We are in the second year of the Second Decade of Education for Africa (2006-2015) spearheaded by the African Union. It was launched in Maputo in September 2006 with the hope that this time round the goals will be achieved.
According to an AU report, an evaluation of the first Decade of Education in Africa (1997-2006) ‘revealed that most of the goals set in the Decade Plan of Action were not achieved in spite of valiant efforts by members’. This was because its Plan of Action ‘was not adopted till two years after the formal launch of the decade. There was little evidence of ownership by stakeholders, while publicity was grossly ineffective’.
The report noted that because of the importance of getting education right in Africa, the sixth ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU adopted a resolution to launch a Second Decade of Education for Africa.
Indeed, education is an important aspect of the continent’s development. The AU report said: ‘Education is a critical sector whose performance directly affects and even determines the quality and magnitude of Africa’s development. It is the most important means we have at our disposal to develop human resources, impart appropriate skills, knowledge and attitudes.
‘Education forms the basis for developing innovation, science and technology in order harness our resources, industries, and participate in the global knowledge economy and for Africa to take its rightful place in the global community. It is also the means by which Africa will entrench a culture of peace, gender equality and positive values.’
The AU has taken a positive step to deal with the challenges of education in Africa. One aspect that needs to be developed is that of the availability of relevant books to Africa’s school children and university students. Despite the spread of information and communication technology, knowledge from books is still the most favoured manner of learning in Africa.
This, though, has not been lost on the AU, which is advocating the publication of more African-led academic books and journals as part of the Plan of Action. The AU is encouraging African academics to produce material that is original and ‘ naturally ‘ relevant to Africa’s development needs.
As Paul Zeleza of Pennsylvania State University in America put it in the International Journal of African Renaissance Studies: ‘The construction of scholarly knowledge about Africa has always been an international enterprise. In fact, it is outsiders, not African intellectuals who tend to set the terms of debate in African studies.’
In all this, book suppliers to African institutions also have to play an important role in sourcing the right books, given that culture plays a major role in development.