The centrality of education in propelling social, economic and even cultural development has snowballed ferocious deliberations and planning on how to make education accessible to all.
Achieving free primary education is among the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) designed to be achieved by 2015. The Dakar Declaration (2001) also added voice to the call to increase the accessibility of education to make it available for all.
However, universal quality primary education is not sweet music to the vast African population. Sub Saharan Africa and Southern Asia are home to the vast majority of children out of school.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, school fees consume nearly a quarter of a poor family’s income, paying not only for tuition, but also indirect fees such as PTA, and community contributions, textbook fees, compulsory uniforms and other fees.
Fees are keeping school children out of the classrooms.
Countries like Rwanda, Burundi, DRC Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda have abolished school fees, which has led to a surge in enrolment.
East African Community states, numerous strides have made despite a number of pitfalls that have continued dogging the implementation of the programme.
Generally, these countries are faced with either of the following challenges; budgetary deficits, over enrollment in schools, over-age learners, corruption and conditionalities from donors.
In Rwanda, there has been massive expansion and upgrading of educational infrastructure. Take a tour across the country and you will meet an amazing spectacle of magnificent schools even in the remotest parts of the country.
The government has also allocated lump funds towards further expansion of educational facilities, attraction of high skilled human resources and equipping of the schools with modern education resources.
The government’s ambitious project, Electricity for All by 2013, will be a big boost to education as it will facilitate the achievement of related projects like the ‘One-Laptop-Per-Child.’ teaching and use of computers in areas without electricity has remained a nightmare.
However, one of the biggest challenges that faces the Ministry of Education is the transition from the Francophone to Anglophone school system; from 2011, Anglophone goes full blast. Therefore, a big chunk of finance that would have been used to upgrade the standards of education has been directed to the English training program for francophone teachers.
As much as the English training programme appears to be yielding fruit, full benefits will take a couple of years to come as the teachers are yet to acquire full competence in the English language.
The drastic difference in the eloquence in English between students from village schools and those from urban areas tells it all. A lot has to be done. Despite all these troubles, Rwanda deserves a thumb up for trying and achieving this much educational progress in a short period of time.