Fifteen years ago, government leaders of 189 countries signed the United Nations Millennium Declaration. This declaration contains eight international development goals to help create a better world, where every human being has the same basic rights and opportunities to live a healthy, fulfilling life by 2015. So now that the year is almost over, where do we stand?

If you’re not familiar with the eight different goals, here’s a quick overview of what the UN wants to accomplish by 2015:

  1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. To achieve universal primary education
  3. To promote gender equality
  4. To reduce child mortality
  5. To improve maternal health
  6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. To ensure environmental sustainability
  8. To develop a global partnership for development

As you can imagine, these are pretty ambitious goals. And because we focus on education, we’ll only be discussing universal primary education, and of course Africa in particular.

Where we stand with education in Africa

The UN gives updates about the millennium goals every year and divides Africa in two regions: Northern Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. To start off with the good news, for Northern Africa, the millennium goal for universal education has been achieved! And for Sub-Saharan, the number of children going to school has more than doubled, from 62 million in 1990, to 149 million currently.

Even though those numbers sound great for the southern part of Africa, when you look at the numbers more closely and in a bigger context, you’ll see the problem. There are currently 57 million kids in the world not going to primary school and 33 million of those kids live in Sub-Saharan Africa. That means there is still a lot to do and it also means we’re talking about a local problem. Why are the results great around the world, but not in the southern part of Africa? It means the problem is local and more complex than we thought.

The problems and what we can do about them

Another problem is that, while the majority of kids in Africa go to school, it means just that; they go to school. It doesn’t tell us anything about the quality of education or if the school has all the right facilities or materials. And while the majority of children get a primary education, not even 25% of them follow through and go to high school and college after that.

So what can we do? We believe that local, practical solutions work. Development problems are highly complex and have no one-size-fits-all solutions, so it’s best to start small and local. What do the people there need? And what don’t they need?   

We need to solve a very big problem in small steps, make a local difference before we can make a regional difference. It may be a slower way of doing things, but the good thing is that we get immediate results and really make a difference for the locals, one step at a time. Take a look at our projects and help us accomplish great things, by starting small.