Let Them in! Can ICT Address the Equity Challenge in Africa?
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Issues of educational ineffectiveness and inefficiencies are still real in Africa. In spite of statistical discrepancies between sources of data (UNESCO, World Bank, etc.), it is estimated that on average access to both lower and upper secondary education in low income African countries is very low (44.7 and 23.2% respectively). Moreover, the completion rates for both levels are very worrisome as only 29.5% and 13.9% of those accessing the lower and upper secondary level respectively complete them. There is also the issue of those who complete both levels but who are lost to the system as they do not access the subsequent level. At the lower level, there is 6% missing at the enrollment at the upper level and of the 13.9% who complete the upper level, only 6.1 % access higher education. This could be attributed to issues of inadequate provision of enrolment opportunities and those of relative poverty of a great number of families who cannot afford the fees for higher education. There is also a huge urban and rural divide. Urban students access and complete both lower and upper secondary education at a much higher rate than their rural counterparts.
One of the key promises of ICTs in education is to provide an avenue for addressing educational inequities in terms of access to quality and relevant learning opportunities. Indeed, the capacity of ICTs to break down barriers to education is now proven and well-established. Issues of accessibility such as distance and affordability are now slowly being resolved thanks to the ubiquity of ICTs and internet connectivity across the world. In Africa, however, inequities are still very hard to break due to a plethora of conditions that prevent a significant number of youth to access life-changing opportunities such as secondary and tertiary education. School dropouts are not only the victims of the ineffectiveness and inefficiencies of education systems but also of the inability of governments to expand the supply of affordable secondary and tertiary education opportunities.