Re-defining Education In Africa

Dieudonne Kodjo Perry
How can one be educated and not be creative? How can one possess a mind full of facts and lack a mind full of original ideas? How can one be capable of finding solutions to every quadratic problem but unable to find solution to real problems hampering the growth and development of the African continent?  These are questions that constantly resonate my mind as I look at our educational sector throughout Africa, mainly Liberia. Even though the education system has its pluses, a huge portion needs to be remodeled for the purpose the 21st century workforce. The current model used in our educational sector focuses more on knowledge that usually expires few months after its being acquired. It places more emphasis on regurgitation of facts and information easily found in books, encyclopedias, atlases, internet as opposed to skills students need to be successful in Life. This failed traditional model has injured and crippled more bright minds on the continent. It has led to the reproduction of half-baked university graduates who lack the skills to solve any real life problems.  

Students in and around Africa, especially Liberia, are used to the kind of education system in which students are made to solve a standard set of  repeated questions with relatively  low level of creativity and critical thinking. Teachers in such terrains are perceived as the sole purveyor of knowledge and students as vacuums to be filled. This has created an environment where solution findings become solely the work of instructors who have already mastered those repeated problems. This has robbed our education system of the creativity and problem solving skills that the 21st century workforce requires. Students with problem solving skills in this model get it in most cases by chance rather than design. The level of creativity continues to depreciate vastly in Africa because of the dominance of our obsolete educational model. 

In fact, 45% of college graduates in Africa remain unemployed largely due to the outcome of this traditional model. It has become a tradition now for companies to reject college graduates because of their poor qualifications. This makes one wonder as to the need for this type of education that does not provide its recipients with employable skills in this changing economy. So many Africans have and continue to fall victim to this model. How can one complete four years or more of tertiary education   and yet be considered unqualified, no matter the grade point he/she graduates with?  As it was during the industrial period where students were trained to perform specific duties, today’s education entails much more than mastering a standard set of repeated questions and answers. One has to acquire the necessary skills in critical thinking, problem solving, leadership and enterprise development in order to survive this increasingly changing world. 

An education model in which creativity is marginalized or is at a very minute portion indirectly increases the crime rate within the nation. Graduates tend to get frustrated and blame others, most especially their employed colleagues. These people now become their target for payback and the rate of crime goes on the rise in no time. “I enrolled in the university because of frustration but now I am even more frustrated because nothing got better,” a dejected student told me following a question from me about the education system and the quality of education he was receiving. Asking him for further explanation, he lamented about the lack of opportunities in schools to develop his creativity and to pursue what he was passionate about. He has an endless passion for creativity and innovation, especially in storytelling, playwriting but now has to study Geology because the society he comes from discourages every form creativity. 

Education in Africa needs to be re-invented for purpose of this century. Our education systems need to encourage creativity and snub regurgitation. If our education must benefit the growing population of youth on the continent, it must re-evolve with creative thinking and innovation at its core. Our teachers must be there to provide only the supervisory role and inspire students to long for the essential skills needed in their life long development journey. If the current education model is adjusted, hence shifting a huge portion of the limelight on creativity, the system will be far better than what it is currently. Creative thinking needs to be given high preference in the education model in Africa. Instead of just teaching students how to find solutions to quadratic equations, let the students be taught how to find solutions to problems surfacing around them daily. If every African student can begin to find solution(s) to just a problem in and around Africa, not only will the students be better off and capable of measuring with  other students around the world, they will also be instrumental in making Africa a better place.

 Education is a very significant pillar in the growth and development of the African continent and as such needs to be given huge attention. It needs to be invested in and urbanized to a level where more than 80%- of the products of African education are recognized as change makers globally. 

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