The education of Angola’s post-war generation is the single most important investment towards the country’s sustained development.
27 years of conflict shattered the country’s education infrastructure. With the backing of international institutions, foreign investment, and local and international NGOs, the Angolan government is rehabilitating the entire education infrastructure.
Thousands of schools are being rebuilt countrywide, curriculums are being revised, and teachers are receiving high-quality training . This process will ensure the success of Angola’s future leaders.
Beginning at the age of 6, primary school lasts for eight years. The first four years are free and compulsory. Secondary education lasts another three years for general education and four years for vocational and technical education students.
Students aiming for university are required to undergo an additional two-three year ‘pre-university’ course. UNICEF, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education are spearheading the creation of child-friendly schools across the country, focusing on the needs and rights of each individual child. UNICEF projects in Angola are financially supported by the governments of Japan and Norway.
Plugging the skills gap
If Angola is to continue its upward trajectory as one of the fastest developing economies in the world the country needs to address the skills gap, a legacy left by the civil war when many of the educated and skilled workers either fled the country or were killed.
Rebuilding the schools system
Almost thirty years of conflict severely damaged the country’s education infrastructure. With the backing of international institutions, foreign investment, and local and international NGOs, the Angolan government is rehabilitating the entire education infrastructure. Thousands of schools are being rebuilt countrywide, curriculums are being revised, and teachers are receiving high-quality training. This process will ensure the success of Angola’s future leaders.
Currently, the average time a child spends in education is a mere 4.4 years while the literacy rate for adults over 15 years old is 67.4%. The government recognises the need to improve the education infrastructure from primary school all the way through to higher and vocational qualifications.
In 2012 (an election year) the MPLA government was quick to point out achievements in the education sector citing an increase in classrooms and teachers -according to some reports over 50 high schools have been built and 18,660 teachers recruited (which equates to over 242,979 teachers who have been introduced to the education sector over the past four years). Ministers also highlight a focus on redressing illiteracy and renewed resources for training Angolan rather than expatriate teachers.
The Ministry of Education’s Human Resources Department director, Ramiro João,speaking to ANGOP said: “Education is a dynamic system and we cannot train people just for the sake of training, but it [the system] has to meet the needs according to the national and international market”.
Teaching the teachers
A formalised structure for training and evaluation of Angola’s human capital was also announced in January 2013 by minister of Higher Education, Adão do Nascimento who introduced the National Staff Training Plan (PNFQ), at a senior meeting of the association of public and private universities students.
The minister said that this multisectoral plan involves training staff to a higher level in addition to training teachers and researchers in higher education and national system of science, technology and innovation. The initiative also includes staff training for entrepreneurship and business development, as well as scholarships.
Qualifications do not always equal employment
Employment opportunities in the oil sector still are still sparse for Angolan nationals. Shortages in technical skills mean that the highest paid jobs are often out of reach and international companies prefer to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars relocating talent and expertise from oil hubs like Aberdeen or Texas.
The Angolan higher education system, until recently, suffered under the perception that graduates are not sufficiently prepared and the quality of their education cannot be assured. Including reports that there has been a lack of resources and faculty staff members are often absent since they are forced to hold multiple jobs.
However international observers have reported a marked improvement and last year Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Maria Cândida Teixeira announced at the Conference of Higher Education that 2012 saw 45,000 new Angolan students entering higher education bringing the total figure to about 195,000.
The University of Agostinho Neto is the only public university. During the 1970s and 1980s many of the Angolan elite, including President dos Santos, were educated in the Soviet Union.
Since 1991 numerous new private higher-education institutions, including the Catholic University of Angola and the Independent University of Angola. The Catholic University, in partnership with the Catholic Universities in Brazil and Portugal is now offering a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).
The private sector is increasingly being encouraged to shoulder responsibility for up-skilling the native Angolan workforce. BP Angola for example has established a sustainable development and community investment programme which focuses partly on education. The company claims to be working closely with Agostinho Neto University in Luanda to help increase the number of qualified engineers and geoscientists that graduate from it each year, further aiding the government policy of ‘Agolonisation’.
Under decree-laws 20/823 and 17/09 ‘Angolanisation’ –employing and training Angolans to replace expatriate workers- is an obligation for companies engaged in the oil and gas sector. Decree-law 17/09 enacted on 15 February 2011 by the ‘Contrato Programa’ introduced codified targets and a new system of recruitment, integration, training and development of Angolan staff in the oil industry and the hiring of foreign personnel to the oil operations.
US$0.15 from every barrel of oil produced in Angola is ring fenced for the development of human capital. Of these 15 US cents, nine go to Ministry of Petroleum MINPET and six are used by the oil majors for staff training. Out of the nine US cents that go to MINPET, three are for university funding. One US cent of every barrel goes to the Angolan state university, Universidade Agostinho Neto (UAN), and one per cent of the university funding has been transferred to the Catholic University of Angola (UCAN) to develop courses relevant for the petroleum industry. It is not always clear what happens to the money transferred once it reaches the universities.
The ‘Contrato Programa’ is an annual personnel training development and progression plan that the oil companies have to submit to the Ministry of Petroleum for approval (for each staff member). Each plan includes training and skills targets. The companies can choose providers and the type of training.
Private sector academic partnerships
In April 2007, BP launched a full-accredited postgraduate programme in partnership with the Faculty of Law at Agostinho Neto University. The Hard Sciences Department of the Higher Teacher Training Institute (ISCED) in Luanda also received support, with the aim to contribute to the enhancement of the teachers trained there.
ExxonMobil has funded public health and education programs in Angola since 2009, while Chevron have pioneered business programs for high school students and in 2010, the company launched an entrepreneurship curriculum for more than 2,000 students in nine different provinces. Such projects will not only aid the Angolan nationals in their endeavours to supply their own workforce, but will also encourage other international companies to do the same.
There is an inherent need in the country for international companies to invest in Angola’s education system. The President of ANIP (the Angolan Private Investment Agency) Aguinaldo Jaime, has provided other countries with an incentive to invest through tax exemptions and customs fee benefits. Although education has been declared as a priority sector for investment, it has been also been lumped with two of the other priority areas- infrastructure development and civil construction. This is somewhat counterproductive and creates a barrier for those investors solely focusing on the financing and development of Angolan education.
In addition to technical expertise and skills there is also a huge demand for vocational and practical training in a variety of sectors and subjects in the country. Some of this is conducted by the Ministério de Assistencia para Reinserção Social – MARES (Ministry for Social Reinsertion) including shoemaking, electrics andmasonry. This programme aims to get youth into employment while providing opportunities for local development. So far, MARES have trained 5,000 young people and the Angolan Development Bank, Banco de Desenvolvimento de Angola (BDA) carries out work with a similar focus. You can read more about the ZEE projects and Angola’s drive for self sufficiency here
Great progress has been made in the education sector but huge challenges still lie ahead. While primary school enrolment is at an unprecedented high increasing drop-out rates undermine such success. An estimated 1 million children still never enter a school building.
Approximately 20% of males and 45% of females remain illiterate. With the support of UNESCO, ambitious literacy programs began in 2009 and are having a significant impact with children and adults receiving training.
The current signs are extremely positive but more can be done. It will take time before Angolans have the education system they deserve but sensible, targeted investment can fast-track the process.