Africa: 50 years of independence

by STELAS on June 27, 2010

The year 2010 marks the 50th independence anniversary for many west and central African countries. 16 countries in all. 1960 was the year with the most number of countries who were granted their independence from their respective colonial powers.

The “Addis Ababa Plan” adopted in 1961 by multiple newly independent African countries recognized “that in order to achieve progress in Africa, educational development was a prerequisite”. During the first 20 years after independence, there was an upsurge in education and literacy. Enrollment in elementary school more than tripled and many opportunities for learning were made available. My mother fondly remembers attending the Lycee Jacques Moudeina in Bongor, Chad. The school was clean and well taken care off. There were between twenty to thirty students per class. Students were motivated and worked hard to get good grades and pass the national examinations. Education was free then, including textbooks and other school supplies. Students living long distances from schol, with no close by family members, could stay in a dormitory free of charge during the week. Today, all that has changed. Tuition fees are now required, even for public schools. Each student has to obtain his/her own school supplies. Classes are overcrowded with sometimes more than 100 students in a classroom staffed with only one teacher.

According to the United Nations Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), since 1980s, enrollment levels have fallen and the quality of education from primary school to university has deteriorated throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. During a discussion about this depressing report among my friends, Beatrice who is from Cameroon said that she knew of that many students who have not been able to pass their Baccalaureat exam and just bought it instead. Another friend, from Mali also chipped in saying that many of the University graduates in her home country are not fluent in French which is the language of instruction.

So what happened? What are we failing to do? For one, I think empowering the local communities so that they can help themselves without necessarily waiting for the government (who often times does not have the resources to do much) or nonprofit organizations who do not involve the population in the planning and executing of services. In this latter case, because there is no vested effort, the donated well will be left to breakdown, the donated textbooks will be stolen and resold.

What sets apart STELAS  from many other nonprofit organizations is that the populations we support are involved in every  aspect of our projects. The villagers made the bricks for the school we are building. The well that was built by our partner Drop in the Bucket, was placed in a location suggested by the villagers and is being maintained by them.

We are on the right tract and we need your help. Please help us help these communities and make the next 50 years a time when everyone has access to education and is given a chance to improve his/her life.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nétonon Noël NDJÉKÉRY July 19, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Cette année, 17 pays africains fêtent le cinquantenaire de leur indépendance. Pour mon pays, le Tchad, ce cap sera franchi le 11 août 2010.
Au-delà du caractère historique de l’événement, quelle importance une telle commémoration peut revêtir pour une synergie de bonnes volontés comme Stelas ?
Une fois rappelée la profession de foi de cette jeune et dynamique organisation, la réponse à la question coule presque de source. En effet, l’objectif premier de Stelas est de promouvoir le développement par l’éducation. Concrètement, il s’agit de soutenir des jeunes de milieux défavorisés dans leurs efforts pour s’instruire.
Nous voilà au cœur du sujet !
Un analphabète ne sera jamais un citoyen à part entière et atteindra rarement le niveau optimal de production quel que soit son domaine d’activité. Ne sachant ni lire ni écrire, il dépendra toujours d’un tiers pour remplir ne serait-ce que ses obligations électorales ou des formalités courantes. Or, qu’est-ce que l’indépendance d’un peuple si ce n’est la somme de l’indépendance des individus qui le composent ?
On me rétorquera : à l’heure où les échanges s’opèrent à la vitesse de l’électron, où cultures et communautés se brassent au rythme des charters, l’indépendance n’est-elle pas au fond une notion dépassée ?
Sans m’égarer dans des considérations politiques ou philosophiques, je répondrai ceci. L’indépendance en tant que processus permettant à l’homme de satisfaire à ses besoins vitaux et d’assumer son destin demeure d’une actualité brûlante. Car la révolution des communications en cours nous rapproche chaque jour d’avantage de cette rencontre que Léopold Sédar Senghor a appelé « le rendez-vous du donner et du recevoir », cette rencontre où les peuples rassemblés échangeront le meilleur d’eux-mêmes. Or, qui dit fête dit repas. Et serait-il acceptable que l’homme africain en général, tchadien en particulier, arrive à ce partage universel sans être à même de lire la carte des menus proposés ?
A mon sens, c’est là le grand défi auquel nous confronte ce cinquantenaire.
La question de l’éducation est donc centrale à l’idée d’indépendance. Ce constat devrait renforcer notre engagement aux côtés d’organisations comme Stelas qui œuvrent sur le terrain pour que des jeunes, filles ou garçons, puissent accéder au savoir et, partant, à une certaine liberté.

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2 Bonodji Nako August 2, 2010 at 4:20 pm

I agree with you, Mr Ndjékéry, that education is essential to independence. I also believe that the concept of independence of a country should always be thought about in terms of personal agency first; therefore ensuring choices and behaviors that will contribute to the well being of all citizens.

Unfortunately, what seems so obvious and is taken for granted in many places around the world is still not happening in Africa and is not likely to happen until people start deciding for themselves and for positive change.
Let’s reflect on this: how can real independence (including personal agency and positive citizenship) be achieved if people are taken advantage of and easily fed with lies by corrupt governments and politicians, mainly because they are illiterate or have too little education?

STELAS’ endeavor to promote literacy in the areas that lack of almost everything is the mustard seed that can grow and provide educational “shelter” and “food” to many in Chad and other places in Africa in the years and decades to come, if sustained.

This why I find it so rewarding to volunteer for and support STELAS.

Bonodji

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