School Fees in AfricaSchool fees are a major barrier to widespread, effective education in Africa. Many children in impoverished families simply cannot afford to pay the required fees to attend school. As a result, they never receive a proper education. It is important to know basic facts about the issue because the first solutions that come to mind are not always the best ones. For example, removing fees altogether isn’t necessarily a solution because that can lead to overcrowded and underfunded schools. Here are five facts about the complicated topic of school fees in Africa.

5 Facts About School Fees in Africa

  1. School fees have been common in Africa since the 1980s. Structural adjustment programs in the 1980s urged schools to move to “user fees” to fund many public necessities, such as education, instead of paying for these necessities through taxes. Not long after fees were implemented, poor families began struggling to send their children to school. A 1986 study found that in 33 of 63 developing countries, the poorest 40% of families would have to spend over 10% of their yearly income to send two children to primary school. This statistic shows the harmful effects of the implementation of school fees on poor families in the 1980s. However, school fees in Africa today are still too high for many families to afford. Many children in Africa are not getting the education they need. For example, one out of every five children between the ages of 6 and 11 are out of school in Sub Saharan Africa. Between the ages of 12 and 14, the proportion increases to about a third. School fees contribute heavily to education exclusion. When fees are eliminated, African schools see a huge increase in pupils. For example, Kenya eliminated primary school fees in 2003 and as a result, enrollment rose by 2 million students.
  2. Yet, abolishing fees can cause further problems. When schools abolish fees, the immediate results are a drastic increase in students, as occurred in Kenya. This increase can be counted as positive. On the other hand, it can leave many schools without enough funding to support the new pupils. Space, supplies and teachers face the most stress from the increase in students. A 2015 study found that primary schools in Sub Saharan Africa that had fees also had a smaller student to teacher ratio. In many African countries, tax bases are small and the government alone is unable to financially support education; thus, the abolition of fees leaves some schools drastically underfunded. Dr. Jay Kaufman, who worked on a study about school fees in Africa, spoke to The Borgen Project about some of the issues that eliminating school fees caused. “Basically, in many countries that removed fees, there was no further investment in the educational system. So the result was classes jam-packed with students, many students sharing a single desk and therefore no successful education whatsoever,” Kaufman stated.
  3. Fees are only part of the problem. There are many more financial barriers keeping students out of schools in Africa. Many African schools require uniforms, and procuring them can be too high a cost for many families. The cost of books, school supplies and transportation can impede children seeking education as well. Additionally, having students in school and not in the workforce can put a financial strain on families, especially once their children reach their teens.
  4. COVID-19 could spark increased fee rates. Many African countries had high gross enrollment rates in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. However, many of these rates had fallen by the mid-1990s due to economic downturns. Based on this trend, economic crises pose a threat to students who may already be struggling to pay fees. Given the economic fallout caused by the pandemic, many countries in Africa may struggle to maintain the same rates of funding to education. This could potentially result in increased fees. This, along with families’ inability to make money during the pandemic, could subsequently result in more students dropping out of school.
  5. Nonprofit organizations can provide long-term solutions. Aid For Africa is an alliance of NGOs working to support elementary school students financially in Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. BEADS For Education sponsors girls in Kenya from fourth grade through college, easing the financial burden on their families. Currently, the organization sponsors over 300 girls. The Maasai Girls Education Fund focuses on getting girls from the Maasai tribe in Kenya into schools. The organization provides these girls with scholarships to assure that they have the means to attend school.

Moving Forward

The exclusionary education caused by school fees in Africa is a complicated, multifaceted issue that does not have a single, clear solution. Nonetheless, it is a pressing issue that affects children across all of Africa. Knowing some key facts about the situation is essential if interventions are to be effective in opening up educational opportunities to impoverished children. Such knowledge is also key to making changes that are sustainable in the uncertain post-COVID-19 era.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Conservation and PovertyConservation efforts aim to preserve nature and ensure the proper utilization of natural resources. In recent decades, conservation has grown in popularity as the number of organizations fighting for it has increased substantially. Global poverty alleviation is another big cause with a large number of organizations fighting for it. Typically, conservation and poverty alleviation are considered conflicting forces; however, these three organizations are bringing the two together by turning environmental education into a poverty alleviator.

Aid for Africa

Aid for Africa is a network of many poverty organizations working to improve the communities in Africa. This alliance work aims to make a difference in every area of life in Africa, including fighting against environmental issues in the continent.

In its mission, the organization stresses the importance of finding solar solutions to fix environmental issues to ensure it will not hinder the economic development of the continent. Combining its efforts in conservation and poverty alleviation allows Aid for Africa to simultaneously take multiple approaches towards helping communities in need.  It focuses on fixing environmental problems on a broad scale through community-based programs to protect the rich biodiversity on the continent.

