By Paul Okediji
With the understanding that education is a crucial element of human development, the 2012 report on achievement of the MDGs have shown that many African countries are taking giant strides in the achievement of this goal. A couple of countries have made progress in net school enrollment, with most countries reaching 90%. Similarly, the rate of completion has also increased substantially, although at a less satisfying rate than the enrollment rates.
The first target of this goal, which is to ensure that children everywhere are able to complete a full course of primary schooling, is a major factor driving most countries forward in making sure that there is an increase in the net primary school enrollment. According to the report, “most African countries have made steady progress and are on track to meet the target for net enrollment in primary education by 2015”. Nations such as Algeria, Burundi, Egypt, Tunisia, and Togo have already achieved or even exceeded the minimum target in this regard. This is an evidence of the heavy investments of many African governments in education. However, some countries such as South Africa, Malawi and Gambia may not be able to achieve the target by 2015 as a result of reasons such as too few qualified teachers, inadequate educational infrastructure and poor school management.
When compared with the enrollment rates, primary school completion rates are low, but some countries show real progress. This indicator, being a measure of the quality of the educational system, reflects the success of that system in curbing dropouts and improving retention, thus keeping children in school to complete their primary education. Only six countries so far have recorded primary school completion rates of 90% and above since 2009. On the other side, another seven countries, including Cote d’Ivoire and Niger, have been classified as seriously off-track and may not even be close to meeting up with the target by 2015.
The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), launched in 2000, is one of the programs that have helped in improving youth literacy in Africa, especially of the female sex. The report showed that “youth literacy rates are generally rising in African countries, and very few had literacy rates below 50% between 2005 and 2009.” However, there are two concerns: the fact that progress towards achieving this MDG target appears slow, and the problem of gender inequality in literacy rates as women still lag behind.
It is evident that the continent is generally on track towards the achievement of this MDG, however urgent attention needs to be given to the challenges of improving the primary school completion rates, up-scaling the quality of education and bridging the gender gap in education. Governments need to give more priority to primary education by increasing budgetary allocations for primary and secondary education, improve the management of the educational system, and institute appropriate educational policies.
This is a summary of the second millennium development goal (MDG) based on the MDG 2012 report for Africa.