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.

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