December 12, 2022

The Plight of Public Schools in Africa

Trustworthy and indepth news stories are more important now than ever.
Support our newsroom by MAKING A CONTRIBUTION HERE

While COVID-19 has disrupted the lives and learning of hundreds of millions of children around the world, it has hit Africa’s underfunded public education systems the hardest. High data prices and the lack of adequate digital infrastructure are exacerbating existing inequities and reversing decades of progress.

MASERU – The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the vast, systemic inequalities of access and opportunity in education systems around the world. While school closures and the shift to distance learning have taken a heavy toll on hundreds of millions of schoolchildren, underfunded public schools in Africa have been hit the hardest. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it is all but impossible to innovate and advance without sufficient resources or infrastructure.

Lesotho, a small lower-middle-income country in southern Africa, is a case in point. According to a recent United Nations report, only 83% of the country’s children have been able to return to school since in-person classes resumed. In a country like Lesotho, where nearly 40% of the population is under 18, and just four out of ten children enroll in secondary education, this amounts to a full-blown crisis that threatens to reverse decades of progress on learning outcomes and access to quality education.

Between April and August 2020, Human Rights Watch conducted 57 remote interviews with students, parents, teachers, and public officials across Africa about the pandemic’s effects on education. When schools closed at the start of the pandemic, many children effectively stopped learning. Many of them shared feelings of stress, anxiety, isolation, and depression owing to the lack of contact with their friends and teachers at school. Some children living in extreme poverty were denied access not only to educational opportunities but also to free school meals, resulting in malnutrition. Girls’ education also suffered significant setbacks, as many female students were expected to perform household chores instead of learning.

But those enrolled in public schools have suffered the most, as the pandemic exacerbated existing disparities between private and public education across the continent. A teacher from a rural public primary school told Human Rights Watch that his school did not have computers, and that the teachers lacked the computer skills to make remote learning effective. A laboratory administrator from a private school, on the other hand, said that all of her students were using digital services like Google Classroom even before the pandemic. While students and teachers in her school encountered various difficulties related to remote learning, all of them managed to keep up with schoolwork. Her school, she added, even developed a customized learning platform that enabled teachers to interact with students and conduct online exams.

The transition to remote learning has been difficult for poorer and more affluent households alike. Even tech-savvy parents often feel that remote learning is ineffective. Most parents believe in the importance of physical interaction between students and teachers, expect teacher feedback in the form of marked schoolwork to evaluate their children’s progress, and attend school meetings to meet teachers in person. But while richer students were familiar with technology, having computers and mobile phones at home and access to computer labs and high-speed internet at school, students from lower-income families in rural public schools lacked basic technical skills.

The high cost of mobile data is one of the biggest barriers to remote learning in Africa. With schools closed, many children with no computer at home relied on their parents’ mobile phones to attend classes, but some parents refused, citing steep data costs and limited storage. Others could not afford to buy a smartphone. But even richer parents with children in private schools found it difficult to deal with increased data usage, as the pandemic curbed their incomes, too.

Moreover, the lack of reliable internet access made synchronous instruction extremely difficult, if not impossible. Glitches and connectivity issues often compromised students’ learning, and teachers struggled to ensure that students were attentive and understood the material.

Sky-high data prices are a continent-wide problem that negatively affects learning across Africa. To address it, governments must force mobile providers to lower prices and offer discounted data plans to students and teachers. Alternatively, governments could grant subsidies to companies willing to provide schoolchildren and their parents with free data and devices.

Remote learning has become an integral part of education, and video-conferencing services like Zoom are likely here to stay, regardless of public-health crises. It is essential to develop learning-management systems that enable teachers to deliver lessons effectively, engage students during class activities, and provide accessible tools to assess their progress. Teachers must also become more adept at using these new platforms.

To meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG4), which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” African governments must address the educational inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic. But first, policymakers must provide the necessary resources to create safe and equitable learning environments for all students, whether they attend a private or public school.

Palesa Libe, a co-founder of the NGO Green Tech, is an Africa Code Week trainer and ambassador in Lesotho, a translator for the Southern Sotho locale at the PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a Young African Leaders Initiative alumnus.

The text has been adapted from Project Syndicate website

We can't do quality journalism without your support

Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue are declining, The Chronicles remains committed to "Serving Your Right To Know The Truth". Stand with us as we document Rwanda's remarkable journey for you and the future generation. Do you value our journalism? We can't do it without you. Show us with your support by CONTRIBUTING HERE.
Email your news TIPS to or WhatsApp +250788351327.
You can also find us on Signal


  1. naturally like your web-site but you have to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very troublesome to inform the reality on the other hand I will certainly come again again.

  2. Greetings from Idaho! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, very good site!

  3. Great web site. Lots of helpful information here. I am sending it to several buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks to your effort!

  4. I invite you to visit my site and learn new ideas
    카지노사이트 ACE21에서 안전한 카지노 사이트만을 추천합니다.카지노, 바카라, 온라인카지노, 순위 , 라이브카지노, 해외카지노, 사설카지노, 호텔카지노 등 각종 인터넷 게임을 제공하는 신뢰할 수 있는 통합사이트와 함께 다양한 이벤트에 참여하세요!” />

  5. if you enter my site you will definitely learn
    카지노사이트 게임토크에서 각종 온라인 바카라, 슬롯머신, 룰렛, 스포츠토토, 바둑이, 릴게임, 경마 게임 정보를 제공합니다! 안전한 카지노사이트추천 과 각종 이벤트 쿠폰을 지급합니다!” />

  6. Its like you learn my mind! You appear to understand so
    much approximately this, like you wrote the e book in it or something.

    I believe that you just could do with a few percent to
    pressure the message house a bit, however other than that, this is magnificent blog.

    A fantastic read. I’ll certainly be back.

    Feel free to visit my website – Play caesars casino online

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *