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Education

Are there good schools out there (Africa)?

Yes, there are good schools out there, from nursery to university level. In most African countries, Cameroon for example, pupils are expected to spend two years in nursery school; attending nursery school, however, is not obligatory. But then, every child must have a primary school education, which spans seven years. After these seven years the pupil has to write two national examinations (The common Entrance, and the First School Leaving Certificate) in order to get into secondary school, where he or she will spend five years. Another major national examination, The General Certificate of Education (GCE), Ordinary Level, (it used to be international and administered by the University of London) is taken after these five years to determine who goes on to high school. After two years of high school, yet another national exam—The GCE Advanced Level— is taken to determine who goes on into the University. These national examinations are such that the student must pass in order to go on to the next level. Should a student not pass any of these examinations, then such a student has to wait for a whole year at least before attempting the examination again. Failure to pass any of these major examinations means the said student's education virtually grinds to a halt at the point where he or she was unable to emerge with a pass. Consequently, only the toughest and most determined get by. This is the main structure in most African countries, but there are variations in others. Again, students must write three exams in each grade before they can move on to the next; failing more than one of these exams places a student on probation unless the student excels in the third of these three exams, which is taken at the end of the session; only then can such a student be allowed to move on to the next grade. Otherwise, the student spends the next year within the same grade. Even if a student does well in the first two exams and fails in the third, that student risks not being promoted to the next grade. Bookwork in educational institutions in Africa calls for hard work, and there are good schools on the continent in most cases, especially before the university level.

Are girls allowed to go to school in Africa?

In the past, different African societies, like those of the Bamenda Grassfields of Cameroon—Mankon, Bali, Nso, for example—were not particularly enthusiastic about girls going to school, as it was considered a waste of family resources, since a girl would grow and go to another family in marriage. As a result, the focus at the time was on bringing up a girl to be a good wife and mother. This has been the case in most traditional societies, but things are changing as cultures come in contact, bringing along different influences. Nowadays, like in every society, women go to school in Africa and work at a job away from home like men do, unless the culture states otherwise, like in some Islamic regions. Of women in Algeria, MaryJane Deeb writes: "Women spent their lives under male authority— first that of their fathers, then of their husbands—and were expected to devote themselves entirely to the activities of the home" (100). Even then, within these cultures, things are changing. As Deeb reveals further about the female predicament in Algeria,

After 1962 the status of women began improving, primarily because of the increased education of family members, broader economic and social development, and the willingness or necessity for ever-larger numbers of women to seek gainful employment. In the mid-1950s, about 7,000 women were registered as wage earners; by 1977 a total of 138,234 women, or 6 percent of the active work force, were engaged in fulltime employment. Corresponding figures for the mid-1980s were about 250,000, or 7 percent of the labor force. Many women were employed in the state sector as teachers, nurses, physicians, and technicians. (104)

It is, however, hard to make a categorical claim on behalf of the continent as a whole, just as it is with almost everything else, because of the very diverse nature of the peoples and the cultures of Africa. This notwithstanding, girls are now in school, just like boys, and, in fact, it can be argued that they even do better. Consequently, there are comprehensive institutions—until university level—all over the place.

Do you have to be rich to go to school in Africa?

Not exactly; one does not necessarily have to be rich to go to school in Africa. In a country like Ghana, for example, there are private schools which are really expensive on the one hand, including those managed by churches—Catholic and Protestants mainly— and state schools (government schools) on the other hand. This is true of Cameroon also, but the state schools which were generally free now charge a nominal fee as the economy of the country continues to plummet under corrupt governments. With the private institutions, one has to be able to afford the high tuition in order to attend them, but with state schools, because they are comparatively free, anyone can attend. At the higher level, it used to be free also, but nowadays there is tuition paid, but it is nothing compared to tuition in most colleges and universities of the West.

 
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