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Somalia’s literary lessons on education: More teachers, classrooms and jobs

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Caroline Kende-Robb and Nuruddin Farah

Caroline Kende-Robb and Nuruddin Farah  

By Caroline Kende-Robb and Nuruddin Farah

Posted  Saturday, January 5   2013 at  13:39

In Summary

  • Education is the best possible opportunity of securing decent work.
  • governments must focus their education spending on disadvantaged regions, schools and pupils particularly girls and marginalised groups.
  • They must also break the links between hunger, poverty, and parental illiteracy on the one hand and educational disadvantage on the other.
  • They should also expand “second-chance” education to target those who missed out on education in their early years.
  • Africa’s international development partners should honour their funding commitments.

In an ancient Somali poem, Coldiid is a wise warrior who rejects all forms of violence. Mocked at first by his peers, he eventually shows them that violence is not a way to earn respect or love.

This story may be lost on many of today’s Somali warriors, because so few of them will have any education — yet another brutal consequence of instability in Somalia that has been dragging on for more than 20 years.

Africa’s conflicts remain a key obstacle to education and a better start in life for millions of African children. But away from the Somali and other conflicts, Africa has made major progress.

The recently held Kwani LitFest 2012 was a great example of the Horn’s impressive cultural legacies and it proved that we can take some comfort that all across Africa, millions more children are going to primary school and dropout rates have tumbled.

The ability to read and write means the ability to buy and sell, to trade and make a living. An additional year of school in a poor country, for instance, has the potential to increase a person’s income by ten per cent.

Education is the best possible opportunity of securing decent work.

To our north and west, the lack of jobs, justice, and equity prompted popular uprisings all across the Middle East. If Africa is to avoid the same fate, then we must do all that we can to keep youth unemployment down.

But with the world’s fastest growing populations, governments and societies face a real challenge to create jobs fast enough. 

Our continent’s rapid population boom means that by 2020, Africa’s population of 15-24 year olds will rise from 172 million to 246 million. Africa must create another 74 million jobs in order to prevent youth unemployment from rising.

Africa may have some of the fastest growing economies in the world, but growth — especially when generated by oil and mining — does not automatically translate into jobs.

Some analysts say that if we can persuade them to invest in Africa, manufacturing industries offer good hope for job creation in Africa. Africa is more connected with the world than ever before. But this is a highly competitive world. Our workforces must be better educated to be competitive.

To be sure, Africa has seen an increase in primary school enrolment from 60 per cent in 2000 to 76 per cent in 2009, and reduction in school dropout from 42 million to 30 million within the same period.

Much as the continent must raise its education standards, existing analyses suggest we are way off track. By 2025, a decade after the MDG target date for universal primary education, Africa will still have 17 million children out of school, according to a recent report by the Africa Progress Panel.

And millions of African children are still emerging from primary school lacking the basic skills in literacy and numeracy.

Gloomy stuff, but then some African countries have made extraordinary progress with their education.

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