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Education is the key to unlocking Africa’s shackles

By Henning Lubbe

Africa has often been referred to as the ‘shackled continent’ by many esteemed authors and African academics. This is not only because of our tragic and regrettable history of slavery and colonial wars which led to many of the obstacles we still face today, but more specifically because of the educational shortcomings we identify with.

One of the main causes of Africa’s problems, in my opinion as well as those of many others, is a lack of access to affordable education. Without education, it is almost impossible for a nation to advance itself, never mind an entire continent. “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”, Nelson Mandela once said.

A study done by UNESCO revealed that enrolment for higher education across the African continent stands at just over 12%, this is far below the global average of 32%. A lack of higher education leads to a lack of skilled labourers, an inactive workforce and many other issues which all lead into a chain reaction that causes even more prominent issues. An unskilled workforce, for example, can lead to a higher unemployment rate which leads to more poverty, crime etc. Here we can already start seeing how education can be the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world!

Now, it’s easy to identify the issues our continent finds itself in, but it’s not so easy to find quick solutions to them. The fact is, we can’t just solve this problem by giving away free higher education and enrolling more students in universities. This, too, stems from another fundamental issue most African states are facing; poor primary and secondary school infrastructures which leads to the denial of access to students who wish to study further, poor educational assistance from governments, lack of school funding due to poor performing economies, poor curriculum implementations and so forth.

In short, Africa is facing a fundamental issue when it comes to dealing with our lack of access to affordable higher education and skills development. Now we can also ask ourselves; so how do we fix this? Well, it is not a simple answer at all. As a person, I am incapable of helping an entire government or continent rectify an issue it has been facing since its founding years. The only thing we can do as individuals who have, or had, the opportunity to further our education is to help someone else who has not.

Be a voice for the voiceless, go to your nearest university campus and assist prospective students in applying and registering for higher education or help identify opportunities for them to do so. There are so many things we as individuals are able to do and as one person I can add nothing but a drop of water to the empty bucket, but if we all join hands we can open a flowing tap and slowly but surely start filling the bucket one step at a time.

Therefore, organisations such as Africademics is vital to our African landscape. It is a perfect vehicle to steer change in Africa where it is most needed. If we can all get on board, we are all able to change lives and the legacy we are able to leave behind can be an unshackled continent.

The key to Africa’s shackles surely is education, but it is our mission to be the carriers of that key and our vision to see it reach the shackles and unlock them once and for all.

Henning lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He is a first year International Relations student at the University of South Africa, an Africademics volunteer and a member of the South African Students Congress advocating for equal educational opportunities for all.