Education in Africa
August 28, 2005.
"As knowledge in itself becomes a perishable item, the ability of
learners to think independently, exercise appropriate judgment and
skepticism, and collaborate with others to make sense of
their changing environment is the only reasonable aim of education."
(Haddad & Draxler, 2002, p14)
In today's global
information society, the forces of globalization, pace of technological
change and the need for centrality of information and
knowledge along with the importance of skills to access and use both new
technologies and information more effectively, have greatly
influenced education. The coinage of ICT which is acronym
for "Information communication and Technologies" to represent the totality
of the aforementioned drivers of global change is ingenious! However, as
myriad of old educational problems are solved by this new and
changing technological order, new challenges emerge. Presently, Africa is
slow to brace up to these challenges and benefit from the
solutions. It is my thinking that if concerted effort is not made by
African countries to adopt the relevant technologies, Africa will not be
able to leapfrog into the future at a reasonable pace as other continents.
But then, we have the neo-colonialist paradigm and those who believe in it
say that if Africa continues to struggle to catch up with the rest of the
world, it would not create the time to develop homegrown strategies for
its liberation from the clutches of the former imperial powers. They
portend that the political and economic structures put in
place by the imperial powers and the African elites' preference to sustain
these structures is the bane of development in African societies. They go
further to say that this is the reason Africa continues to consume what it
does not produce and produce what it does not consume. To
this group, an unqualified embrace of another technology like ICT which is
a product of the former imperial powers is another attempt to assiduously
maintain the status quo which will render Africa worse because it will
once more become consumer of a technology it doesn't produce.
I recognize the thinking of the characters in the preceding paragraph but
believe that it is too late for Africa to exist in isolation. Africans
have become world citizens and today have taken up citizenship in the
countries of the other continents of the world. To continue to compete
with others for world opportunities and prosperity, Africa
needs to embrace and partake in emergent protocols of the world. The
embrace of ICT, in this regard will be for good.
In this essay, I will
discuss how ICT can be applied to education and show that it
can improve access to education, contribute to the education
of more people who would have been denied due to geographical distance,
work and communal commitments and lack of prior learning
experience among other reasons. I will also discuss ICT's contribution in
the cost-effective administration and management of education
in the long-term, the potential for more commerce, new skills and
jobs, and the potential to leapfrog African countries into a better
ICT in Education
One dictionary (http://dictionary.reference.com)
defines education as: "the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a
learning process". "Learning process" requires communication between a
provider or trainer and the learner in diverse ways (one-way
or two-way or a combination) depending on the need (Butcher, 2003).
Better collaboration among students and their teachers is
enhanced by modern technologies. ICT, which comprises these
technologies and the process of communicating information through the
medium provided by these technologies, has remarkably changed the face of
education, as we knew it before.
But, what is
ICT? For the purpose of this essay, I will borrow a definition of
ICT as "the electronic technologies for collecting, storing, processing,
and communicating information. They can be separated into two
main categories: (1) those which process information, such as computer
systems, and (2) those which disseminate
information, such as telecommunications systems (Gunton, T, 1993: p150).
The fast growths of the technologies that process and disseminate
information across the globe have made the world a village, by eliminating
the limit of space and time on information.
Some of the possible
methods of trainer-learner communication are:
communication via correspondence by snail-mail, faster courier, fax or
- Use of printed
text that could be delivered either by correspondence or in a
of video by one-way broadcasting, two-way video-conferencing or delivery
of the video material/cassette/CD of file.
- Use of computers
and computer-based media either in a face-faceclassroom or over some
private or public networks.
- It is usual in
more developed worlds to see this as pre-planned in order to make the
learner and trainer aware before the start of the process.
Depending on the
circumstances and educational goals and objectives, a
combination of any of these ways is preferred and hence used. To enhance
the delivery of the educational material using any of these ways,
technologies are employed. For example, face-to-face communication will
be enhanced by overhead projectors, PowerPoint presentations using
computers, pre-printed course highlights and other
audio-visuals. In the same vein, use of video in long-distance education
will be enhanced by television bradcasting, videodiscs and
video-conferencing technologies. It should be obvious from the foregoing
that the marriage of "Information", "Communication" and the appropriate
"Technologies" enhances education in good ways. In the rest
of this essay, I will identify some problems of education in Africa,
and suggest how ICT could be used to solve them.
