Since the onset of COVID-19, we have resorted to different modes of distance learning at all levels of education. During these tough times, we have had time to reflect on the importance of education in our own country, but how are students faring in the developing nations of Africa?
Africa is the youngest continent on the globe with the second largest population. In Uganda alone, over 70% of the population is under the age of 25 with 80% living in rural areas.
According to UNESCO and GPE, Africa’s youth population will double by the year of 2050. Youth in Africa face internal and external barriers to education, including early marriage and pregnancy, household labor and responsibilities, and a lack of financial support to fund schooling and educational supplies. In addition to these challenges, the vast majority lack internet connectivity and electricity, making electronic forms of remote learning highly ineffective. These challenges are especially acute for those in the poorest and most rural communities.
UNICEF describes these limitations and the exacerbation of inequalities among those living in poor and rural communities as the “digital divide”. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 89% of learners do not have any access to computers and 82% lack any internet access (UNESCO, 2020). According to UNICEF, only 6% of students in the region have had access to online learning during the pandemic.
AOEF’s post-Secondary youth leader in Uganda, Kakaire Collins, noted “…it’s not easy for most children to understand through radios, TV and newspapers. Because most parents never went to school, they cannot explain what is being taught to the children.”
In the regions we serve, most children in primary and secondary schools still sit three-to-a-desk, learning via chalkboards and sharing textbooks. Without reliable electronic and internet connections, what is the solution?
Kakaire Collins suggests one useful solution would be to get mentors and teachers to print out topics for different levels of education, mostly the primary levels and “reach out to the children through village leaders; provide writing materials for the children.”
AOEF continues to gather insights from youth leaders in other regions of Africa. These contributions will be included in continuing articles on this same subject in upcoming newsletters to provide our readers with a better understanding of the obstacles we and our students must overcome.
The Cold Truth: Remote Learning in sub-Saharan Africa is Part I of a series of articles researched, contributed to and written by members of AOEF’s Youth Advisory Council and Young Friends of AOEF.