Conference Theme: Education and Africa’s Transformation
Monday, July 3 to Wednesday July 5, 2017 (Arrival Sunday, 2 July, 2017, departure July 6th)
Education in Africa has remained perpetually under intense focus due to the unrelenting crises in the sector occasioned by its incapacities, inefficiencies, contradictions, inequalities and inequities and a general failure to advance the vision of the African people for a better future. The optimism that greeted political independence for the possibility of an African primacy in global leadership has largely been stymied by the failure of development to take off on an upward trajectory, signaled especially by the inability of education to address the continent’s development challenges.
From Cairo to the Cape, the symptoms of these crises are multifaceted and hydra-headed. Today, nearly 50 percent of Africans are under the age of 15, but of Africa’s population of nearly 128 million school age children, up to 17 million will never attend school, while another 37 million will be “in school hut not learning.” The Brookings Institution further estimates that in co..ntries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia, more than 50 percent of children finish primary school without learning the basic skills that they need to learn at that age.A whopping 61 million children, almost half of sub-Saharan Africa’s school age population, arrive at adolescence without the skills to lead productive lives, thereby constituting a permanent deficit to the continent’s development aspirations.
In spite of soaring unemployment continent-wide and the weak potential of technical and vocational educational and training to attenuate this problem, UNESCO/World Bank figures indicate that this constituted only about 6 percent of secondary school enrollment in 2012. Although enrollment in higher education institutions more than doubled in Africa between 2000 ànd 2010, this accounts for only 6 percent of African young people, compared to the global average of 26 percent.
Startlingly, UNESCO and World Bank calculations show that a one-year increase in averagetertiary education levels would raise annual GDP growth in Africa by 0.39 percentage points, and eventually yield up to a 12 percent increase in per capita GDP.But no nation can rise above the quality and the quantity of its teachers, and virtually all the African countries gained independence with neither a pool of well-trained teachers nor adequate teachers’ training colleges and universities. The colonial education policy was simply to provide a pool of indigenous second-class assistants to the colonial officials.The relationship between education and economic growth, robust development, and the expected transformation of Africa is thus established in consjcjeratjoi of all the above variables.
The aim of this conference is to review all the history and different facets of education in Africa, from past to present. The education of each era will be related to the context that it served. Participants will look at the markers and boundariesas each era changes, disintegrates and new agencies of change emerge. The idea is to see education as a key transformational agency, with the capacity to affect the superstructure and philosophical orientations around which the development of any nation stands. The foundation of modern society isrelated to the revolution in education. For instance, the era of the Enlightenment in Europe resulted in dramatic changes in how politics, economy and the society in general wereorganizecj. In contemporary times, advancements in science and technology have constituted a defining distinction between developed and less developed regions of th world. Pre-colonjal Africa had a rich heritage in education that was enshrined inhe highly sophisticated indigenous knowledge systems of the peoples oÌ’the continent. From the citadel of knowledge in Timbuktu, Mali to the great power house of learning in ancient Egypt, Africa was home to centers of knowledge that helped shape the civilization of that era. Each African society’s education system consisted of complex knowledge bases that served to sustain and develop African civilizations.
These education systems reflected the capacity building of empires like the Yoruba and Mongo and the sustainability of decentralized systems like the Hausa City-States and Massai. However, with imperialism and colonization, Africa was recreated in the image of the colonialists. One. of the ways through which this was done was the marginalization and in many instances the destruction of the indigenous knowledge systems and their replacement with the colonial ones. Consequently, from the late 19tIcentury, education in Africa was designed to reflect the character of the colonialists both in language and in the content of learning. In essence, educational institutions were created to train Africans who will both work for and defend the interests of the colonialists. Paradoxically, more than five decades after gaining political independence, education in Africa continues to reflect the structure and content of the colonial system. This can be seen especially in the continuity of colonial languages of instruction and in the maintenance of curricula which speak more to the needs of the colonialists than the present realities in Africa. Can there be paradigm shifts?
Scholars have argued that one of the main challenges militating against the transformation of Africa is the content and character of the educational system bequeathed to the continent by the departed colonialists. Can we rethink the system? Others have equally argued that the journey to transformation in Africa will remain an illusion until indigenous knowledge systems become part and parcel of the design, implementation and application of education on the continent. How can we make the indigenous relevant again?
Furthermore, who is responsible for the transformation of education in Africa? South African students have taken their future in their own hands with the #FeesMustFall movement. On the other extreme, big donor organizations from outside the continent such as the Carnegie Corporation have intervened in the continent’s educational landscape. Increasingly special interests compete to establish-rivate schools across Africa. These secular schools such as Chinese business and language schools, and parochial schools such as those by Evangelical and Islamic organizations, are quickly multiplying to meet these investors’ economic or social agendas.What roles should teachers, governments, and parents amongst others play in the transformation of the continent through education? This conference will also seek particularly to explore trends, intersections, and links among the various variables that determine educational advancement and its transformatory potentials on the continent. Given the low level of development and the marginal position that Africa continues to occupy in the global arena, transformation remains pertinent. The role of quality education in achieving this objective is even more compelling.What forms and modes of education can produce the much needed transformation? Are there success stories in education transformation on the continent? Can we find lessons learnt that are applicable in a context-sensitive manner?
Comparative analyses are particularly welcome, and papers that pay close attention to proffering policy and practice based solutions are encouraged. This Conference on Education and Africa’š Transformation will provide a platform for scholars in Africa and beyond to engage with various aspects of education and its links to transformation in Africa.