Africa: Education Responsibilities. 05/29/00

Africa: Education Responsibilities. 05/29/00

Africa: Education Responsibilities Date distributed (ymd): 000529 Document reposted by APIC

This posting contains a panel presentation by Lalla Ben Barka, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (EDA) from the session on Education and Culture in the APIC/ECA Electronic Roundtable (, which is now in its closing phase.

It also contains brief excerpts from an exchange on the Global Knowledge Discussion group (, illustrating some of the issues of use of local resources in introducing new technologies.


International Policies, African Realities

Panelist Presentation by Lalla Ben Barka, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) May 25, 2000

I would like to apologize for my delay in entering into a dialog with you. But this also has an advantage, because the fact that I participated to the World Education Forum in Dakar offers me the opportunity to share with you very serious concerns regarding the development of education in Africa.

In the final Dakar draft, the last paragraph says: "the Education For All 2000 Assessment highlights that the challenge of education for all is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa, in South Asia and in the least developed counties. Accordingly, while no country in need should be denied international assistance, priority should be given to those two regions of the world. Countries in conflict or undergoing reconstruction should also be given special attention in building up their education systems to meet the needs of all learners."

As we can see, Africa is a top priority because it is actually there that school enrolment rates are lowest, education systems are the least effective, and there is also unfortunately the greatest number of conflicts and displaced persons, which mostly affect school-age children. As a matter of fact, an assessment of the last decade shows that Africa, compared to other regions in the world, has the following results: net enrolment rates for primary education per region, 1990 and 1998: World: 80% and 84% Most developed regions: 97% and 98% Least developed regions: 78% and 82% Sub-Saharan Africa: 54% and 60% (Source: EFA statistical document, 2000)

I certainly do not wish to elaborate on the problems of the education systems of the continent which are sufficiently known, but when we realize that 10 years after the Jomtien Commitments, numbers continue to be weak and qualitative results even weaker, one must set the alarm and perhaps formulate the problem differently. So many topics have been examined and reexamined through general assemblies, regional and national consultations, during discussions with development partners: decision-makers' commitment, adequate resource allocation, teacher training, availability of materials and equipment, community participation, and eventually a wider use of information technologies. These issues have been endlessly debated and yet, disparities between SSA and other regions, within countries, between urban and rural regions, between boys and girls continue to be important.

In that case, what is or what are the issues? They are numerous and multifaceted, but I will limit myself to the two which, according to me, must be discussed and addressed first and foremost:

* Real and conscious commitment on behalf of decision-makers?

* Coherence between education systems and social and cultural systems?

1. Real and conscious commitment on behalf of decision-makers

Many African countries nowadays seem to have established systems that meet democratic criteria: a multi-party system, elections which are organized with a certain degree of transparency (at least with external observers), a private press (which is sometimes suppressed), etc. But in building a democratic system, it often seems that form takes precedence over substance. For instance, legislative elections take place, a national assembly is put into place, parliamentary groups and technical committees are constituted, bills are debated and adopted, but a closer look reveals that most people lack in capacities and basic skills needed to take informed decisions about these topics and laws. Nobody is contesting the need for governance or majority participation in decision-making, but it is important to ensure the means for a qualitative participation, not only participation by the greatest possible number.

There is a very urgent and important need to build and establish the necessary skills in order to be able to judge for instance the merits of a financial bill, or a bill on education. It is extremely important that decision-makers at this level be well informed and well versed in those questions which they must decide on. Governance does not limit itself to participatory elections, but also involves an enlightened contribution to decision-making. Governance might start with the elections, but it asserts itself through political, economic, cultural and educational governance. Another example concerns decentralization where we are confronted to two types of problems: There is the question of the State itself, which is often so disorganized in our countries, so weak, so lacking in capacities, that one wonders what we are really trying to decentralize. The other problem is: if we decentralize (assuming that we have a State which is able to do so), towards whom are we going to decentralize ? Very often structures are created, local representatives are in place, but the new skills needed to make decentralization effective do not exist.

In both cases, what is mostly lacking is not a commitment on behalf of leaders who, in some instances, show their will for free and transparent elections and for decentralization. The problem is rather a lack of understanding and an overall approach, which would allow addressing both the form and the substance. And very often, questions of substance, training, putting competencies into place, which are more complex and geared towards the long run, are quickly set aside for a more shallow aspect whose durability and sustainability are very fragile. It is now becoming imperative to ensure adequate training for decision-makers, both in the upper level and at the bottom of the pyramid.

2. Coherence between the education systems and the social and cultural systems.

The imported school, which separates the child from the Community, has often been criticized. Many countries are trying to link the school to the children's culture. Speeches and programs made the effort to reflect this necessity, but very often, the measures taken in order to achieve that goal were not sufficient.

First, it is important to understand how deeply cultural backgrounds, learning tools, etc. are rooted in society. It is in fact indispensable to recognize existing strengths and qualities within communities and cultures. This recognition and understanding imply the taking into account of a first point of entry which is the vehicle for transmitting knowledge, the children's native or first language. This vehicle not only allows the child to assimilate new knowledge without the trauma of a foreign language, but also maintains the equilibrium between him or her and the community. How many countries do really and systematically apply a national language policy in the formal system today, in spite of all the fancy speeches? And let no one use the capacity of the African languages as a pretext, because this is not the real issue.

