Angola does not have enough schools and teachers to meet the needs of a population that is growing by a million people every year. Experts theorize (and parents instinctively understand) that education is the key to social progress, and that’s one of the key issues facing the political parties fighting this election: how to deliver on their promise of free and universal education up to university level. Both the ruling MPLA and its main rival UNITA have pledged to increase spending, but have been tight-lipped in their published manifestos and campaign speeches. Mako Angola has several offers.
Education is one of the most visible indicators of social progress, and its benefits are far-reaching. Education gives people the intellectual and practical skills that make them productive. It improves living conditions by promoting social equality and justice. Develops human talent and civic qualities.
Angola has experimented with different models of default schooling since independence from Portugal in 1975 and has not yet settled on a preferred standard national curriculum. Angola ranks at the bottom of the United Nations’ Human Development Index, thanks to nearly 40 years of civil war, the lack of any coherent strategy from the Ministry of Education, and chronic underfunding due to the corrupt diversion of public funds into private hands.
The acting education minister has encouraged consultation and discussion to find consensus around a national strategy, so there are some signs of progress. But as noted in the UNDP report on Angola, there is still a large gap between the political and legal status of education in theory and the reality on the ground.
For example, in 2019, Angola aimed to provide an average of 11.8 years of education for each child. In practice, the average figure was only 5.2 years – not even half way to the goal. As of last year (2021), no Angolan university was included in the list of the top 300 universities in Africa. Agostino Neto University took the best ranking – 321st place.
Does expanding access to education create economic growth, or vice versa? What is clear is that sustainable growth depends on the skills and talents of an educated population. Angola must do better and create a new social contract that prioritizes education not only to prepare new generations to rise out of poverty, but also to ensure future development and progress.
The authors of this article argue that it is not enough to make vague promises just to win elections. They say political parties should have already developed and budgeted a coherent strategy to deliver publicly funded education across the country. Educators want the government to consult with parents, teachers and other citizens as part of a collective effort to build consensus around a new curriculum. They say whichever party is chosen, they should seek the help of experts to come up with the best ideas for a curriculum that combines elements of economic theory, social justice and environmental awareness that works for everyone and stands the test of time. They also recommend that this social contract also enhance and protect the status and pay of teachers.
Both the main political parties, MPLA and UNITA, emphasize the importance of education in their manifestos and pay lip service to their intention to reform the sector and expand it across the country. However, their programs contain only the bare bones of each party’s vision. Specialists point out that in order to completely transform these principles into a social contract, it is necessary to interact more actively with the population.
Both sides have the same lofty goals: they want Angolan universities to be considered among the best on the continent. But they do not set more modest tasks to ensure, first of all, universal and high-quality primary and secondary education. Both the MPLA and UNITA say they will improve teacher training standards and restore respect for the profession. Both aim to redesign curricula to promote science and technology, mathematics, and computer science.
Some experts Mako Angola consulted gave some credit to the five-year education plan proposed by the MPLA government, in particular, they appreciate the commitment to success-based learning at all levels, to widening access and to making school free and compulsory for all. 9th grade. The MPLA also promises to renovate existing schools and make it a priority to complete half-built schools.
Both sides commit to improving both basic and advanced teacher training, expanding high-level technical training, and increasing the number of specialist teachers at the primary and secondary school levels. The MPLA says it will introduce staff assessments to maintain professional standards, that it intends to get more children enrolled in school and promises more resources for the arts.
One of UNITA’s manifesto pledges – Improvement of General, Technical and Vocational Training – appears to involve a radical overhaul of the entire education system in a program so vast that it would be impossible to achieve within a five-year period and to abandon the improvements already achieved.
Other experts in the field of pedagogy (the science of education) assessed the programs of the two parties as broadly similar, except for small details. This group found the MPLA proposals (developed by people on the ground) to be more concrete compared to UNITA’s largely theoretical broad overview. This speaks to a perennial problem in Angola – not necessarily a lack of good intentions or good plans, but rather a lack of ability to implement them because there are not enough people up to the task. That is why there is such a big gap between the political and legal statute and what is found in practice.
The authors of this article emphasized that Angola needs a new social contract for education, regardless of which party wins the elections. They say that the government must restore relations with the population, fulfill its duty to the nation and use alternative technologies for the sake of the planet.
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right to quality education throughout life. This implies the right to be well informed about culture, science, as well as common knowledge and what we call “common sense”. An investment in education is an investment in the common good. The future government’s commitment to improving education in Angola must include both space for consultation and year-on-year funding guarantees. Maka Angola’s consultation resulted in a focus on: setting achievable targets and budgeting for sustainability: that is, ensuring that education budgets include reserve funds for the maintenance, repair and/or replacement of resources.
The government must prioritize because it cannot achieve everything at once, starting with the most urgent. So here are Mac Angola’s top ten suggestions for education:
- Start with primary school: investment in infrastructure, resources, teacher training and a revised curriculum to ensure that all children in this age group have access to a basic education.
- Make sure that every school has the opportunity to teach in the national languages to integrate all children in the lessons while they learn Portuguese.
- Select two provincial universities that will become specialized centers of research and development in the field of pedagogy, with the necessary funding and resources to contribute local knowledge and experience to the development of public policy in the field of education;
- Recruit unemployed university graduates for intensive rapid training as primary school teachers.
- Allow schools to self-manage with appropriate training of school administrators to manage their goals.
- Develop and implement an evaluation program to monitor the implementation of educational policies, adapt curriculum objectives, and ensure that teachers adhere to professional standards.
- Recruit additional volunteer teaching assistants for rural areas.
- Create an organizational structure that provides teachers with a pathway for technical and professional advancement or promotion.
- Providing scholarships or grants for postgraduate education outside Angola with the requirement that the beneficiaries are obliged to return to Angola to teach and continue their studies.
- Appoint a primary educational research center to assess what is needed and what is not
This article does not pretend to offer a definitive list of recommendations. This is just a starting point that we hope will get people thinking and talking about our education system.
Angola has seen rapid change over the past five years. People began to think differently and express themselves with more freedom. This gives reason to hope that they will welcome and participate in the immediate reforms that are now needed.
There is more access to knowledge today than ever before in human history and, together with good governance and sound policy, we have the tools to engage the public in contributing to a much better future for our country.