Date: Tue, 23 Mar 1999 22:34:31 -0600 (CST)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: EDUCATION: Is What Is Taught In African Schools Irrelevant?
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Is What Is Taught In African Schools Irrelevant?
By Lewis Machipisa, IPS, 19 March 1999
HARARE, Mar 19 (IPS) - A lot of what is taught in schools in Africa is irrelevant to the needs of the continent, claim a group of African educationalists.
They say the lack of relevance of the content of educational programmes results not only in a significant number of dropouts, but also in a lack of linkage between training and employment.
"It is a fact that in all colonised countries, the basis of curriculum development was colonial interest and as such we inherited a curriculum with a colonial leaning," says Buddy Wentworth, Namibia's minister of Higher Education, Vocational Training, Science and Technology.
"That is why it has become necessary for us as African nations to adopt a pan-Africanist approach and Africanise our curriculum," Wentworth told IPS.
Wentworth was in the Zimbabwean capital where he attended an Organisation of African Unity (OAU) education ministers meeting held Mar 15 - 19.
At the end of the meeting, the ministers called for a pan- African curriculum development programme to promote and strengthen African unity and understanding of different histories and cultures.
"We must Africanise it in such a way that we are part and parcel of the developing world. The issue of relevance is a very pertinent and important one because when learning becomes irrelevant, there is no point in that learning," Wentworth says.
One reason given for the high failure rate in African schools is the use of a medium of instruction which is totally foreign to the majority of pupils.
According to Oxfam Great Britain (GB), at least 125 million children in sub-Saharan Africa do not attend school -- two- thirds of these are girls -- and 150 million enter primary school, but drop out.
The British charity estimates that for Africa to achieve Universal Primary Education, some three billion US Dollars per year would be needed.
"The crisis in Africa is serious and is worsening," says Tony Burdon, policy adviser at Oxfam GB, the leading British charity.
Between 1999-2006, the ministers have targeted "to achieve quality, relevance and effectiveness of education."
The plan of action adopted at the Harare conference called upon African governments to allocate a minimum of 25 percent of their budgets and six percent of gross development product (gdp) to education.
Also the percentage of the education budget allocated to learning materials should be increased from its current low level of two percent per annum to 14 percent.
This could be partly achieved through a change in government procedures on taxation, tendering and tariffs for the book publishing and book selling industries.
It was also agreed that governments must allocate a minimum of 50 percent of their education budgets to primary education, as this is the most critical level, with the highest returns on investments.
The same period, 1999-2006, will also see African states introducing national languages as a medium of instruction in the first three years of schooling.
While countries like Namibia have made some progress in "Africanising" the curriculum, a lot more remains to be done.
"In Namibia we have moved quite a little distance in that direction already since independence nine years ago, we have encouraged the Namibian curriculum development, Namibian text book writers to become part of education development in the country," explains Wentworth.
"But in most of Africa there is still a great deal of irrelevance. But this is an issue which is enjoying increasing attention," he says, adding that, Africans are not against history or heritage."
"We are saying no to that portion of education which clutters up the learning process without contributing to the development of the learners," says Wentworth.(END/IPS/lm/mn/99)
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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