The Situation of Education and Health in Africa

06.09.20 10:59 PM Comment(s) By BMI

Africa is the world’s second largest continent, home to 54 countries, a number of deserts and mountain ranges, and surrounded by seas and oceans on the majority of its borders. This exotic continent remains one of the top travel destinations for holiday travelers thanks to its unique and iconic wildlife, stunning landscapes, and distinctive cuisine. Unfortunately, the continent struggles to maintain a high quality of life for many of its residents, with healthcare, education, and economic struggles plaguing a large majority of its population.

Quality of Life and Health


The health and wellness of many African people has deteriorated over time, and being unwell is quickly becoming the standard. The rising cost of living has led to a high dependence on staple foods like grains in place of nutritionally dense foods like fruit, vegetables, fish, dairy, and eggs. This promotes the widespread production of cheap and nutritionally lacking fast food and packaged food, which in turn results in worse health outcomes.


Because of the food monoculture that lacks variety, more than 222 million Africans are undernourished. Nearly 14 million children are experiencing wasting, with four million wasted severely. Nearly two-thirds of children at preschool age are anemic, and more than half (58%) of all residents of sub-Saharan African lack access to clean water. 


The area also struggles with disease, representing approximately 24% of the global disease burden while seeing only 1% of global health expenditure and 3% of the world’s health workers. Over 90% of global malaria cases occur in Africa, and around 3,000 children die each day of the disease. Women are also at particular risk in the health system, as 19 out of the 20 countries globally with the highest maternal mortality rates are in Africa.

Education and Teaching


It is easy to see why education in Africa may be lacking solely due to the poor health outcomes for many children, but a number of additional factors hamper proper education even further. Consistent military conflicts in the area based upon ethnic intolerance reduce access to education, as children in conflict zones or remote camps lose access to schooling. Many nations and institutions have been unsuccessful in ensuring geographical and gender equality in education; disabled students are at a particular disadvantage.


In addition, quality remains an issue in the African education system. Only one quarter of primary school teachers in sub-Saharan Africa have received any training; only about half of secondary school teachers are qualified for their positions, but many students will not even reach secondary school due to external factors. In fact, Africa has the highest rate of educational exclusion—and the lowest secondary school attendance—in the world. Only 28% of children enroll in secondary school, and 60% of young people aged 15 to 17 no longer attend schooling. One-fifth of 6 to 11s and one-third of 12 to 14s do not go to school, and as many as 15 million children have never been to school at all.


In addition to the healthcare outcomes and military presence that make education more challenging, limited household income also plays a role. The government provides little investment in equal access to education, and most children are responsible for contributing income to the family and so cannot spare time at school. Illiteracy resulting from inadequate schooling reaches as high as 40% across the continent, with some harder hit areas seeing over 50% of their population unable to read or write. These critical areas include Ethiopia, Chad, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Niger, Benin, and Burkina Faso.

Economic Opportunity


Economic opportunities are shrinking for those growing up in the African continent due to a cumulative build-up of roadblocks; these include poor health, a lack of education, and increasing military and governmental tensions across the region. In just two African countries—Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—more than 150 million people live in extreme poverty. One in three Africans, or around 422 million people, live below the global poverty line, accounting for more than 70% of the world’s poverty.


Around 40% of Africans earn approximately $1.90 US per day. One of the driving factors behind the rising poverty and falling economic opportunities is the rapid population growth that has been occurring in the region. Many factors drive this, but inadequate education and health provisions for proper family planning are contributors.

What’s Next 

Countries across African continue to suffer from unsustainable economies that can collapse at any moment, local conflict, ballooning poverty levels, failing educational systems, and natural disasters like droughts that only exacerbate other issues. These barriers to a better quality of life can be addressed, but it will take cooperation and a concerted effort from people across the globe to offer the assistance that the African people need.


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