Striking at The Heart of Teacher Shortage Crisis in Sub Saharan Africa

Updated: Sep 28, 2018


The Population Reference Bureau estimates that Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), the world's poorest region, will more than double in population, from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion between now and 2050, a staggering 1.3 billion people - the largest growth of any region in the world.


Women in SSA currently average 5.2 children during their lifetime, compared to 1.6 in Europe and 1.9 in North America. In countries such as Niger, the birth rate is as high as 7.6 children per woman. At current rates, this population growth could lead to many problems such as increased poverty, unemployment, and environmental degradation.


We are beginning to see some of the effects: recent data from UNESCO shows that SSA has the highest rates of exclusion, with over a fifth of children between the ages of 6 and 11 out of school; of the total of 15 million girls of primary school age who will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school across the world, 9 million live in SSA; out of a total of 263 million, Nigeria alone accounts for over 16 million children out of school.


Recognizing the enormity of the problem, various stakeholders are making concerted efforts to increase investments in education. While this is commendable, a lot more needs to be done to increase access, especially for girls.


Investment in education comes in various forms, including building and equipping schools, and capacity development for administrators and teachers. Capacity development for teachers however provides the best return on investment - for without capable teachers and school administrators, most of the gains in other areas will be lost. Aside from the problem of non-qualified teachers, there are teacher shortages: UNESCO projects 69 million worldwide, by 2030, with 17 million in SSA alone.


Since there is consensus that education is the best investment individuals and communities can make and that teachers are the most critical resource to achieving universal basic education, how come there is little global concerted efforts to ensure the availability of quality teachers – especially in the regions that are most desperately in need, like SSA?


The search for an answer led my founding team and I to start 1 Million Teachers Inc. We are lucky: we have support from various public and private sector organizations in Canada and abroad and are not burdened by legacy systems and costly organizational structure of traditional educational organizations.


As a result, we can strip away wastes that have made other similar programs costly and inaccessible to most, and channelling the savings made to enhancing program quality and incentives for participants. Our three-pronged approach to addressing the problem of teacher- shortage involves attracting new teachers, training both new and existing, and motivating them to improve performance through a rewards-based program. Early on, we teamed up with the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University, Canada - a leader in teacher education, in a partnership that involves professors and teacher candidates helping us to develop program framework and content for our program.


The movement we have started is gaining momentum, and as we seek to expand our footprint beyond the current 12 countries where we operate, we are constantly on the lookout to collaborate with individuals and organizations with similar objectives such as ours.

Hakeem Subair is Founder and CEO of Kingston, Ontario based 1 Million Teachers Inc.

1 Million Teachers currently operates in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Cote d'Ivoire and Lesotho. He can be reached at hakeem@1millionteachers.com.