Category Archive • Africa
January 05, 2005
The Head of Kamuzu Academy gets an MBE

If you look at all the postings I have previously done here about Africa, you mostly get bad news of the sort that is supposed to put what passes for bad educational news in Britain in severe perspective. Very bad news, in other words.

But here is a slightly more cheerful African education story, albeit with a strong British angle:

A HEADMASTER from Manchester who helped transform a school in the bush to the "Eton of Africa" has been awarded an MBE.

Francis Cooke, head of Kamuzu Academy for the past eight years, received the award in the New Year Honours list for services to education in Malawi.

He has worked in the heart of Africa for more than 23 years and is as delighted for the school to be recognised as he is for recognition of his own achievements.

Mr Cooke, 53, a father of four, who was born and raised in Hulme, and went to St Bede's school in Whalley Range, was named in the Overseas List category.

He said: "It is a great honour and I'm very proud for the school. It is a privilege to work in Malawi at a school that has survived some difficulties and gone from strength to strength.

"Kamuzu Academy has been described as the Eton of Africa because of its very high educational standards and ethos.

"It is a first-class grammar school with a library that is one of the best in its class. The pupils wear uniforms and boaters on the lines of the UK's best public schools."

Mr Cooke, who lives at an address in Walkden when he returns home for holidays, said the 408-pupil school - located in a tobacco, maize and coffee-producing region of Malawi – was founded in 1981 by Dr Kamuzu Banda.

Mr Cooke said: "I have been in Malawi for so long I'm now teaching the children of former pupils at the school, and that is a very rewarding feeling."

A British educational export of whom we can be proud, it would seem.

Quite how much Dr Kamuzu Banda contributed to this enterprise is unclear. I googled him, because … well, because "Banda" was also the name of the President of Malawi, Dr Hastings Banda, was it not? And it turned out that Dr Kamuzu Banda and Dr Hastings Banda were one and the same person.

Fair enough. Eton itself was started by someone pretty powerful, I shouldn't wonder.

Yes.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:37 PM
Category: Africa
December 03, 2004
Nigeria: "… certificate forgery, examination malpractices, cultism, murder, arson, gangsterism …"

More from the Department of Count Your Blessings, from Nigeria.

Leader from the Vanguard of Lagos. Quote:

Poor funding and inept management of schools have, according to NAPTAN, resulted in acute classroom over-crowding, non-existence of library facilities and poor remuneration for teachers, which consequently dampens their morale.

Worse than this, however, is the pervasive instances of certificate forgery, examination malpractices, cultism, murder, arson, gangsterism and other criminal tendencies in the educational system. That is the extent of the havoc wrought on schools by a succession of shortsighted leaders.

What is to be done?

But, before the country can record any progress in her educational system, all stakeholders in education must realize the pervasiveness of value disorientation in the system, and appreciate the need for a re-awakening of appropriate values to wean the society back from the precipice of a free fall. A re-awakening of socially acceptable mode of conduct in students, parents and teachers will put an end to cultism, examination malpractice, sexual permissiveness, and all other vices that have, over the years, been militating against the educational development of the nation.

It is only when peace and security reign supreme in our schools that the quest for their rejuvenation can be realised.

Envious eyes are caste towards Japan. More spending is needed, to provide technological education fit the modern world. Things must be done better. Everyone must behave better.

In other words: they have no real idea what the hell to do.

Good luck fellows. You're going to need it, by the sound of things.

As it says at the top of allafrica.com where I found this: "There's no place like Africa …" Maybe just as well.

And as has been said here before, using the word "stakeholders" won't do you a bit of good.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:30 PM
Category: Africa
October 22, 2004
Insecurity will be curbed in a week – and that's a promise

No time for much today. Out partying. Just time to link to this, from Kenya:

Nyanza Provincial Commissioner Aggrey Mudinyu yesterday expressed fear that the province may once again perform dismally in national examinations.

Mudinyu said education standards have steadily deteriorated in the province due lack of co-ordination among education stakeholders.

"All has not been well with the education sector in the region and I foresee a situation where our candidates may perform poorly in KCPE and KSCE," he said.

Mudinyu said Nyanza came second last in the last year's national examinations after North Eastern Province, adding that a stakeholders meeting needed to discuss the falling education standards in the region.

