How to make Education reduce Poverty in Africa

By Ozioma Okey-Kalu
Lecturer, English Unit, GNS Department
Federal School of Statistics, Enugu

It is commonly said that education is the key to success. It is also believed that the fastest way to breaking out of poverty is through education. Africans cherish education and revere the educated, especially the formally educated.

Formal education is believed to be the only form of education Africans need. It is seen as the only type of education that can liberate Africa from the shackles of poverty. For this, schools of different levels and ownerships spring up daily in every nook and cranny in African countries. African students and pupils increase in their numbers. The number of the educated is gradually becoming higher than that of the uneducated; yet Africa has not been plunged out from the deep rooted poverty affecting most of her countries. This makes one wonder if education is really the key to success and the means out of poverty.

Every formally educated person is believed to have gathered the required knowledge and wisdom that will make him achieve financial success and independence. But from all indications, obtaining more certificates is not the determinant of financial independence because a lot of people with PhD certificates are unemployed and underemployed. Some that have good paying jobs still find themselves among the needy because their incomes couldn’t sustain them. All these make one wonder if education can truly save Africa.

One truth is that education can liberate the mind from the shackles of poverty; it can teach people how to create income; it can teach people how to manage their income; and it can also teach people how they can increase their sources of income. But if education hasn’t yet liberated Africa from poverty, then something is wrong somewhere. There is something Africans are not doing right. Why our education system is not working, or rather, why our education system is not favouring us, is the basis for this article.

Causes of Education Failure in Africa

Every person you talk to concerning the poverty rate in Africa will tell you corruption is the cause. Yes, corruption is contributing to the problem but it is not the only cause of African problems. If corruption is the only cause, then those that are uncorrupted will be poor. But it can be seen that such isn’t the case because many financially independent people are not corrupt.

As far as I can tell, the problem with Africa is wrong education system. Remember that almost every African country was colonised. This means that their indigenous systems of education were altered so that there will be room for the adoption of the systems that belong to others – their colonialists. Put differently, the education system that exists in different countries in Africa is not indigenous. Africans are taught what is foreign to them. Formal education in Africa is not alleviating poverty because it has not been able to capture the true African societies, cultures and needs.

Because of the foreign curricula used by different communities in Africa, talents have not been harnessed and skills are rarely developed. In Nigeria, for instance, the curricula did not create room for talent discoveries and developments. Students and pupils were only taught purely academic matters in their schools. They were not exposed to how they can make a difference through the use of extracurricular activities. By the end of the day, a person graduates with a very good grade but then his mind will be foggy as to what he can do with his paper certificates that were not backed up with skills developments.

Failure to indigenise the education system in Africa has made it almost impossible to expose students to the practical aspects of their lessons. Students are taught abstract things that do not exist in their immediate community, making it difficult for practical to be organised for them. The result of this is that these students learn things they don’t understand because they haven’t witnessed it.

Non-indigenised education system makes it hard for students to study their immediate environment. Most of the contents of academic curricular in African schools focus on things the students may not need to pay much attention to. Worse is that these curricular may not have rooms for students in disadvantageous communities to learn about their immediate environments in order to learn their needs and how to improve lives within the community.

The end result here is that African students are filled up with information they may never use in their lives, while the ones they need were never brought to them.

How to Make Education Count in Africa

The easiest way to make education count in Africa is by indigenising the education system. This means that the education system of every community will be unique and specific to their needs. The curricular will be modified in such a way that each community is well represented. The culture, values, principles, and so on, of each community will be put into consideration as the curricular of the schools within it are developed.

By indigenising the education system, more focus will be given to the needs of a community. This way, students will be taught how they can make positive changes towards their community development. They can identify problems immediately they raise heads and be able to quell them instantly.

By indigenising the education system, talents can easily be harnessed and students will be exposed to the occupational opportunities within the community. This will help them develop the skills needed for their career pursuits. It does not mean they will not be exposed to lives outside their communities, but they will first be taught how to make a living within their society. Should any of them find his way out of that society, he will need to study his new environment to be able to reconcile his skills to the needs of the host community. If this is achieved, I believe the students won’t feel lost when they graduate.


The education system of several African countries needs to be overhauled. One of the things that has to be done as the process is taking place is finding the best ways to indigenise the system. However, care should be taken to ensure that indigenising the education system in Africa does not create more problems for the citizens.