Education: Secondary considerations
By: Marshall Van Valen
Expanding secondary education is key to forming tomorrow’s workers, civil servants and entrepreneurs.
Thanks to the drive to meet the Millennium Development Goals for universal primary-school education in 2015, children in the majority of African states now have the opportunity to complete primary school.
Expanding secondary-school enrolment – it was just 31% for upper secondary school in 2010 – will take a new budgetary commitment.
Sub-Saharan African countries already devote an average of 22.4% of their national budgets to education, according to UNESCO.
In 2007, Uganda was one of the first to roll out universal secondary education, which has produced mixed results due to the limits of budgets, personnel and infrastructure.
At the time, teachers and NGOs complained that the government did not consult them.
Does Uganda offer lessons for countries like Ghana that are seeking to follow suit?
Frederick Mwesigye, executive director of the Forum for Education NGOs in Uganda, explains: “I am not sure one can easily get the answers as there has not been any study I know of to trace the children who enrolled in primary school and transited to university.”
Despite its current economic challenges, the Ghanaian government plans to go ahead with expanding the number of secondary schools and removing fees from public secondary institutions, which was a topic of intense debate in the 2012 election.
President John Mahama’s government estimates that the policy will cost ¢71m ($19.7m) in 2015/2016 alone.
The government’s planning has been ineffective, though.
Approving a $156m grant to improve secondary education in Ghana, the World Bank wrote this year that government underestimated enrolment by more than 20% in 2012/2013 and was spending four times as much in 2013 as it had projected to spend in 2020.
The expansion of enrolment often leads to a degradation of standards as schools struggle to manage the new student intake.
There are other problems that money alone cannot solve.
The World Bank report on Ghana says that 25% of youth either do not have the qualifications to enter senior high school or cannot afford to commute to the schools where they are placed by the computerised placement system.
While, at 36%, Ghana’s secondary enrolment rate is one of the best in sub-Saharan Africa, it has a long way to go.
The next 200 schools it plans to build could raise that rate by about 14%.
Link: The Africa Report
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