History of Education Development in Africa

History of Education Development in Africa
History of Education Development in Africa

Like every society in human history, each community has its unique form of education. As such, Africa also has a history of education development. In particular, its heritage is tied to culture and diversity in every location of the continent. This article examines the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial periods to understand African educational development. It will also highlight the challenges to learning and possible solutions.

Pre-Colonial Education

Unlike what many may think, Africans were knowledgeable before colonialism. Several communities within the continent had access to knowledge due to the influence of religion, which helped people learn how to read and write. Before religion, learning primarily occurred orally and was passed down within a family. As such, people lived in an extended family structure where children learned from parents, siblings, elders, and the larger community. Therefore, knowledge moved from generation to generation via:

  • Tradition;
  • Culture;
  • Belief;
  • Occupation.

In particular, children usually inherited the occupation of their parents. Therefore, a family involved with fishing raised children who grew up involved in fishing. 

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During Colonialism

Towards the end of the 19th Century, Europeans forced their way into the African continent. After several communities were conquered and governments imposed, formal learning was introduced. In general, the aim of educating Africans by Europeans was to train people to help with administrative duties. By extension, it provided an easy way of governing populations.

To achieve this, Africans were taught languages, sciences, and mathematics. Acquiring these skills allowed people to become interpreters, assistant administrators, and clerks who supported the activities of colonies. However, schools were segregated, as Africans could not attend European institutions. For most communities, things gradually changed after independence. 

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Post-colonial Education

Most African countries had to adjust after the Europeans left. For most governments, education was and remains crucial for nation-building and development. Therefore, billions of dollars are invested yearly to educate Africans across the continent. The aim of making these investments is to give ordinary citizens access to primary education. In addition, it helps train people into professionals capable of driving economic development now and in the future.

Educational Challenges in Africa

There has been a lot of progress in the African education sector. However, several more challenges still exist. Below are some of the more crucial problems to consider.

  • Many African children cannot access learning due to conflict, beliefs, and poverty.
  • Although several individuals can access schools, the quality of learning can drastically vary. In some cases, students are faced with low-quality teachers and inadequate infrastructure. In addition, the teaching methods are outdated, and classes are generally overcrowded.
  • In general, public schools are inadequately funded by the government due to limited resources. Where funding is provided, corruption limits the impact of these funds on ordinary citizens.


As the world advances, many of these challenges facing the educational sector in Africa are being systematically solved. Below are some solutions to consider.

  • Most African governments are actively involved in providing scholarships to citizens at all levels. Incentives are given to parents and children to encourage enrollment.
  • The quality of education is gradually increasing due to access to technology. Now, teachers can access training remotely through their mobile phones. Also, teaching methods that leverage technology are used to reach more people.
  • In general, schools have access to more funding. In particular, African governments are willing to invest more money in this sector. Also, international organizations regularly roll out programs that increase access to learning.


The history of education in Africa goes beyond the colonial era. During the pre-colonial period, Africans had a way of transferring knowledge across generations. After colonialism, governments prioritized education to foster national development. Nonetheless, several challenges exist, which are gradually being solved.


About the Author

Olivia Evans is a writer and an educationist. In particular, she has a keen interest in the history of learning. Therefore, Olivia loves to write content on this specific niche.