A majority of schools in Africa used to be faith-inspired, but their share has dropped with the expansion of public facilities.
Today, such schools’ average market share is probably around 15 percent (slightly more than secular private schools), although there are variations in schools from one country to another, with some growing at a faster pace than public schools, according to articles in the Review of Faith & International Affairs (Summer).
Both for primary and secondary education, countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (69.8 and 66 percent) and Sierra Leone (54.9 and 41.6 percent) show the highest share of Faith-inspired schools (FIS), something that may be linked to conflict and state failure, but also to historical reasons, write Clarence Tsimpo and Quentin Wodon (World Bank).
Based on evidence from 16 countries, it appears that FIS do not reach the poor more than other schools, but they do serve children in poverty and often make special efforts to do so. While reaching the poor tends to be part of their ethos, they have to deal with budgetary constraints. Moreover, Tsimpo and Wodon write, “while less expensive to attend than private secular schools, [FIS] tend to be more expensive for households than public schools.” During the colonial period, Christian missionaries provided the majority of formal education in Africa.
In most African countries, Muslims still average fewer years in school and are less likely to be literate than Christians, writes Melina Platas Izama (Makerere Institute of Social Research, Kampala, Uganda). The gap in schooling of Muslim children has, however, disappeared entirely from some countries (Tanzania and Uganda). It persists in other countries, such as Nigeria, even after taking into account factors such as regional or ethnic inequalities.
In a country such as Mali, notes Helen N. Boyle (Florida State University), Islamic madrassas (combining religious studies with the teaching of core subjects) have been growing at a faster rate than public schools. Interestingly, madrassa pedagogy has also been changing from a traditional Islamic mode of transmission to a more modern type of education—not only memorizing, but also explaining content.
Jill Olivier (University of Cape Town) and Wodon find that in Ghana, some of the Christian and Islamic schools are perceived to be of high quality, but there are concerns that this would not be the case with some new schools, both Christian (including Pentecostal) and Islamic; they are responding to a lack of alternatives as well as to the desire of parents for faith-inspired education.
(Review of Faith & International Affairs, P.O. Box 12205, Arlington; VA 22219-2205 – www.tandfonline.com/rfia.)