Another aspect concerns community participation in planning and implementing programs and curricula. It is essential to integrate teachers in the environment, (starting with their training) because they constitute a true resource for community development. In short, school management by the community is an acute question. It does not limit itself to participation in constructing buildings or payment of teachers' salaries. Only in this manner can a school be progressively built which addresses not only the needs of the base, but also the whole society, while remaining oriented towards a more global world.

I could have examined macroeconomic topics, the poverty issue (in spite of the fact that Africa is a very rich continent), adjustment policies, conflicts, AIDS, etc. I do not deny the existence of scourges and negative or destabilizing factors, but I believe it is high time African countries are more serious about what they really want and achieve it responsibly. Africa owes it to herself to invest in her people. There are no miracles anywhere, human resources are the only true wealth, the one that resists, endures, and allows other problems to be solved. What our continent needs most presently are resolute women and men, who are trained at all levels.

Thank you.


[GKD] ICT and Education in Mozambique

Excerpts from on-line discussion, archive available at

From: Bruce ( Date: Tue May 23 2000 - 02:02:45 ADT

* Reply: " Re: [GKD] ICT and Education in Mozambique"

Dear Members of GKD

This newsletter is an update on Learning for All's pilot project to greatly increase the quality of education in Mozambique. More details on the project can be found at ...

Phase 1 of Learning for All's Pilot Project in Mozambique is scheduled to commence 3 July 2000. Ten multimedia computers will be installed at the Chibututuine Teacher Training College 80 kms north of the capital Maputo. Teaching staff at the college will also trained in the use of computers as a teaching aid.

The pilot project has been designed jointly with the Mozambican Ministry of Education. The project will train teachers in the use of multimedia as a teaching aid (phase 1), then place one solar-powered stand-alone multimedia computer in each of 10 primary schools on a trial basis. Educational multimedia CD-ROMs appropriate to the Mozambican culture will be developed for use in the schools. After a two year period the impact of the project will be evaluated, and pending a positive evaluation the project scaled up to cover the whole of Mozambique over a 10 year period. ...

Mozambique has not yet developed any kind of multimedia industry and there is no local capacity to train the staff at Chibututuine in the use of multimedia as a teaching aid. A Brazilian multi-media developer/instructor is keen to be part of phase 2 of the project - development of educational CD-ROMS in Mozambique. He has kindly agreed to volunteer his time to train the teaching staff at Chibututuine for two weeks from July 3.

Bruce Rowse Public Officer Learning for All Email: Web:


From: To: Date sent: Thu, 25 May 2000 12:59:25 +0200 Subject: Re: [GKD] ICT and Education in Mozambique Send reply to:

On 23 May, Bruce Rowse wrote:

> Mozambique has not yet developed any kind of multimedia industry > and there is no local capacity to train the staff at Chibututuine > in the use of multimedia as a teaching aid.

It is not true that there is no local capacity in this area. Our company, Pandora Box Lda. produces Mozambican information on CD-ROM since 1997, including multimedia products. We have also done training in this area, in 1999 for third year students of the Comunication Sciences graduate course at ISPU, one of the newly established private universities in Maputo.

The problem we have faced, though, is that this area is so new and still so foreign, that few people consider it possible to do anything of this kind in this country. Many don't believe us when we show our products and tell them that they were made by our own hands and heads. Others simply don't understand what the fuzz is all about, they have never used a multimedia product in their lives, because they feel alienated by existing titles in English, showing the American culture, or in Portuguese language but reflecting Portuguese or Brazilian realities, nothing to do with Mozambique.

As an example, one of us, Ms. Fernanda Cabanas, developed a prototype for a multimedia training package for Mozambican library staff as her master assignment at Sheffield, UK in 1995. When she came back, she showed this to a group of colleagues. It was amazing to see their reactions: the application was in their own language and talked about their own problems; the pictures showed familiar scenes; the background music was local. It was a major AHA! experience for all those who were present that day, to realize for the first time that the computer could become an information tool, a learning aid, and not be only a 'smart' American typewriter.

For Fernanda and me it was the go! signal to start our company, with the mission to produce Mozambique-relevant digital products.

The problem we now face, though, is that the market is still extremely small for this kind of products, and the development time for each title is so long that it is almost impossible, for the time being, to produce on a commercial basis only. Someone will have to sponsor the development of the first versions. Updates can sometimes be selfsustainable after that.

I am very pleased to know that Learningforall is working on this exciting project with the Ministry of Education in Mozambique. Of course, we would not have had the capacity to participate in your July courses, because at that time we will be busy running our own courses on CDS/ISIS database software, in Maputo. But we would be more than happy to collaborate in some way or another further on. Please keep in touch.

You can see our website at

Best regards,

Wenke Adam Pandora Box Lda Maputo, Mozambique Tel. 258-1-421432 (work) Tel. 258-1-424303 (home) P.O.Box 928


Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 10:54:42 -0500 Subject: Africa: Education Responsibilities

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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