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Education System and Political Regimes in Africa


Across the modern world, the level of education and democracy index have always been highly correlated. The correlation can be easily explained if to look closely at the communication and works of the educated people as compared to those having not even the basic education. Schooling makes this an interaction matter as a level of civic participation rises with the level of schooling. The ability to create or organize complicated relations and social structures and institutions is closely connected with the education.

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The purpose of this paper is to discover whether education influences the democracy growth in Africa. The question raised is whether democracy is possible without having an educated and civilized society. It is the case when educational provision can influence all the measures more than it has been expected. The question raised is whether democracy is possible without having an educated and civilized society.

Influence of Education on Political Regimes in Africa

In the modern world, there are not many stable democracies outside the boundaries of the well-civilized countries with relatively high levels of education. Educated people receive more social and political support. The importance of civic participation can be hardly overestimated. In the United States, every school teaches its pupils that political participation is an essential part of building a democratic society. Schools inspire people to be informed about civic activities, vote, volunteer, and serve their country. This accentuation is not unique for the United States and is well spread across the world's democracies.

The assumption that education influences democracy index to a greater extent than it is supposed has received a proper deal of empirical evidences. The purpose of this paper is to discover whether education influences the democracy growth in Africa.

Political Regimes in Africa

Senegal, being one of the most steadily developing countries in Africa, has concentrated a lot on the education of its people. It cannot be said, that Senegal's economy flourishes with the country holding the 144th place in the world, but strong positions and macroeconomic indexes (like GNI per capita being $1,026), and relatively high life expectancy (about 59 years) clearly show a positive tendency (UNICEF, 2013)

Senegal is a Presidential Republic with the President being elected every five years. There are lots of political parties in Senegal and an independent judiciary. Notwithstanding the difficulties like a comprehensively high level of corruption, the country already has a quasi-democratic system, which is being developed at the moment, pretending to become one of the most successful democratic transitions of the former colonial world.

Mali is a successful twin brother of Senegal. Although these countries are not, of course, at the same level of economic and political development, the processes in both countries are identical. Mali is the unitary semi-presidential Republic. With a relatively low economic index such as GNI per capita at the level of approximately 660, the country still holds a reasonable place in the list of developing countries and pays great attention to education. Life expectancy is 54-55 years that is pretty high for African countries (UNICEF, 2013). Recently the country has passed through a number of military coups. Despite these coups that took place in 2012, Mali still gets “partly free” from Freedom House and this estimate is not an exaggeration (Africa Program Staff, 2014).

There are opposite examples. After the terrible tragedy of genocide in 1990-1994, Rwanda is heading to democracy and civilized living. With the GNI at the level of 560 and life expectancy of 54 years (fairly similar to Mali), the country still seems to be far from getting to become a place of freedom (UNICEF, 2013). Movement is slow-paced and surrounded by a bunch of internal problems in almost any sphere of social or political activity. Rwanda is a presidential republic with a multi-party system, though the constitution adopted in 2003 has restrictions on how the political party should operate. The current President won subsequently two elections (in 2003 and 2010), although those elections were marked by repressions and restrictions. However, all these external indicators of a proper development are very vague. In fact, the government party rules the country. The strict laws that were adopted to eliminate the very possibility of another genocide tragedy actually support a mono-party system. In Rwanda, there is no significant opposition at all. Kenneth Roth (2009) in “The power of horror in Rwanda” states that the press is suppressed.

Chad, in its turn, is probably the worst place to be in if to choose between these four countries. Its economic indexes are pretty close to all of the competitors and even exceed them. For example, according to UNICEF, GNI per capita in Chad is 740, which is more than that of Mali and Rwanda (UNICEF, 2013). However, this case is different. Chad has a President who has all the powers and completely dominates all the political system. The main problem of Chad is the corruption level. Chad bears the dubious title of the failed state and occupies the 5th place in the list along with the Rwanda (as the closest country) holding the 38th place, according to the Fund for Peace (FFP, n.d.). The corruption is abundant everywhere and at all levels. The political system in Chad cannot be called even a quasi-democratic transitional system. It is autocracy. While the constitution guarantees independent judiciary, the President himself names the core officials.

As it can be seen, the political regimes of most of the countries bear resemblance excluding Chad. The majority of governments understands that the way to prosperity must be framed with certain core matters – peace in the country, strong economics and happy people who will participate in every sphere of activity, from social and business to politics. Suchlike participation is almost impossible without the established and working education system.

Education Systems

There is a theory that the effect of primary education even exceeds the value of GDP on the democratic processes in a given country, especially at the initial stage. For instance, Lipset (1959) concludes that:

If we cannot say that a “high” level of education is a sufficient condition for democracy, the available evidence does suggest that it comes close to being necessary condition.

So, are there any signs of education being responsible for such a pleasant change of the political situation as it happened in Senegal? Clearly. Constitution, which was adopted in 2001, states that every child has full access to education. Moreover, education is compulsory and free for youngsters up to the age of 16. The net primary enrollment rate is high as compared with other countries and sits at 68% (UNICEF, 2013). International HIV/AIDS Alliance (2003) states “schools can provide children with a safe, structured environment, the emotional support and supervision of adults, and the opportunity to learn how to interact with other children and develop social networks.”