And why might education standards be falling? The next two paragraphs throw some light on that:

Mudinyu was speaking at Moi Stadium during Kenyatta Day celebrations. Present were Kisumu DC Wilfred ole Legei, Kisumu Mayor Priscah Auma and provincial police boss Bakari Jambeni.

Mudinyu assured the residents of enhanced security as he promised that within one week the police would curb insecurity in the town.

This is a place where the politicians are promising that within a week "insecurity" will be "curbed", and by "curbed" I'm guessing they don't mean got rid of. In a world like that, education is bound to be one hell of a struggle.

One thing's for sure. Just using phrases like "lack of co-ordination among education stakeholders" isn't going to make much difference, if any.

Count your blessings.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:23 PM
Category: Africa
July 15, 2004
Academic Dash

More count your blessings stuff, from Africa. Nigeria, to be exact.

The hydra-headed problem of examination malpracticeis presently growing at an alarming rate and posing a serious threat to the nation's entire educational system, according to investigation by our reporter who penetrated the world of the racketeers.

And Our Reporter (no name given) ploughs into the story with gusto. Assuming, this is, that he didn't cheat himself, and invent the whole story.

At the end of the examination, a yellow coated invigilator who collected our reporter's answer script wondered why he could not shade all the answers into the script despite the fact that prepared answers were passed to him.

Said he: "All these questions were solved for you and yet you couldn't finish copying and shading them in your answer sheet." Our reporter had complained to the invigilator who had just collected his answer script that he had not finished shading the answers which were suppled to him by the pot-bellied man.
The pot-bellied man had directed that our reporter should pass over a copy of any prepared answers given to him to a girl who sat on his right at a cramped desk. Our reporter struck the right chord with the girl when he identified himself as a candidate from the Ogba-based tutorial centre -- where she too had registered as a special candidate for the examination. The hall was rowdy.

Other candidates who hadn't finished shading their answers into answer sheets for objective questions had withdrawn to seats at the back of the hall, to evade the invigilator who was collecting answer sheets. Just before the Chief Invigilator at the centre had said "pens up" several candidates had freely moved about the hall and consulted with one another. At the beginning of the examination, the candidates were restrained in their behaviour and hid the prepared answers that had been passed on to them from outside. But later they threw caution to the wind.

The girl who sat behind our reporter had collected prepared answers for various subjects which were given to him by the pot-bellied man. These included prepared answers for English Language, Economics and Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK).

And so on. Here's how the piece ends:

Lamenting the situation, Onyechere said that teachers who have been identified for their involvement in examination malpractice are left to go scot free.

"Some of these teachers who have been identified as facilitators of examination malpractice are still teaching even though they have been reported to examination bodies," he said.

The examination ethics campaigner observed that some schools that have been identified and de-recognised because they are centres of examination malpractice are still used as examination centres. He stated that the entire Nigerian society is under threat so long as the present trend which throws up those lacking in merit to possess academic and professional qualifications they do not deserve.

" Those who engage in examination malpractice to pass school certificate and UME examination pose great danger to the nation today," he said.

He maintained that such persons are likely to continue cheating all their lives and therefore end up as incompetent people in their chosen fields adding that examination malpractice is the root of corruption in Nigeria today.

"Imagine what awaits us when people like this become our medical doctors, engineers, pharmacists and professionals in other fields?" he asked.

It's long been my understanding of matters in Nigeria that this process is already there to be observed.

What seems to be happening here is a huge mismatch between two utterly incompatible cultures, one dead set on solid and long-term individual professional achievement, based on a vast, icily incorruptible apparatus of individual measurement, and the other dedicated to immediate pleasure and immediate profit and team spirit among all those cooperating to melt the ice. The examiners and the examined happily connect in contented little conspiracies, more or less open, and only a puritanical fool goes against the flow.

My eldest brother worked in Nigerian for a while, about twenty years ago. He told me that everything there, everything, was for sale. "Dash", this was called. You provided dash, and you could have whatever you wanted. That would certainly have included exam results. Everyone involved got a slice of the action, and a role in whatever charade was required.

So, things in Nigeria are as they always were, only more so.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:54 PM
Category: Africa
May 17, 2004
Educational hunger

More from the count your blessings department:

Fari Dube, the deputy headteacher of Bulawayo's Nkwalongwalo primary school, said that before the WFP donated maize to make porridge, children used to faint in their classrooms. "In truth, some of the staff are also starving."

That was just a throwaway bit at the end of the piece.

The WFP is Robert Mugabe's lot, the maize they so graciously donated having first been stolen.

