Angola Elections 2022: Education
Angola does not have enough schools or teachers to meet the needs of a population growing by a million each year. Experts theorize (and parents instinctively understand) that education is key to social progress and it’s one of the key issues facing the political parties contesting this election: how to deliver their promise of free and universal education to university level. Both the governing MPLA and its main rival, UNITA, have promised to boost spending but they don’t go into detail in their published programmes and campaign speeches. Maka Angola has some suggestions.
Education is one of the most visible indicators of social progress and the benefits are far-reaching. Education provides individuals with intellectual and practical skills that make them productive. It enhances living conditions by fostering social equity and justice. It develops human talent and civic virtues.
Angola has experimented with different teaching models by default since achieving independence from Portugal in 1975 and has yet to settle on a preferred standard national curriculum. Angola is near the tail end of the United Nations’ Human Development Index, thanks to nearly 40 years of civil war, the absence of any coherent strategy from the Ministry of Education, and chronic under-funding due to the corrupt diversion of public funds into private hands.
The incumbent Minister of Education has encouraged consultation and discussion with the aim of finding 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 wide gap between the politico-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 to each child. In practice, the average was only 5.2 years – not even half-way to the target. As of last year (2021) not a single Angolan university made the list of the top 300 universities in Africa. Agostinho Neto University was the best ranked, in 321st place.
Does increased access to education generate economic growth, or vice versa? What is clear is that sustainable growth depends on the skills and talents of an educated populace. Angola has to do better and create a new social contract that prioritises education not just to equip new generations to climb out of poverty, but to ensure future development and progress.
Contributors to this article argue that it is not enough to make vague promises just to win an election. They say the political parties should already have developed and budgeted for a coherent strategy to deliver publicly-funded education across the nation. Educators want government to consult parents, teachers, and other citizens, as part of a collective effort to obtain consensus around a new curriculum. They say whichever party is elected, they should seek the help of specialists to generate the best ideas for a curriculum combining elements of economic theory, social justice, and environmental awareness, that works for all and will stand the test of time. They also recommend that this social contract should also elevate and protect the status and remuneration of teachers.
Both the two main political parties, MPLA and UNITA, emphasise 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 programmes only contain the bare bones of each party’s vision. Specialists say there needs to be more engagement with the public to fully develop these principles into a social contract.
The two parties have similar high aims: they want to see Angolan universities rated amongst the best on the continent. But they don’t set more modest targets of providing a universal and good quality elementary and secondary education first. Both the MPLA and UNITA say they will improve teacher training standards and restore respect to the profession. Both aim to redraw the curriculum to promote science and technology, mathematics, and computer science.
Some of the specialists consulted by Maka Angola gave some credit to the MPLA government ‘s proposed five-year plan for Education, in particular they appreciate the commitment to success-based teaching at all levels, to expanding access, and making school free and obligatory to the 9th Grade. The MPLA also promises to refurbish existing schools and make it a priority to complete the construction of half-built schools.
Both parties commit to improving both basic and advanced teacher training, to expanding high-level technical training and to increasing the number of specialised teachers at primary and secondary school level. The MPLA says it will introduce assessment for staff to maintain professional standards, that it intends to ensure more children are enrolled into school and promises extra resources for the Arts.
One of UNITA’s manifesto promises – Improvement of General, Technical and Professional Teaching – seems to suggest a radical shake-up of the entire educational system in a programme so wide-ranging that it would be impossible to achieve within a five-year term and would row back on improvements already achieved.
Other specialists in Pedagogy (the science of education) assessed the two parties’ programmes as broadly similar except for minor details. This group found the MPLA proposals (devised by people on the ground) to be more specific compared to UNITA’s largely theoretical broad overview. This speaks to a perennial problem in Angola – that it isn’t necessarily lacking in good intentions or good plans, but rather is lacking the capacity to put them into effect, because there aren’t enough people who are up to the task. This is precisely why there is such a large gap between the politico-legal statute and what is found in practice.
Contributors to this article have stressed that Angola needs a new social contract for education, regardless of which party wins the election. They say the government needs to rebuild relations with the public, do its duty by the nation, and employ alternative technologies for the sake of the planet.
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes the right to good-quality, lifelong education. This implies the right to be well-informed about culture, science as well as general knowledge and what we call ‘common sense’. Investment in education is an investment in common well-being. The future government’s commitment to improving Education in Angola should include both space for consultation and funding guarantees, year on year. Maka Angola’s consultative exercise has resulted in an emphasis on the following: set achievable targets, and budget for sustainability: i.e. to ensure Education Budgets include reserve funds for maintenance, repairs and/or replacement of resources.
The government needs to set priorities as it cannot achieve everything simultaneously, starting with the most urgent. So here are Maka Angola’s top ten suggestions for Education:
- Start with elementary schools: investing in infrastructure, resources, teacher training and a revised curriculum to ensure all children in that age group are able to access basic education.
- Ensure there is opportunity in every school to teach in the national languages to integrate all children into lessons while they acquire Portuguese.
- Elect two provincial universities to become specialist centres of research and development in Pedagogy, with the necessary funding and resources so they can contribute local knowledge and expertise to the formulation of public policy on Education;
- Recruit unemployed university graduates for intensive fast-track training to become elementary school teachers.
- Allow schools to be self-governing, with appropriate training for school administrators to manage their own targets.
- Develop and deploy an assessment programme to monitor implementation of education policy, adapt the curriculum targets, and ensure teachers maintain professional standards.
- Recruit additional volunteer teaching assistants for rural areas.
- Create an organisational structure that gives teachers a pathway to achieve technical and professional advancement or promotion.
- Provide scholarships or grants for postgraduate education outside Angola with a requirement that the beneficiaries have an obligation to return to Angola to teach and continue their research.
- Designate a primary educational research centre to evaluate what does and doesn’t work in elementary school policy and curriculum to report back to government so that adaptation and amendments can be written into future policy.
This article does not pretend to offer a definitive list of recommendations. It is merely a starting point that we hope will get people thinking and talking about our Education System.
Over the past five years Angola has already undergone rapid changes. People have begun to think differently and express themselves with greater freedom. This gives grounds for hope that they will welcome and engage with the urgent reforms that are now needed.
There is greater access to knowledge today than at any previous time in human history and, along with good governance and sensible policy, we have the tools to engage the public to contribute to the creation of a much better future for our country.