Literacy is a critical tool for the mastery of other subjects and one of the best predictors of longer-term learning achievement. Reading must be considered a priority area in efforts to improve the quality of basic education, particularly for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.

EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2005

Access to Education in Africa

  • One hundred and fifteen million primary school-age children are out of school. This number equals 18 per cent – or almost one in five – of the children worldwide in this age group. Many of the children who are in school may never complete their primary education or finish it without attaining even basic literacy skills
  • In one out of four African countries, half of the children enrolled at the end of primary school do not continue to the secondary level in the following year. However, more than 85 per cent of primary pupils make the transition in most countries in Europe, Asia, North and South America
  • Africa has the lowest primary completion ratios in the world. In Europe, almost all countries have ratios exceeding 90 per cent. Out of 45 African countries, only Algeria; Botswana; Cape Verde; Egypt; Mauritius; Seychelles; South Africa; and Tunisia reach this level.
  • In 19 African countries, the ratios are 50 per cent or lower, meaning that at least every second child does not complete primary school.
  • Only about one in three children will complete primary education in the following six African countries:
    1. Niger (21 per cent)
    2. Guinea-Bissau (27 per cent)
    3. Burkina Faso (27 per cent)
    4. Chad (32 per cent)
    5. Burundi (32 per cent)
    6. Mali (33 per cent)
  • Not all children who complete primary school enter secondary education. Some families cannot afford to continue sending their children to school. Girls, in particular, often face greater obstacles to pursuing their education than boys
  • In one out of four African countries, half of the children enrolled in the last year of primary school do not pursue their studies the following year
  • In another 25 per cent of African countries, only one in three pupils at the end of primary school moves on to secondary education
  • According to a UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) report , countries across the world will need to recruit more than 18 million teachers over the next decade. The greatest challenge lies in sub-Saharan Africa, which will need to expand its teaching force by 68 per cent over this period
  • Sub-Saharan Africa will need another 16 million teachers in classrooms by 2015 to provide every child with a primary education

Among the factors that may explain the poor learning achievement in the [sub-Saharan Africa] region are: teacher shortages; low level of teacher qualification and training; poor mastery of the curriculum; rigid teaching practices; lack of textbooks and other teaching materials; and insufficient instructional time (vital for better learning)?”

Education for All Global Monitoring Report, 2006, pg. 3

A study commissioned by South Africa’s Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) in 2005 revealed:

  • 55 per cent of teachers report having considered leaving the profession due to inadequate remuneration, increased workload, lack of career development and professional recognition along with dissatisfaction with work policies, job insecurity and lack of choice about where they wished to work

  • less than a quarter of teachers are under-qualified, i.e. not holding the required REQV13 status (matric + three years’ training) and some 30 000 teaches in South African schools are unqualified
  • the most important problems teachers say they face (listed in descending order) are: lack of teaching aids; insufficient co-operation from parents; poor infrastructure; shortage of teachers; class size; harsh living conditions in the village; irregular salary payments; harassment by authorities; and too much time spent on non-teaching duties

  • the general health status of educators is poorer than that of the general population, with 10,6 per cent having been hospitalised within the last twelve months (compared with 7 per cent of the general population)

Do our learners have the teachers necessary to act decisively on the post-apartheid mandate? Can they teach the new curriculum?

Are they able to spend the hours necessary to fight the demon of unequal education?

It takes a special kind of teacher to do that. There are thousands who are indeed special in that positive way

However, there are thousands more who are still struggling to make real sense of their presence in the classroom.

Naledi Pandor

MP, Minister of Education, Debate on the Education Budget Vote 15, National Assembly, 19 May 2006.


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