Civic education is a means of promoting democracy and civic engagement. It guides and inspires people to their responsibilities and duties as citizens in their interactions with one another and governing institutions at all levels. Civic education equips people with knowledge and skills on equity, justice, democracy, tolerance, respect for established authority, respect for individual opinion, respect for the rule of law, and fundamental human rights.
Furthermore, it empowers people to be well informed and play active roles as citizens. This enables them to protect and support democracy and its processes.
In 21 Century Africa, civic education has become a major concern due to the many problems it’s facing. Citizens in most states lack the knowledge, ability and character to engage in peaceful and constructive interactions about their countries.
To build a better a better future and Africa, every citizen must be involved in every part of the governance process. Without that, it countries will always be in constant conflict. Here are factors hindering civic education in Africa.
Civic education is Not a Priority in Schools
For Africa countries to seize opportunities and lessen risks posed by the dynamic societies and economies, civic education should be recognized as a curriculum in all levels of schools. It should be used as a tool to increase effective participation in society and also increase political awareness. With skills and knowledge acquired in class, students grow into better citizens with capacities to support and protect democracy and understand the roles of different organs, their rights and responsibilities.
The school curriculum should be analyzed and developed to foster a better understanding of fairness and participation through integrated ways. It should ensure the importance of civic education is relevant and recognized by students and teachers. The lessons in class should encourage the students to talk of stories they watch in the media or witness in their societies in order to find best methods of solving issues in their societies. Students should not only be taught the basics of knowledge of their democratic systems, but also made to understand the historical and social background about the systems.
With such kind of education, active involvements of citizens is guaranteed and they can easily use the different channels and avenues available to contribute to their society.
Lack of Funding and Policy Initiatives
Lack of funding is one of the biggest challenges in civic education. In 2016, Kenya electoral commission, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), cited low civic education and poor funding as the reasons for poor voter registration for 2017 August General elections. Due to limited funds from National Treasury, the commission was unable to carry out proper and extensive civic education that would have mobilized a huge number of people to register to vote in the upcoming general elections.
Also, most governments in Africa have no laws that regulate civic education. The lack of framework challenges the participation in civic education activities as it does not say who should really carry the process. Currently, both civic society and government in some instances carry out the activities but the issue of lack of funding always comes up. There is an urgent need for governments to come up with inclusive mechanisms that enable all citizens to participate in governance and community activities and hold governments accountable. This is not possible when most citizens do not know what role their government plays.
The frameworks or guidelines will not only help in public participation but will also help in the allocation of funds and spell out who should carry the education activities. In December 2015, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta suspended Ksh.2 billion from USAID meant for civic education program for the incoming general election. The American NGO, International Foundation for Electoral System was implementing a program dubbed the "Kenya Electoral Assistance program, KEAP 2017" and Kenyan government said the organization was not registered in the list of NGOs operating in Kenya
Corruption is both a factor hindering civic education as well as result of lack of civic education. In the first case, institutions and funds that would have been used in civic education processes whether in training or disseminating information resources are diverted to scrupulous use. There is also the political corruption which sees the uneven empowerment of citizens in different regions. With the public lacking the capacities to hold leaders and those in public offices accountable, different forms of corruption go undetected and unreported and it is quickly accepted as norm.
Only citizens who understand to the principles innate in a democracy will uphold and protect the constitution. Such citizens promote and participate in competitive elections, promote political, inclusive political participation, promote and promote civic liberties and protect the rights of the marginalized. This cannot be realized without proper civic education that enables change in a society.