Education is the key driver to development, yet in sub-Saharan Africa progress has stalled. It’s left almost 30 million children out of school, half the world’s total, with damaging consequences for child, community and continent.
Many of the children who have been denied schooling in Africa are the most vulnerable: the displaced, refugees, minorities and girls in the most fragile countries, all children who are denied their basic right to education. These are the children and communities with whom the Africa Educational Trust works to tear down the barriers to schooling. The barriers can be a lack of qualified teachers, lack of school toilets, or books or food, or something as simple as shoes to enable children to walk to school.
First though, it’s important to recognise the progress towards delivering universal primary education, something that seemed a pipe dream when first put forward as a millennium development goal. For some sub-Saharan African countries progress has been immense. Land-locked, war-torn Burundi more than doubled primary school enrolment from under 41 per cent in 2000 to 94 per cent in 2010; Niger improved its performance from a pitiful 27 per cent to 64 per cent and Mozambique, often seen as a model for aid effectiveness, increased its primary school enrolment by 35 per cent. All this against challenging backdrops that included long-term and bitter civil conflict, as well as debilitating famines.
It’s clear evidence of what can be achieved when national governments backed by development assistance combine to deliver the common good. It’s also a tribute to the hunger for education: when the Kenyan government promised free universal primary education in 2002, schools were swamped by children turning up to register and headteachers had to turn some away for lack of space.
The Africa Educational Trust is a specialist organisation that believes supporting quality education is key for changing individuals, communities and countries for the better. It operates projects across four countries in East Africa that encompass teacher training, support for young female students, the provision of lending libraries and mentoring services. Find out more at http://africaeducationaltrust.org/