Projected Sub-Saharan Africa Education figures remain grim

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If current trends continue, universal primary education in sub-Saharan Africa will be achieved in 2080; universal lower secondary completion in 2089; and universal upper secondary completion in 2099. The grim figures were reveled in the new Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report by UNESCO.

According to the GEM, there is an urgent need for progress in education to speed up. Current trends would leave the continent 70 years behind schedule for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) deadline. The report also indicates that Ethiopia is not due to reach even universal primary education until the next century. By 2030, three out of ten of every primary school aged children will still not be completing primary school.

The report points out that disparity in wealth is often magnified by gender. The poorest females are the worst off in the majority of countries, often substantially so in comparison to the poorest males. In countries including Afghanistan, Benin, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, and South Sudan, the poorest female youth have attained less than a single year of schooling, on average, compared to about two years or more for the poorest males.

“A fundamental change is needed in the way we think about education’s role in global development, because it has a catalytic impact on the well-being of individuals and the future of our planet. Now, more than ever, education has a responsibility to be in gear with 21st century challenges and aspirations, and foster the right types of values and skills that will lead to sustainable and inclusive growth, and peaceful living together,” said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, speaking on the findings in the report.

The Ethiopia specifics show that the country has a sophisticated set of horizontal and vertical planning strategies. A robust federal and regional process is in place for planning, coordination and integrated budgeting in education. Regional education ministries are responsible for some oversight and spending but most decisions are taken at the local or woreda level.

Local plans take a multi-sector approach, e.g. health clinics and centers being planned alongside schools. However, there have been some challenges; local education offices reportedly feel more accountable to local councils, which provided their budget, than to regional education bureaus. This has hampered regional-level monitoring, the report underlines.

Educational systems need to ensure they are giving people vital skills and knowledge that can support the transition to greener industries, and find new solutions for environmental problems. This also requires education to continue beyond the school walls, in communities and the workplace throughout adulthood. Yet only 15% of adults in Ethiopia have ever attended literacy programs.

Other statistics on the report show that on current trends, by 2020, there will be 45 million too few workers with tertiary education relative to demand.

Investing in higher education is particularly crucial for growth in sub-Saharan Africa: increasing tertiary attainment by one year on average would increase its long-term GDP level by 16 percent. Yet, in 2014, only 8 percent were enrolled in tertiary education in the region, far below the second-lowest regional average, that of South and West Asia (23 percent), and the global average (34 percent), the report adds.

In Ethiopia, only 5 percent were enrolled in tertiary education in 2014. The report warns that inequality in education, interacting with wider disparities, heightens the risk of violence and conflict.