Children in the Wilderness

Children in the Wilderness focuses its efforts on conservation and protecting wildlife in multiple African nations; however, it is more specific in its cause than the previous organization. The non-profit centers around preserving the environment in Africa by educating young children, promoting leadership positions, and training programs. These opportunities help African children economically as it could connect them to job options and provides assistance programs and scholarships to those participating in the organization.

The organization shows success in uniting conservation and poverty relief as it changes the trajectory of many youths’ lives through scholarships and leadership positions. For instance, in 2018, Child in Wilderness awarded 602 scholarships to children at different education levels. Its leadership program also shows its success as the non-profit trained 249 individuals to become Eco-Mentor leaders within Children in Wilderness.

Solar Sister

Solar Sister is an organization that brings together conservation and poverty eradication by empowering women. It focuses on rural African communities and provides women entrepreneurs with education on clean energy. The organization encourages community-based leadership as the entrepreneurs go back to their communities to share solar technology with others in their towns.

The organization’s work creates a cycle of poverty alleviation. When the organization teaches individuals to run businesses in their communities, it increases women’s economic independence, allowing them to escape poverty. As a result, their rural communities benefit as clean energy gives them a safer power with helping the environment. For example, 90% of those who received solar power felt safer after buying it and the equipment reduced their cookstove fuel usage by over 50%. It also allows customers to become entrepreneurs themselves. For instance, 14,000 of those who bought solar products became Solar Sister entrepreneurs.

Although the organizations have different plans of approach, all are making a difference in the fight for conservation and poverty alleviation. Thus, revealing how fighting two distinct issues can be solved together in a mutually beneficial way.

– Erica Burns

Photo: Flickr

How Farm Africa is Helping in the Fight Against Poverty
Farm Africa is a nonprofit organization that is reducing poverty in Eastern Africa by helping farmers “grow more, sell more, and sell for more”. The organization focuses on three aspects: agriculture, environment and business.


Agriculture in Eastern Africa accounts for 70 percent of the population’s income. Farm Africa is enabling farmers to maximize the use of their land by sharing its expertise in growing the most appropriate crops for the region in regards to climate and soil composition, as well as the most profitable crops. They also help to provide the necessary tools in order to achieve a successful harvest year after year.


In an interview with Aid For Africa, Bridget Carle, a graduate student working in South Africa, said, “Agricultural researchers have found that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can affect crop production…But now we are learning that higher levels of CO2 are likely to reduce levels of essential nutrients like zinc, iron and Vitamin A, as well as the protein content of crops.” Farm Africa is aware of the changing environment and uses its knowledge to encourage African farmers to use sustainable farming practices. The organization also helps farmers develop holistic approaches to their farming, taking special care to not overuse resources.

In Ethiopia, Farm Africa is currently working with citizens to employ sustainable practices to preserve their forests and increase their economy. One such example is teaching community members to produce honey, weave baskets and make bamboo furniture in order to generate income rather than chopping down trees so they can sell timber.


Forbes Africa wrote an article showing how investing in irrigation has seen positive outcomes for Ethiopia’s economy. This article includes a section about how Farm Africa, the Ethiopian Bureau of Agriculture and local extension officers have come together in a joint effort to “help women and young people adopt small-scale irrigation…[as]part of an initiative to increase their incomes and improve their nutrition.” This project came close to reaching 6,400 women and landless people.

There are three parts to Farm Africa’s approach to business; business development, finance and trade. The organization helps Africa’s rural entrepreneurs expand their businesses and give them the tools to be successful over the long term. Farm Africa encourages the growth of co-operatives so that farmers may sell their products in bulk.

Farm Africa has 170 employees across four countries in Eastern Africa: Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. The organization works on the ground with farmers, helping them develop sustainable farming practices and yield higher quality crops year after year. They are teaching community members to be environmentally conscious as they give them different business tools to help them grow their businesses and thrive in larger markets. By focusing on agriculture, the environment and business, Farm Africa is helping to reduce poverty in Eastern Africa.

– CJ Sternfels
Photo: Flickr

Help People in The GambiaAt the westernmost tip of Africa exists one of the smallest and poorest countries on the entire continent. The Gambia is a nation of just over two million people and roughly 75 percent of the population live in poverty. The 2011 U.N. Human Development Index (HDI) assessed The Gambia as ranking 168th out of 187 countries. The HDI ranks countries based on their level of human development as a society, averaging things like life expectancy, per capita income and birth rate to make projections.

The Gambia scored so poorly on the HDI for a variety of reasons, but one predominant contributor is poor conditions leading to lack of food and agriculture production. About 60 percent of The Gambia’s population depends on some sort of farming for survival. Despite the fact that The Gambia River runs clear across the middle of the country, only 16.7 percent of the country’s available land is arable. This, in conjunction with frequent and erratic rainfall make the life of a Gambian subsistence farmer an especially tough one. The peak rainy season runs through the duration of the summer, hence food production during this time is negligible. Families who depend on subsistence farming – that is, growing enough food to feed themselves – attempt desperately every year to stock their food supplies in anticipation of the rainy season.

