Development actors agree on the fact that education be part of the logical framework that corrects traditional norms which foster inequality.
MDG2, the goal to achieve universal primary school education, makes the case for this consensus. But the momentum caused by rapid pursuit of this target has created new problems for those with sudden access to learning. Where access has become incentivized or made free, young children continue to face problems related to overcrowded classrooms, lack of resources and reports of abusive teacher behaviour.
Despite a push by national governments to get girls into schools, traditional patriarchy continues to present resistance in Africa. In a cross-country review of more than 10 African countries Francis Hunt identifies pregnancy as a significant cause of teenage girls dropping out of school. Together these factors contribute towards pupils receiving an incomplete or poor education that fails to meet national and international employability standards.
Such failure is not only counter-productive to economic growth objectives, but perpetuates inequality, which in turn sustains poverty. In South Africa local scholars, supporting this view, have criticized their government for failing to support growth by maintaining “low quality education as a poverty trap.”
Primary school education provides the foundations required for knowledge and skills to become tools of change among the worlds poor. It is a short term solution. A quick win. But without the economic and political will to support initiatives with longer term, sustainable goals, MDG2 may simple be setting new learners up for failure.