It shows, though, how serious people are about education in those parts.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:36 PM
Category: Africa
May 08, 2004
Natalie Solent on Zimbabwe and its schools: "The dragon is eating its own tail …"

Natalie Solent links to this story:

Zimbabwe renewed its offensive against "racist" private schools yesterday by arresting headmasters and members of governing bodies, who are accused of raising fees without permission.

Teachers and others in the private sector went into hiding as the government warned a delegation of concerned parents: "We will do to you what we did to the white farmers, and we will take over your schools."

Says Natalie:

The dragon is eating its own tail: 90% of the children in these schools are black, and include the children of members of the cabinet, including Mugabe himself.

I wrote about the cricket manifestation of this process for Samizdata yesterday.

Not good.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:33 AM
Category: AfricaPolitics
April 16, 2004
Zambia says education is not a fundamental human right

This makes an agreeable change from the usual guff:

Education minister Andrew Mulenga yesterday insisted that education was not a fundamental human right according to the Zambian constitution.

The trouble – one of the troubles – with calling education a "fundamental human right" is that it then becomes the obligation of others to educate you, and you can just sit there with your arms folded and wait for it to just be poured into you. Calling it a human right undermines the notion that education might be something which is best achieved by being actively pursued rather than merely poured into a passively open mouth.

Good for the Zambian constitution.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:00 PM
Category: AfricaPolitics
April 08, 2004
Student deaths in Nigeria

Anyone grumbling about education in Britain would do well to read the stories that emerge these days from the world of African education.

Consider this:

What appeared to be a peaceful protest by students of Ekiti State College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti, in support of the acting provost whom they preferred to continue in office, turned bloody with several students killed when armed policemen shot at them unprovoked.

Two students of University of Ilorin were killed during a recent protest over water scarcity on the campus.

At the University of Lagos, a bus driven by officials of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) killed a final year student.

Lagos state University (LASU) records an average of a student killed quarterly by cultists.

Not quite long, Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, Edo state, was in the news when five students were killed on a single day by a cult gang simply because the deceased spearheaded anti-cult campaign on campus.

Student killings were reported at the polytechnic Ibadan, University of Benin, Delta State University, Abraka, University of Calabar, University of Port Harcourt, Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT), Federal University of Technology, Minna, University of Uyo, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, just to mention a few.

During this current academic session soon to end, no institution of higher learning in the country was spared the spectre of violent, tragic death of students killed either by police or cultists. To be exact, more of the student killings were caused by cultism – a deadly menace which has remained intractable.

Students killed when protesting over water scarcity. Deadly cults. It puts arguments about top-up fees into perspective, doesn't it?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:11 PM
Category: AfricaHigher education
December 18, 2003
"Rapid fall in education" in Ghana

Here in Britain, it is genuinely hard to know whether education is getting better or getting worse. A lot of both is my impression.

But here's a part of the world where they don't seem to have much doubt. Things in Ghana seem definitely to be getting worse:

The Vice Chancellor of the University College of Education, Winneba, Prof. J. Anamuah -Mensah, has expressed concern about the rapid fall in education in the country and called on all stakeholders to put their hands on the wheel to find a lasting solution to the problem.

The Chancellor observed that, nowadays, when one read or listened to the sort of a English being spoken by university students on campus, the person would begin to wonder whether these students went through the education system before gaining admission to the universities.

Studies have in fact shown that our high school graduates lack basic skills – the ability to read, write a paragraph, do simple computations and engage in critical thinking and problem solving. "Our nation is at risk and will continue to be so if nothing is done to improve the quality of education in this county," he said.

Prof. Anamuah-Mensah who was speaking at the launch of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Nest School Complex in Takoradi last weekend said our education system actually needed a major surgery because most of our schools, especially those in the northern regions, did not have full complement of trained teachers.

He mentioned the high pupil/teacher ratio especially in the urban areas, poor supervision and monitoring, weak management capacity, lack of instructional materials, lack of library services, de-motivated and non committed teachers and poor conditions of service as some of the problems that have bedeviled our educational system, that needed to be addressed.

Prof. Ananuah-Mensah who is also the chairman of the educational review committee, which was appointed by the government to review our education system, said the aforementioned problem, coupled with the fact that about 791,000 Ghanaian children who should have been in school were not showed the kind of depth in deterioration, our education system has sunk.

Looks like a job for Professor Tooley.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:21 PM
Category: Africa