Is school important to get an education?

Why education is so important to Africa

Education should be given absolute priority in development cooperation, demands the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. The situation is particularly dire in the Sahel zone.

Africa has moved to the center of political debates - not only at the start of the European Union (EU) -Africa Summit at the end of November 2017 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. As little as the continent may be on the intellectual maps of investors, its importance for the governments of countries that are the target of a growing number of African immigrants is increasing.

This makes the interest in answers to the question of how this can be done that is all the greater, not only for a Chancellor who declares "combating the causes of flight" to be one of her major goals. Just in time for the summit, the "Berlin Institute for Population and Development" offers a decisive answer. It reads: In the short term the possibilities are limited, but in the long term there is one better education of the African population is the central task.

In Niger (187th out of 188 on the HDI development ranking; HDI: Human Development Index) women have an average of 7.15 children, more than half of which never go to school. With a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of 978 dollars, it is particularly poor even by African standards.

In the other Sahel countries Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad, things are only a little better. In Nigeria, too, the most prosperous and most populous country in Africa with a GDP per capita of $ 5,867 (190 million inhabitants), between 54 and 75 percent of women and 17 to 48 percent of men in the northern regions were unable to read or write in 2015.

There are many reasons for the educational misery

In all of the countries mentioned, 32 million primary school-age children were still out of school in 2015. This means that more than half of the children worldwide who have no access to elementary education live in sub-Saharan Africa. A quarter of 15 to 24 year olds cannot read or write.

The reasons for the educational misery are diverse. On the one hand, there is a lack of financial opportunities, especially in the extremely poor countries such as Mali and Niger, and many parents still consider it superfluous to send their children to schools, and there are poorly organized public education systems. And the precarious security situation.

The educational situation within Nigeria shows a steep gradient, which is characteristic of Africa as a whole: the northern parts of the country, which belong to the Sahel zone, drop significantly compared to the southern provinces. It is the regions in which the Islamist terrorist group "Boko Haram" is up to mischief. Her name translated means: "Western education is a sin". According to Human Rights Watch, Boko Haram murdered approximately 600 teachers and displaced 19,000 between 2009 and 2015. The terrorists destroyed 900 schools, 1: 500 more had to close temporarily.

"Education is the key lever to initiate socio-economic change and put the countries south of the Sahara on a positive development path," the study says. "Better educated women opt for much smaller families and thus have a significant influence on the population dynamics and the economic opportunities of their countries." A higher level of education with falling numbers of children opens up the prospect of a "demographic dividend" for the countries south of the Sahara and thus of a development boost, as once experienced in the Asian tiger states.

Can South Korea be a role model?

Klingholz and colleagues cite South Korea as a model, which was poorer than some African countries after the civil war in 1953.

"The South Korean government invested specifically in education and family planning programs and in this way achieved that the average number of children per woman fell from 6.3 to 1.6 within 30 years. Foreign investors also created thousands of jobs in mass production, thus ensuring that that the many, reasonably well-educated, employable people found paid work. As prosperity increased, parents and the state invested more in the education of the younger generation.

Even countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam or Cambodia, all of which had worse starting conditions than many African countries today, have found a way out of the cycle of high population growth, poverty and lack of prospects.

However, according to Klingholz, the Sahel states were increasingly overwhelmed by their own efforts to guarantee a school place for the growing number of their children "let alone to ensure a minimum of quality". The Berlin Institute suspects a "Efficiency problem in the education sectorbecause government spending on education is comparatively high in most of the Sahel countries ".

With the exception of Mauritania and Chad, they meet the recommendations of the United Nations to invest four to six percent of GDP in education. Klingholz therefore not only recommends an increase in the share of expenditure on education in the total expenditure on development in Germany and other industrialized countries. Of the total of 8.3 billion dollars in development aid for the Sahel region, only six percent went to educational purposes.

In the 2015 budget of German development cooperation, education was the third largest item at around twelve percent. Far behind spending on caring for refugees in Germany and investing in financial services and business support. About half of the educational expenditure was accounted for by the funding of foreign students, most of whom are enrolled at German universities.

It should be emphasized, according to the study, "that migration is not a solution to structural development obstacles - certainly not irregular migration without the prospect of staying. Only better education of the young population offers opportunities for the sending countries, the recipient countries and the migrants themselves." Because only if people from Africa found a job abroad based on their skills and legally, could they contribute to the progress of their home countries through remittances and knowledge transfer.