African Adult Education still lacks adequate support

Adult education in Lesotho
Adult education in Lesotho (Image - https://zoa2.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/lesotho-and-the-dragon-mountains/)

The Adult education sector in Africa, remains underfunded and non-mainstream.

And this has been to the detriment of millions of Africans who need to be properly educated if they stand any chance at escaping poverty.

Many Africa governments continue to fail their uneducated and undereducated citizens as little funding is made available for Adult Education.

Most contemporary analysts regard illiteracy as a development issue because of the link between poverty and illiteracy.

And Adult Education activists and organisations report similar challenges facing this sector. Ranging from inadequate and inconsistent funding.

In the year 2000, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals, a set of development goals for the year 2015.

The second of them was to achieve Universal Primary Education, more specifically, “to ensure that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.”

That same year, the World Education Forum met in Dakar, Senegal, and adopted the Dakar Framework for Action reaffirming the commitment to achieving Education for All by the year 2015.

Sadly, this goal has not been met due to a number of diverse factors, mostly concerning poor governance and lack of political will by various governments.

At the time, according to UNESCO, only 57% of African children were enrolled in primary schools, the lowest enrollment rate of any region surveyed.

Sector experts note that Adult Education poses specific requirements on policymakers and planners to take into consideration indigenous traits and characteristics.

“With a moderate backlash against Western ideals and educational traditions. Many universities and other institutes of higher education take it upon themselves to develop a new approach to higher education and adult education.

And what is lacking and needed is needed is for priority areas such as educator training, monitoring, and evaluation. These turn to be in short supply or non-existent,” according to education experts.

New research shows that there is a clear need for investment in capacity development, having a full, sufficiently paid and well qualified professionalized staff, and increasing the demands for adult education professionals.

“The majority of adult educators are untrained, especially in basic literacy. Governments often employ schoolteachers and others in adult education posts rather than experienced adult educators.Many of the difficulties experienced could be solved by allocation of resources to meet the needs (adequate funds, more staff, appropriate training for staff and suitable material). Underfunding is a huge threat to the sustainability of these programs, and in some cases, to their continued existence,” according to global studies on Adult Education.

The best-reported data on funding is about adult literacy and non-formal education programs.

Funding for continuing education, either academic or vocational is provided and reported on, but little data is given on its financing.

Funding may come from public or private sector sources.

International and foreign aid is also likely to be important. The costs of much adult education seem to be kept artificially low by the use of state facilities and by the extremely low salaries paid to many adult education specialists.

Public universities have not been successful in attracting older students onto mainstream degree programs and so the post-apartheid ideal of opening access to public higher education for growing numbers of non-traditional students is not yet a reality,” research finds.

However, certain countries have reported some success rates in Adult Education programs.

Between 1990 and 2007 Uganda enrolled over 2 million participants in the functional adult literacy program.

The Family Basic Education program was active in 18 schools by 2005, reaching over 3,300 children and 1,400 parents.

This is a successful family literacy mediation whose impact at household, school and community level has been evaluated.

Unfortunately, the national reports typically do not provide sufficient information on the content of the adult education programs that run in their countries.

In the majority of cases the name of the program is as much detail as is given. Curriculum content does not seem to be a major issue.

In South Africa, the Kha Ri Gude (Let Us Learn) Adult Literacy Programme (KGALP) is a model for the world.

KGALP, which is an initiative of the Government of South Africa, won the 2016 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) International Literacy Award.

Kha Ri Gude which means ‘Let Us Learn’ is Tshivenda, and now facilitated  by the  Department of Basic Education (DBE), was born in February 2008 after a 2006 study by the Ministerial Committee on Literacy  established that about 9.6 million South African adults or 24% of the entire adult population aged over 15 years were functionally illiterate.

The study noted, “Of these, 4.7 million could not read or write (i.e. had never attended school) while 4.9 million were barely literate having dropped out of formal school before completing primary education.

The study also revealed, “The rate of adult illiteracy was significantly higher in non-white communities and among women, a pattern which partly reflected the negative effect of apartheid-era segregationist policies with regards to the provision of social services including education as well as socio-cultural practices which tend to promote the education of male over female children.”

According to the SA government, the continued prevalence of adult illiteracy and its negative effect on development and social transformation prompted the government of South Africa to institute the KGALP in February 2008.

The Campaign further aims to equip adults above the age of 15 years to become literate and numerate in one of the 11 official languages.

And achieving this goal would enable South Africa to reach its UN: Education For All Commitment made at Dakar in 2000. Namely that of halving the country’s illiteracy rate by 2015.

With the UNESCO award it shows that South Africa is on the right track.

South Africa could have been miles ahead in its mission of educating all its people if a programme like KGALP was instituted immediately after liberation in 1994.

However, it can not be ignored that since the end of apartheid in 1994, in its commitments to promote universal access to education and eradicate illiteracy among adults, the SA government had  instituted a number of educational programmes like the Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) programme and the South African National Literacy Initiative (SANLI) in 2000.

With millions of black South Africans deprived of educational opportunities during the apartheid era. The SA government still faces tough battles in the transformation and development of South Africa with high rates of unemployment at over 27% in a country of 55 million people and inequalities threatening the stability of the 23 year old democracy.

Through the campaign recruited volunteers who make up the thousands of community-based coordinators, supervisors and educators are engaged to run the literacy courses every year since KGALP started.

Global studies confirm that the volunteers teach at community-based learning centres across South Africa and at informal venues such as local churches, backyards and bus-shelters.

“Due to high linguistic diversity, the legacy of colonialism and the need for knowledge of international languages such as English and French in employment and higher education, most schooling in Africa takes place in languages that teachers and pupils do not speak natively, and in some cases simply do not understand.

There is considerable evidence that pupils schooled in a second language achieve poorer results than those schooled in their mother tongue, as lack of proficiency in the second language impairs understanding and encourages ineffective rote learning”, global research further shows.

Although UNESCO has recommended since the 1950s that children be taught early literacy in their mother tongue. Progressing later to other languages. Not all African countries have adhered to this call as yet.

Even where the earliest grades are taught in the mother tongue, pupils are typically forced to switch to languages such as English and French before acquiring proficiency in these languages.

The UNESCO report further shows marked gender inequalities: in almost all countries enrollment of boys far outpaced that of girls.

According to the report, “Steps such as the abolition of school fees, investments in teaching infrastructure and resources, and school meals from the World Food Programme helped drive enrollment up by millions.

Yet despite the significant progress of many countries, the world fell short of meeting its goal of UPE.”

Moreover, in sub-Saharan Africa as of 2013, only about 79% of primary school-age children were enrolled in school.

59 million children of primary-school age were out of school. And that  enrollment of girls continued to lag behind that of boys.

Following the expiration of the MDGs in 2015, the UN adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals for the year 2030.

The fourth goal addressed education, with the stated aim to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

The World Education Forum also convened in Incheon, Korea to discuss the implementation of this goal, and adopted the Incheon Declaration for Education 2030.

The over-all conclusion as experts would have it, is that, “It remains to be seen what effect the latest measures have on the state of education participation.”