Without Education Reform in Africa, Forget about Development

 

By Sam Stewart Mutabazi

 

Why can’t African countries reform their education systems to suit their needs? Why do countries continue to teach irrelevant subjects that are not aligned to the country’s development needs and aspirations? Why it is that reforming education curriculum is one of the most difficult undertaking in most countries in Africa? Why should Africa fail to have enough doctors for instance? Is it because they can’t be trained for this purpose? Why do we make it appear like training a doctor in Africa is very complicated?

Why can’t we determine the manpower needs of the country and then go ahead to train the people for a purpose? Why should primary kids in Uganda study things that they may never apply in their lives?  It’s very difficult for a child in Uganda to determine early in life what they want to become in future. Why should we be teaching and learning by chance in this era and age? Good education is the foundation of a country’s development. Show me the education system of a country and I will show you its   level of advancement.

Countries should be able to determine their manpower needs and go ahead to train the same accordingly. It’s a mistake for government to leave the education sector to the private sector. It’s the role of government to project the most important courses that should be taught at university for instance such that the same training is planned and delivered. The government should also be able to forecast the type of skills it will require in a given period of time such that it can work to achieve exactly that. Leaving students to study what pleases them and giving universities to teach any program according to their own choice is to let down the country.

The motive of most Universities is often to attract many students who will be able to pay. On the other hand, students prefer courses that are “easy” and which don’t take long to complete. Sone universities may realize that they have not yet built internal capacity to handle courses and thus must start will teaching the ones where they have ready manpower in form of lecturers. They however need to realize that even the best universities in the world did not start on a better footing. They built capacity along the way. It’s the role of government to determine the most appropriate courses that are more appropriate for the development needs and therefore advise universities to emphasize their teaching. There has to be a deliberate move by government to guide the most suitable education and skills needed at any particular time such that universities and train their students accordingly.

In many countries education reform is often a long process that is not easy to start on. Often times government is not sure of how it should implement the reforms let alone introduce them. The ministry of education of many times detached from reality and is always not in a hurry to change the status quo. Education reform therefore needs to start from the highest echelons of power for it to get the necessary support it deserves. When reforms are proposed by junior officers without the backing of the strong politicians including the president, the y normally are not well supported and they tend to get lukewarm support from the entire government structure and the general populace. If leaders are really genuinely interested in seeing their countries progress, they should first make quality education a priority.

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