Written by Ruth Lakica
Education is a fundamental right for all humans around the globe. Regardless of one’s economic or social status, they should be able to have access to education. Even though this seems obvious and like common knowledge, it is not the reality for many Angolans. Nevertheless, the government has and is making significant efforts to cab illiteracy. For instance, in recent years, Angola has significantly reformed its education system, improving literacy and enrollment rates. However, school completion rates indicate high levels of dropout. The Angolan Education Law (2021) makes primary education free and compulsory for six years, but approximately 2 million children are still out of school. The country’s long-term strategy–Estratégia de Longo Prazo Angola 2025–promotes the human and educational development of the Angolan people.
Conflicts and insecurity
Despite the civil war ending more than 15 years ago, Angola still faces—and will continue to face—challenges in its education system that date back to these years of violence. Primary education in Angola is compulsory and free for four years for children between 7 and 11, but the government estimates that approximately two million children are not attending school.
In areas where classrooms were utterly demolished during the war and have not yet been rebuilt, classes typically are held outside and often must be cancelled due to bad weather. Where classrooms exist, they tend to be overcrowded and undersupplied, with outdated or insufficient books and pencils and not enough desks and chairs.
Lack of enough qualified teachers
Debates about teacher quality lack in Angolan educational institutions are constant. These were and continue to be pointed out as teachers without the desired quality to teach in higher education, in addition to being few, forcing them to become multipurpose: the teachers lack in Angolan educational institutions causes the few teachers to teach a large number of subjects, and in many cases, subjects outside their comfort area.
The Angolan government focused on education expansion for a long time and forgot about teaching quality in the same institutions. Therefore, the institutions, especially private ones, arise without verification of the curriculum they presented, which was never in accordance with the requirements for their functioning, many of them without appropriate facilities and without enough teachers to follow the several existing courses. And several other factors contributed to the higher education institutions’ quality being relatively low.
The educational level was directly related to the incidence of poverty in Angola from March 2018 to February 2019. According to Statista, among people with no education, 56.5 per cent lived with a level of consumption below the poverty line. Among individuals with primary education, the rate amounted to 54.9 per cent. Even though the poverty incidence among people with higher education was the lowest, 17.3 per cent of people with an upper secondary education or more were living above the poverty line. In December 2018, the total poverty line in Angola was estimated at roughly 12.2 thousand Kwanzas (approximately 22 U.S. dollars).
Impact of drought
The challenges for accessing education imposed by the cyclical pastoral migration in Cunene – particularly for boys – are well-known. However, the severe drought plaguing the South Region of Angola has intensified the phenomenon, causing unprecedented stress on the province’s education system.
According to Reliefweb, In the municipality of Curoca, one of the hardest hit, 13 schools have closed since the beginning of the year due to student absences. Of Cunene’s 887 primary schools, 614 are affected by the drought in some way, which is causing severe disruption to no less than 70% of the province’s 214,000 students.
When children must split their time between fetching water and protecting their families’ greatest wealth, the livestock, their education suffers.
Impact of Covid-19
The pandemic caused by the SARS Covid-19 came to monitor investments made not only in the health sector but also in education and, above all, in the higher education subsystem. The pandemic led governments to close university campuses and face-to-face classes suspension for a considerable period of time as a measure to prevent the virus contamination from spreading. Some countries with the distance learning modality in their school curricula were forced to make it a strategy, intensifying them to reduce the pedagogical damage that was felt due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19. Given the uncertainty of an end date for the pandemic, other countries were forced to bet on this modality of distance learning.
Until 2020, the Angolan State did not recognize any studies carried out at a distance, both within the country and abroad (Presidential Decree n° 59/20, of 3 March). The emergence of the pandemic was necessary to show the importance of distance. It blended learning, leading it to adopt the strategy used by most countries to avoid a catastrophe at the educational level.
Water, sanitation and hygiene
According to USAID, “nearly half the population of Angola (49.3%) lacks access to clean drinking water and (54.7%) of households do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities.” As a result, many Angolans face a high risk of exposure to waterborne illnesses, further burdening the nation’s existing healthcare infrastructure, worsening malnutrition and negatively impacting the economy.
Moreover, the southern regions of Angola are experiencing a prolonged drought, which has gravely impacted the nation’s health, sanitation, water access and education services. More than 1.2 million Angolans face water scarcity due to the drought. In the Cunene province, the drought has caused “serious disruptions” to school access for nearly 70% of students.
Teenage pregnancy and child marriages
Angola has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world. Underlying factors include limited knowledge of family planning, inadequate availability of commodities, limited access to skilled health workers, and insufficient household resources allocated to sexual and reproductive health. The high rate of teenage pregnancy increases the already existing vulnerability of girls, as pregnancy is often an impediment to continuing education, exemplified by the low literacy rates of only 36.5% for young women aged 15 to 24. The country has 10 million girls and women of reproductive age. Although 75% of girls attend primary education, this proportion drops to around 15.5% in secondary education, coinciding with the first menstruation age. High fertility rates and high levels of teenage pregnancy also increase the risk of maternal mortality. In this context, behaviour change interventions are crucial to empowering young women and men to make better decisions to protect themselves.
In conclusion, Angola’s government, therefore, has a responsibility to extend better social services in rural areas, such as roads, schools, and hospitals, to facilitate development in those areas and hence improve people’s living standards and education for poor kids.
As the government seeks to alleviate the effects of the lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasis should be placed on ensuring that systems that are supposed to protect girls and women from child marriages are not compromised. Clean water must be readily available for people to improve their hygiene habits, as must soap. And girls must have privacy and dignity when using sanitation facilities. The Government of Angola should respond to the drought in the southern region, which also affects the provinces of Namibe, Huila and Bie, so that children can focus on their education.
- Global partnership for education. (2022, November 22). The Angolan Education law(2021). https://www.globalpartnership.org/where-we-work/angola
- The Borgen Project. (2018, July 17). Improving education and literacy in angola in the aftermath of civil war. https://borgenproject.org/education-and-literacy-in-angola/
- The Borgen Project. (2022, October 1). A community-centered approach: improving sanitation in angola. https://borgenproject.org/sanitation-in-angola/
- United Nations Population Fund. (2022, March 8). SYP in Angola: Young Women Leading for a Better Future. https://angola.unfpa.org/en/news/syp-angola-young-women-leading-better-future
- Statista. (2022, August 1). Poverty incidence in Angola 2018-2019, by educational level. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1135257/poverty-incidence-in-angola-by-educational-level/
- Reliefwed. (2019, october 1). UNICEF. Children out of school: the impact of the drought for education in Angola. https://reliefweb.int/report/angola/children-out-school-impact-drought-education-angola