Education in Africa and ICT Solutions
Some of the problems
of education in Africa can be grouped under 3 categories. Here I suggest
how ICT could mitigate them:
Problems with the
The educational providers have the responsibility to manage
and administer education. They do this by designing
curriculum, prepare budgets and use available budget to decide the cost
of, and who receives education (in the case of government
providers). Without the use of the appropriate technologies,
this task could become tough and it is tough in Africa, leading to poorly
managed and deployed educational systems. Most African
countries are still coping with educational systems inherited from
imperial powers. The legendary use of file cabinets and telephones is no
An example of how ICT can solve this problem is the
deployment of databases and information warehouses to mine
data about past and future educational needs of the different regions,
gender and economic classes. Use of electronic mails could
also facilitate communication between providers and potential learners
and among administrators in an effective and cheaper manner.
For this last point to happen,
African governments need to put in place, subsidized, central access to
the Internet and email systems in both rural areas and the
It would be easier for education administrators to plan and
implement the first point about use of information warehouses in their
respective institutions. The reduction in cost that will accompany this
effective administration of education by supporting the provider with
ICT will fund the education of more people.
The delivery of
As stated earlier, the delivery of educational resources is
another problem in Africa. The reliance of the blackboard and the
presently pervasive sale of printed lecture notes to learners restricts
the design of educational curriculum to the face-to-face mode of
communication which is expensive to sustain and deny a
majority of good candidates opportunity for education. Africa needs to
exploit the huge opportunities distance-learning and open
Many people who have family, job and other commitments
would avail themselves of this opportunity. And, information
and communication technologies will make it easy to implement. Example of
technologies appropriate for this area are one-way television
broadcasting, radio, audiocassettes and compact discs,
multimedia computers and the Internet. To utilize these technologies will
require the redesign of
the curriculum. This means that investment in this area would provide an
opportunity to review existing curricula and inspire new one. In the
long-term, considering the potential for increased number of people with
access to education, total cost to both the provider and
learner is reduced.
There are many other good by-products of this point, one of which is the
fact that the learners and providers will learn new technologies and
hence new skills that would make them more useful in a world that is fast
becoming a global village!
Problems with the
teaching and learning processes.
The problems in this category consist of teacher and
learner access to current
materials and the lack of effective technologies that aid both teacher
and learner in becoming more effective. In Africa, teachers
and learners alike do not have access to good libraries and
where there are libraries, the materials are obsolete. This hampers
research and development. In a fast changing world where most research
institutes offer their publications in digital form, African countries
have a compelling need to embrace ICT and benefit from these
technologies. On this point, the embrace would need to be more holistic;
with the rural areas (and there are many in Africa) included
in the plan. There is a huge long-term financial saving in this when
teachers and learners have access to a huge collection of up-to date
digital materials over the Internet at a low one-time cost paid for by the
educational institutions and recouped from the learners over
time or borne by the governments. It is also possible to secure aids from
donor agencies to subscribe to these materials. As is the case with ICT
support for the previously mentioned problems, new skills will be gained
by the use of modern technologies to solve this problem resulting in
producing people that compete in more developed worlds for jobs thereby
bringing prosperity to themselves and families.
Current state of ICT Application in Africa
It is appropriate to recognize the visionary efforts by some agencies in
the application of ICT in education in Africa. One of such projects is
the E-Schools Africa Project by "New Partnerships for Africa's Development
The Innovation Hub project was initiated by the Gauteng Province in South
Africa. It is an attempt by the province to move the economy away from its
historical resource-dependent focus. Though announced in 2002, the hub
was officially opened in 2005. It is the first facility in Africa to
become a full member of the International Association of Science Parks (IASP).
The 60-hectare infrastructure boasts of broadband infrastructure of VoIP,
multi-media and plug-and-play capabilities in a South African park. (see
I agree with Dr. Warren Groff (Groff, W.H., 2005) in his postulation that
"Globally Competitive Communities" of the early 1990s and "Wired
Communities" of the late 1990s have led to Electronically Networked
Intelligent Communities (ENICs) that are changing the nature of business
and economic development. The political leadership of African countries
needs to understand this and encourage the emergence of broadband
communities, starting from the rural areas. As demonstrated in this
essay, benefits resulting into prosperity will accrue to the communities.
The experience in Niger where nature let loose some locusts resulting in
famine is a lesson for resource-reliance communities to give-way to
alternative means of economic development by plugging into the digital
Haddad, W. D. &
Draxler, A. (2002). Technologies for Education. Paris: UNESCO and the
Academy for Educational Development.
Butcher, N. (2003). Technological Infrastructure and Use of ICT in
Education in Africa: An Overview.
Gunton, T. (1993). Dictionary of Information Technology. London, Penguin.
Groff, W. H (2005). Benefits of a Wired Society, Lagos Nigeria.