It can hardly be argued. Senegal education reforms that started back in 2000 achieved several important goals. The access to education became countrywide with the whole education system relevant for any class of the Senegalese. Educational development became an integral part of the mechanism, which lets Senegal now have high Policy IV index and be marked as “free” (Africa Program Staff, 2014). Total adult literacy rate is 49,7% with 79% of primary school net enrollment ratio (UNICEF, 2013).

Mali can serve as another example of the successful impact of education on the processes within the country, including political self-determination. The government of Mali constantly works on the improvement of their country including its educational system. Education is compulsory and free for children up to 16 years of age. Unfortunately, the enrollment rate in Mali is not as high as it could be. The cause is simple. “Many children cannot benefit from free education system because they cannot travel to school or because they have to work to support the family” explains Kaul, Grunberg, & Srtern (1999) in Global public goods: international cooperation in the 21st century.

Nevertheless, the school enrollment rate is constantly growing as compared to the late 90s – now it is 67% against about 20% at that time (UNICEF, 2013). Education system suffers from many problems, among which is the lack of schools in rural districts. Moreover, shortage of resources, books and qualified personnel adds to the trouble. Literacy level in the country stays at the level of 33%, which is fairly low (UNICEF, 2013). The country suffers from the shortage of medical facilities, malnutrition and sanitation problems. It is easy to draw a parallel between the lack of specialists and problems in the educational system of the country. No specialists – no clinics. Sad but true. The rank of civic and political activity of people is relatively low. Most people are obsessed with the idea of how to survive rather than how to vote.

The rapidest growth of its educational system is shown by Rwanda. Despite all the political problems, the government sees a perspective in teaching its own specialists. Almost 74,000 students have been enrolled in the universities (Micomyiza, n.d.). This number exceeds all the previous figures up to 25%. Literacy among the adult population is high – 65,9% and primary school enrollment ratio is at the level of almost 99% (UNICEF, 2013).

The problems persist. About 40% of educational specialists have teaching experience of just five years or less (The World Bank, 2011). The salary of teachers is extremely low. The latest educational reform made English the teaching language. This fact created many problems for those students who have already been studying in the university with French as their teaching language. The educational level of the majority of graduates is not sufficient for them to easily embed themselves in the economic system of Rwanda.

Unlike the above mentioned facts, Chadian education system is in the state of deep crisis. According to the Development Program of the United Nations, less than 30% of kids are enrolled in schools in Chad. Literacy level is 35,4% (UNICEF, 2013). Chad is one of the least advanced countries in Africa. Just 2% of national GDP is devoted to the needs of education. In rough numbers, this counts as about 10% of the whole budget, which, by the way, is one of the lowest ratio in the world (UNESCO, 2011). The mess in the educational system makes irresponsibility and abuse of powers flourish. Because of the corruption only few of such cases are brought to the public. With the most schools being under-resourced, the educational system of Chad needs a comprehensive reform to maintain at least an acceptable level of education.


The state of education in Africa leaves much to be desired. While some countries show signs of slow, but definite recovery the other lag badly. The situation is very complicated because the current conditions and backgrounds considerably affect educational processes. Analyzing the history of the entire African continent, it is clear that the region has for a long time been off-limits to the world's cultural development. Colonial countries never set education as their primary goal. That is why Africa has to overcome harsh consequences of the time of constant military coups and civil wars. Political independence created conditions for the growth of the educational system in African countries.

Senegal holds the first place among other contestants with Mali as the runner-up. Achievements of these two countries are significant. The number of schools grows, while more and more children are enrolled in primary educational institutions. Rwanda would share the second place, but its problem lies deeper in the relations between Tutsi and Hutu. Fortunately, it seems that peace is on its way to Rwanda and the latest tendencies in the educational development show good progress. Unlike the other three, Chad still suffers from serious problems that prevent education from being attended. Serious political problems together with a high level of corruption leave Chad far behind.

Parallels with the current political systems of the countries are pretty clear. Senegal has the highest rank “free” and the highest pace of democratic transition. Mali is a runner up again, showing us “partly free” and a clear tendency of growing democratic self-awareness. Rwanda shows that the democracy can be achieved, but a bit later.

The reason is that educational reforms that are held in these countries wake up and provoke growth of the political engagement of people. Schools and universities help people socialize. Political participation is one of the forms of socialization. The increase of educational level together with the growth of national income severely influences educated people. People with good income who work in the modern sphere of production are less likely to ignore political processes. Nations able to increase their educational level prepare the ground for the establishment of democratic institutions.

The state of the economy, social homogeneity (which is, by the fact, not the case for Africa), and solid cultural background are all important for the process of democratization. Education is not the most important thing while speaking of democracy, but clearly one of them. Educated people can fill the blank spots in any sphere of the civic activity – science, medicine, military service, social services, educational institutions, etc. No political or inner self-determination is available without the ability to distinguish real freedom of choice from its imitation. In this respect, the role of education can be hardly overestimated.

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