of the key factors affecting the quality of education is the shortage of qualified teachers. In many areas, there is a severe shortage of teachers, and those who are available may not have the necessary training and support to teach effectively. 


In primary schools in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, just 61.23% of teachers have relevant teacher training. In lower secondary schools, it’s just 56.3%. The impact this has on delivering high quality education is obvious.


Another contributing factor is the lack of suitable teaching materials and textbooks. Without access to up-to-date and relevant materials, students may not be receiving the most current information, and their education may be limited in scope. Additionally, inadequate infrastructure, such as insufficient classroom space, lack of electricity, and outdated technology, can impact the quality of education.


Potential solutions


To improve the quality of education in Africa, governments and international organizations need to prioritize teacher training and professional development to ensure that teachers are equipped with the necessary skills to provide high-quality education. This includes training teachers in modern teaching techniques, curriculum development, and classroom management.


Once again, improving infrastructure, such as providing adequate classroom space and resources, can also help to tackle education issues in Africa. Providing up-to-date teaching materials and textbooks can also ensure that students are receiving the most current information, improving the quality of their learning.


Problem 3: Gender inequality


Alt: A young African girl in school uniform

Another prevalent education issue in Africa is gender inequality, which has a profound impact on access to and the quality of education. Girls are often denied the opportunity to attend school, and even when they do, they face significant barriers that can limit their ability to succeed.


Across sub-Saharan Africa, 9 million girls between the ages of 6 and 11 will never attend school. This number is even higher than the already shocking 6 million boys of this age. 


One of the main reasons for this is cultural and societal norms that prioritize boys' education over girls' education. For example, when families cannot afford to send all their children to school, they often give priority to their boys since they are expected to provide for the family in the future.


Girls' education is also impacted by safety concerns. In many areas, girls may face harassment or violence on their way to and from school, which can discourage them from attending. Schools may also be located far from their homes, and girls may be forced to walk long distances, which can be dangerous, particularly in rural areas.


Potential solutions


Tackling the issue of gender inequality demands efforts to promote girls' education and address the underlying cultural norms that limit girls' access to it. This includes providing financial support for families to ensure that girls can attend school, providing safe transportation to and from school, and promoting the importance of girls' education in local communities.


Crucially, addressing educational inequality requires a focus on promoting gender equality and empowering girls to take control of their lives and education. This includes advocating girls' leadership skills, encouraging them to speak out for themselves, and providing them with the tools and resources they need to succeed in school and beyond.


The disadvantages young girls face is a significant education issue in Africa, and it’s one that can only be resolved with a combined effort to raise awareness of the issue and implement policies to resolve it. 


The most pressing education issues in Africa

Education is critical to the development of Africa and its citizens. However, the continent faces a range of challenges in providing accessible, quality education to its young people. By addressing the issues discussed above, African governments and international organizations can work together to support life-changing projects that ensure all children have the opportunity to learn, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Written: 01 August 2023
Written by: Mayekoo