In School but not Learning, Africa’s Education has failed to produce sufficient entrepreneurs, inventors, engineers, scientists, politicians who solve Africa’s problems

Where are our scientists? Where are the product designers? Where are our engineers, entrepreneurs, inventors? Where are they all? Where are our charismatic leaders? Our public speakers? Africans, like many other people of the world, use modern products. For example in the past, when we may have used other methods such as chewing sticks to brush our teeth, today many of us use toothbrushes and toothpaste.

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Students in a Nigerian university classroom, products of an education system that is lacking in skill and expertise

You see, there is something inherently wrong with the system of education across Africa. There must be. Africa’s education is not productive. How else can we explain why Africa is not producing its own expertise – entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists, famous public speakers etc? This was a poser raised by Akua Djanie, a citizen of Ghana and current affairs analyst, in her Facebook conversation.

I have left my beloved Ghana to move back to the UK. Why, you may well ask. You are not alone. I ask myself that same question every day! But seriously, I was driven to make this move because of my children’s education.  

Within the diaspora there are Africans and people of African descent excelling in all manner of fields. For example, people such as Dr Mark Dean, an African-American inventor and computer expert who played a key role in the development of the PC and David Adjaye, the award-winning, world-renowned architect. It must therefore be because there is something seriously wrong with education across Africa.

Because the reality is African students are not graduating out of our educational institutions as experts. Apart from a few professions such as medicine our graduates are not using whatever knowledge they have gained gainfully.

Where are our scientists? Where are the product designers? Where are our engineers, entrepreneurs, inventors? Where are they all? Where are our charismatic leaders? Our public speakers? Africans, like many other people of the world, use modern products. For example in the past, when we may have used other methods such as chewing sticks to brush our teeth, today many of us use toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Yet not many Africans are producing such products. Granted, there are multinational companies employing local Africans to manufacture some products and Africa does have some local manufacturers, but I am talking about Africans ourselves owning and operating large-scale industries. I am talking about Africans inventing new ways of doing old things. I am talking about Africans producing goods that are of great quality.

From industry to sports to the arts to politics to development issues, African students are not coming out of school, college and university with the answers. Nor are they coming out of school having been exposed to certain environments and conditions, which will allow them to explore and excel in their talents.

The majority of African children are not coming out of educational institutions with a clear-cut vision of their dreams. And many lack the confidence to even have dreams! When I think of the African Dream, I am reminded of young people who want to go to America, work, work, work, doing whatever it takes to make enough money to return to Africa to be a “big man or madam.”

All this because the majority of Africans on the African continent are not getting a proper education. From an early age, Africans living in the diaspora, like every race of people with whom they live, have the opportunity to start formal education.

From singing nursery rhymes in pre-school to children experimenting with test tubes in the science lab to excursions and extracurricular activities such as sports or music, children in other parts of the world are encouraged to be engaging, inquisitive and analytical, and even challenge existing methods.

In countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia, over half of in-school students are not learning basic skills by the end of primary school. These children will reach adolescence without the basic skills needed to lead successful and productive lives.

I don’t believe we are teaching our children to really use their brains to think outside the box. We need to put mechanisms in place that allow for this. All across Africa from an early age, the school curriculum should be designed to suit our individual countries, as well as prepare the student for dealing with international clients and markets.

For example, with the amount of oil on the continent, schools should have courses that teach the future generation how to mine, extract, clean and refine oil. As well as learning math and French and biology and the like, African students should be offered courses such as Oil and Gas Management, not just at the university level, but it should be something that is part of the curriculum from an early age.

Until we can put in place a system which will allows our children to think and explore in an environment which stimulates and demands action, we will forever be churning out graduates who hold paper certificates but have very little to contribute to their own society.  

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