The Role of Distance Teacher Education in Increasing the Supply of Primary School Teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa
This paper attempts to show that a sustainable supply of qualified teachers required to provide quality education for all children in Africa faces very serious challenges which have not been met by the conventional approaches to teacher education. The current need in the supply of teachers has arisen from the upsurge in school enrolments since the 1990s as a result of the commitment by many countries to meet EFA goals, contributing to the recruitment of high percentages of untrained teachers. Compounding the low teacher numbers is the high toll on the teaching force by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. All these factors have a contributing role in the low levels of pupil achievement and low rates for pupil completion of primary schooling in many parts of the continent. It has therefore become increasingly evident that if Africa has to meet the challenge in the supply of adequate teachers required to provide quality education for all the children, it has to emphasise a shift in the conventional approaches to teacher education to distance teacher education which will reach larger numbers of student teachers. There is need for governments to adopt implementation strategies in line with their national policy on education to set up pre-tertiary distance education institutions to increase access to educational programs. The development of national DE policy frameworks is a crucial step in teacher training/retraining in the light of the changing challenges of distance education, the rise of civil societies and the expansion of trans-national education. Donor funded DE programmes need to ensure their sustainability by being made time-bound and are institutionalized. Furthermore, they ought to be carefully planned to meet urgent demands and need to begin with the necessary initial investment in infrastructure or building capacity through the system rather than operating in a crisis mode.