The harsh reality of the situation is that the circumstances are not getting any better, weather patterns become more unpredictable by the year and the price of food in the Gambian economy continues to rise steadily. The combination of all of these factors has led to the emergence of a global need to help people in The Gambia. One particular charity organization, which makes strides to improve life for those in The Gambia, is Aid for Africa. Since its inception in 2004, Aid for Africa has worked to combine the efforts of nonprofit organizations working in Sub-Saharan Africa to help those in need. They have made an impact on the lives of impoverished Gambians by establishing “community based self-help programs,” which aim to provide people with the skills and resources they need to escape the cycle of poverty.

The quickest and most effective way to help people in The Gambia is to donate to a charity such as Aid for Africa or even other similar charities. As members of the international community, we have an obligation to help those in need, and now, more than ever, the people of The Gambia need our help to escape poverty.

Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

The Young Heroes Foundation, founded in 2006, aims to provide financial support for the provision of basic necessities for orphans in Swaziland in addition to providing HIV testing and care programs. The nation is home to the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS globally, illustrated by a staggering number of 70,000 orphans and 15,000 households led by children as reported by Aid for Africa.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), rates of HIV among pregnant woman have reached 39.2 percent and approximately 17,000 children contract the disease every year. It is also reported that more than 120,000 Swazi children who are under 18 have lost at least one parent to AIDS, while more than 60,000 have experienced the loss of both parents to the disease.

Young Heroes has now reached more than 1,000 children in Swaziland by stabilizing households of orphans and vulnerable children, consequently improving the rates of school attendance among those receiving aid. Events such as the Swazi Cycle also help to raise monetary support for Swazi orphans by supporting the Young Heroes Foundation, where American cyclists embark on bike routes from border-to-border across the nation. In 2010 the cycling journey raised more than $100,000 for children in dire need of support in Swaziland.

In addition, citizens of Swaziland are affected by high rates of malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty and extremely unpredictable weather patterns, as cited by the World Food Programme.

Other programs such as the Centre for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (CHAPS) have developed voluntary public health programs such as the Male Circumcision Strategic and Operational Plan for HIV Prevention, projecting to avoid an estimated 31,000 new incidents of HIV by 2028. The initiative utilizes tools of education through mentoring, sports programs and public health outreach administered by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

– Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Education in NigerNiger is a Western African country with a population of more than 18 million people. Of those 18 million people, the average person is 15 years old. With the majority of the population being of schooling age, education in Niger has a large opponent: labor. The following is a list of facts concerning education in Niger.

8 Things You Should Know About Education in Niger

  1. The adult literacy rate in Niger was at a mere 15.5 percent in 2012 (the most recent data collection)The world average for adult literacy currently lies at 92 percent. This means Niger is 76.5 percent lower than the global average for this statistic. This statistic includes all individuals 15 years and older in the adult population.
  2. Women and men are unequally educated. While Niger has the lowest literacy rates in the world, the country’s women are even more disadvantaged. As of 2012, only nine percent of Nigerien women were literate compared to 23 percent for men. The global percentage of literate women is 89 percent.
  3. On average, each teacher is responsible for 36 students. At 36 students per teacher, Niger has one of the highest pupil-teacher ratios in the world. For comparison, the U.S. has an average of 14 students per teacher.
  4. Only 50 percent of primary school teachers in Niger have reached minimum training requirements. When teachers have not reached minimum training standards set by the Nigerien government, they are less likely to be able to be effective in the classroom. This is only compounded by the country’s high pupil-teacher ratio.
  5. Only 61 percent of Nigeriens attend primary school. With a global average of 89 percent enrollment, Niger is lacking in this category. Additionally, this statistic leads the way for low school attendance in later years. In fact, more than 30 percent of the Nigerien children who attend primary school eventually drop out.
  6. Niger has an education index of .20. The education index is a statistic from the U.N. which is calculated using the mean number of years of schooling and the expected number of years of schooling. An education index of .20 places Niger at the bottom of all 187 countries with available data.
  7. As of 2014, Niger put 6.8 percent of its total GDP towards education. In 2010, Niger put a relatively low 3.7 percent of its GDP toward education. Since then, Niger has been increasing spending on education. The country currently puts a higher percentage of its GDP toward education than the world average (4.5 percent) and even the U.S. (5.2 percent).
  8. Organizations are working to improve education in Niger. One organization, RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara, provides women mentors to at-risk girls to ensure success in school. Additionally, the organization creates community market gardens that allow for economic stability and allow girls to focus on school rather than working.

Other organizations such as UNESCO, PLAN International, Aid for Africa and Remember Niger Coalition also provide funding for improved education and help build schools.

Nigerian education needs substantial help. Unfortunately, many of the issues stem from financial instability as well as an enduring belief that women should stay at home, marry and care for children.

Though the problem with education in Niger is complex, mentoring and guidance services by influential organizations can be part of the solution. Through these programs, Nigerian men and women can learn the value of education and benefit the country as a whole.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr