- Ghana and Sierra Leone have expanded free compulsory education
- African countries debating how to fund it
Free compulsory education in Africa has been something most governments have championed in their respective countries. Apart from countries like Somalia, Sudan, Angola, Gabon, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon, all the countries offer free primary education. This however is often for tuition only and the children themselves or families have to pay for feeding, school supplies, uniforms among others.
Ghana and Sierra Leone are currently the latest African governments to expand the provision of free and compulsory state education, shining a light on problems of poor teacher training, the lack of classrooms and the need for school feeding programmes.
According to UNESCO, in sub-Saharan Africa one-fifth of children between the ages of six and 11 are out of school with one-third between 12 and 14, and 60% between 15 and 17. Though the reasons are varied ranging from conflict to corruption to lack of provision, poverty is now identified as an overwhelming factor.
Free high school education was an election pledge for Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo. During the launching of the policy in 2017, he said the programme would cost less than the price the country would pay for having an unskilled and uneducated workforce. Akufo-Addo has already gotten 472,000 new entrants into high schools through his ‘double-intake’ system but faces criticism that the country wasn’t ready and can’t afford it.
Debates in most African countries have moved beyond whether public schools need strengthening to how to fund it. Economist Ernest Areetey, a former chancellor of the University of Ghana, says free education will cost the country ¢3.3bn ($683,000) in the next academic year, not including teachers’ salaries – almost triple the ¢1.3bn allocated in the budget. Countries lagging behind in educational performance are watching with keen interest to see if Ghana and Sierra Leone can pull things off in 2019.
Source: Africa Report