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Next step for universal education; more teachers needed

Many African nations have launched free primary education programs to encourage increased education rates. The other shoe is about to drop. "The outcome of these welcome developments is the subsequent acute shortages in teaching staff.

"In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that the number of primary level teachers must grow from about 2.5 million to 3.7 million to fulfil the Education for All (EFA) commitment, indicating a gap of 1.2 million teachers, more than half of whom are needed in West Africa alone... Consequently, budgets for teachers' salaries will have to grow by at least 50 percent relative to levels reported in 2007."

Currently countries are striving for a student-teacher ratio of 40:1, and only Cape Verde appears to be able to meet this rather steep ratio.

New decentralized and lightweight methods are being developed to train more teachers. "Various initiatives have been devised to improve the quality of teachers available; Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA), a consortium of 18 organizations is engaged in disseminating open education resources (OERs) for teacher training in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Implications:

Expect to see much more open education organizations pop up with alternative methods for both training teachers and educating youth.

However, in countries where teachers already regularly go without pay from time to time due to budgeting problems, it appears that increasing a budget for teachers salary by 50% is very unlikely. While providing free primary education is a great step for nations suffering from a chronically under educated population, it would be a shame if EFA will in the end create a more poorly educated citizenry due to unmanageable class sizes.

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