Education in Sao Tome and Principe has seen drastic changes due to increased funding from the World Bank, other foreign aid and a revised government budget. In the past, the government paid little attention to the education system, illustrated by the small budget for compulsory education, limited to the primary level. The education system is heavily dependent on foreign aid to cover the costs of books, curriculum development and teacher salaries. In addition, teachers are underpaid. Teachers must rely on the Minister of Education to enhance their skills, learn the modern curriculum and earn decent wages.
However, the biggest problem is low enrollment in secondary and tertiary schools. Although the first six years in primary school are free, there is a huge drop in enrollment into secondary school and tertiary institutions. In 2001, there were only 183 college students enrolled, ranking Sao Tome 196 out of 200 in college enrollment in world rankings.
The numbers may be discouraging, but in 2012, the government proposed its School+ project, which is aimed to provide more access to education and enhance the quality of education. In addition, activities like workshops and indoor sports centers were opened in October 2012 to help strengthen the components of sports, visual education, and art classes. Updated curriculum for secondary schools, the introduction of the 12th grade, vocational training, availability of books, and additional training projects for teachers were also part of the project.
The government also proposed an educational sector plan and an Educational Policy Charter for 2012-2020, outlining future plans. The main objective is to provide 12 years of free, quality education to all students. Further goals are to develop quality higher education facilities, integrate the needs of the labor market into higher education, offer high-level training for teachers and ensure effective management of the sector.
In 2007, Sao Tome saw a steady decline in the gross primary enrollment rate. But since the implementation of the education plan starting in 2012, the number has slowly increased. Adult literacy rates have also seen improvements due to the new sector plans. In 200,1 the literacy rate was approximately 85 percent, and by 2015 it had increased to about 92 percent. Other improvements of education in Sao Tome and Principe could be from the $3.5 million World Bank grant to expand training for primary school teachers and to allow training for preschool teachers.
Currently, almost every child is enrolled in primary school, and with a new grant from the International Development Association, 267 primary teachers have received training, covering almost every unqualified primary education teacher in the country. In the past, education in Sao Tome and Principe was never a priority. But, the implementation of several new education plans and foreign funding has put education front and center.
– Amira Wynn