Education: Africa Needs a Miracle

by Karen Roller

Chikhalipo was 10 yrs old when he came to live with us in Timothy's Home and had never been to school a single day of his life. Chikhalipo took to school like a fish to water. He thrives in the school environment. In three short years he has finished 3 grades and is making strides in the 4th grade. He has learned to read, speak English and cannot wait for the school bell to ring in the morning.

At the Grace Center, in partnership with the Grace Alliance Church, we have the privilege of caring for nearly 1000 orphaned and vulnerable children; we farm, provide medical care, do evangelism and much more. One of the most incredible aspects of our partnership is educating children. Some of them, like Chikhalipo, thrive in school. Many however fall prey to what we call 3rd grade drop-out syndrome: kids who attend school for 4 or 5 years but cannot pass out of 3rd grade because they never learn to read or write.

In 2016, we are focusing our attention on Education at our Grace Center schools. This blog post is the first of a series on Education at the Grace Center. In this series we will look at Education in Africa and in Malawi. We’ll discuss the problems our children face and we’ll share with you the exciting things we are doing at the Grace Center to face these problems. I hope you will eagerly watch for these blog posts and will join in the conversation about education. 

Let’s start our conversation with this quote from Abundance, The Future is Better than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler.

“Currently there’s a projected global shortage of 18 million teachers over the next decade. India needs another 1.2 million. America needs 2.3 million. Sub-Saharan Africa needs a miracle.”1

Africa needs a miracle.

Why does Africa need a miracle when it comes to Education?

50% of all the children in the world under age 16 live in Sub-saharan Africa. WOW! Just that figure alone is enough to let us know that Africa is in trouble!

52% of poor, rural, school age children are NOT learning in Malawi. Most of these children will attend primary school for 4-5 years, but poor attendance, hunger, high student/teacher ratio, lack of materials, and other factors lead to a 90% drop-out rate before secondary school.

The Student/Teacher ratio in Public Schools is Malawi is 74.09 students per teacher. Thankfully at the Grace Center we average about 30 children per teacher. It is still higher than we would like, but at the moment we can’t afford more teachers. 

We’ve been saying here in America that our education system needs to be reworked. In Africa, the situation is much more desperate. Primary education in Africa is focused on the rote memorization of facts. The teacher stands at the front of the class and says a phrase, the children repeat it back sing song style. Often there is no comprehension of the meaning or context, just a rote repetition of the content.

Consider this quote: “the industrialized model of education, with its emphasis on the rote memorization of facts, is no longer necessary. Facts are what Google does best. But creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving—that’s a different story…They have become the new version of the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic).”2

Here is our challenge:

With 50% of the world’s children in our Africa cradle, we need to take some serious and giant steps to transform Education in Africa. As Mr. Diamandis put it, “Africa needs a miracle.”

At Circle of Hope, our first step before action is always to PRAY!

Will you join me in praying for a miracle for Education in Africa and most especially at the Grace Center? Here are a few prayer points:

1.       Praise God for adequate teachers at the Grace Center. Ask Jesus to bless them with wisdom and understanding beyond their training.

2.       Praise God for #FeedMalawi contributions that have made it possible to add lunch to our school schedule. No more hungry kids at the Grace Center schools! Praise God!

3.       Pray for our Texas Tech design team developing our Center for Early Childhood Development. Pray for 2016 team members, Malinda Colwell and Stacy Johnson, working with our teachers and students.

4.       Pray for our 2016 Summer Education team to break the mold for teachers as they introduce creativity, critical thinking and problem solving activities.

5.       Pray for our Computer Lab. This summer we will be introducing our students to using computers or tablets to aid their learning. (If you have used computers or tablets you would like to donate, please contact Karen@cohcommunity.org)

6.       Pray for the funding for 2 staff houses which must be built before the government will give us our registration number for our Primary School. Still needed: $10,000

7.       Pray for our children. Especially those who are failing to learn.

Thank you, Jesus, for the miracle you will do in Malawi in our children. Open their minds to understanding, insight and knowledge. Raise up teachers who are creative and willing to break the molds of traditional education methods. Give us creative solutions to the unique problems of education in Africa. Thank you for leading the way for the Grace Center schools to be an innovate example on the continent of Africa. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Here are some really great resources for you to check out to learn more about Education in Africa:

1.       Abundance, The Future is Better Than You Think, Diamandis, Peter H and Kotler, Steven, Free Press, 2014, p 176.

2.       Abundance, The Future is Better Than You Think, Diamandis, Peter H and Kotler, Steven, Free Press, 2014, p 181.

3.       You can read more on this interactive site: Africa Learning Barometer

4.       This is an interesting list of student/teacher ratios around the world. 

5.       This is a long report, with lots of information, if you want to read the whole thing, that’s great, otherwise skip to the end and read the Africa Education report card. We’ve got some work to do!

6.      One of the most interesting ideas I’ve found in my pursuit of education ideas for our kids in Malawi is the education experiments done by Sugata Mitra in India. Mr. Mitra found that by giving four children a computer with internet access they could teach themselves all kinds of things including biotechnology, a subject they’d never heard of, in a language they didn’t speak. This summer, we will be setting up a “computer lab” in Malawi to see what our children can teach themselves and each other! This is a fascinating Ted Talk by Sugata Mitra 

Posted on January 20, 2016 .