The obstacles to an effective family education in Africa




The family is the first cell of society, and any society to reproduce passes through the family. Educating a child these days is a very difficult task, everyone who is involved in this complex process complains. Some players speak of an education crisis. Whether it is parents, in terms of family education; teachers, in terms of school instruction; it’s the same refrain: “We don’t understand our children (our students), they are not what we have been for our parents (our teachers)”.

Indeed, educating is an art that one must learn. In addition, to educate better these days, you need to know the context in which children live and grow. In the 21st century, what are the obstacles to fulfilling education in the family context in Africa? We will recall the aims of education in African societies first and secondly, we will highlight the factors that prevent the development of children in the family.

  1. The finality and context of family education in ancient Africa

All education, all education system is based on goals. They are a particular vision of the world conceived by those who set up the education system. They form the backdrop that will guide all educational action. Thus, anxious to train the young generation to integrate later in adult society, African societies have designed and implemented specific education systems. These were consistent with the worldview that each particular society had. The aims of each society were in accordance with its physical environment. An African living by the sea did not receive the same education as an African from the mountains or the valley because he was not confronted with the same environmental realities. Educational practices always vary with purposes and methods, guided by the context.

Education was first and foremost about passing on a heritage or legacy from one generation to the next. It aimed to ensure the continuity of the elements of civilization carrying a culture. All educational action ensures that the behaviors and attitudes necessary for the survival of culture are learned and above all well assimilated. Society thus introduces the young generation to the values ​​and techniques that characterize the life of its civilization (Erny, 1977). It is thanks to education that the child acquires a language, knowledge, a scale of values ​​and thoughts, an affectivity, a know-how and a good manners.

This vision of education has led African societies to integrate the child into all activities of common life. He participates in it in order to be imbued with the tasks and responsibilities that will be his later when he is an adult. Hence the need for “initiation” in most societies. The other activities in which the child does not participate are considered to go beyond his psychic or physical sphere, therefore not being able to understand or support them, at his age. Otherwise, most of the activities concern the young generation. Fishing, hunting, country activities, certain ritual dances are all activities with which the child is associated. Since the younger generation had to finally take into account what adults do, education was therefore done more by imitation and by practical initiation. Education was basically the work of the whole community, it was lineage, clan, community to a large extent. The whole community was supposed to intervene to make the young generation acquire the skills and attitudes that community life could require of them. Anti-social acts and behavior were suppressed by any member of the community. Because for the African, with this community economy, it was important that the heritage of the community be preserved.

Today, the mission of educating the young generation is today exclusively given to the restricted family. The community is almost no longer solicited by any educational action. At the same time, the family responsible for educating the young generation is going through enormous difficulties due to the socio-economic and cultural changes experienced by most African societies. These changes do not allow Africa to continue to train people suitable for an agricultural economy (based on agriculture), while the society engages in a capitalist economy, highly industrialized. The school which was introduced in Africa by colonization, as if to overcome the deficit of community education intended for an agrarian economy, has not really made it possible to alleviate the educational problem posed by the young generation today. Most African countries live in this ambivalence of values, thus creating a sprain in economic development, in the harmonious development of these.

  1. The obstacles to effective family education in Africa

The obstacles that we want to highlight in this article are: the harmful influence of school, the prolonged absence of parents from the family, the weakening of parental authority, the disappearance of the role of women, the influence of the mass media, disharmony between spouses and the sanctification of children’s rights.

The role of the family as the primary unit of society has been passed down to school in the 21st century. The parents disengaged from the role that was theirs. In general, the parents found in school an authority for the role played by either the family, the clan or the lineage or all together. Today, a child is enrolled in school to shirk his responsibilities, free himself from his whims and be able to go about his business. Parents entrust their children to school teachers while hoping that the child will exhibit the behaviors they want. This way of understanding the function of the school in Africa raises questions about the specific and complementary missions of the two institutions. So we can say that the advent of school plays against family education to a certain extent. The schooling of children with a capitalist aim. They are educated so that they occupy a function in the capitalist economy. The mass consumption which characterizes the capitalism of our time generates a dependence of the African societies vis-a-vis the Western countries as for the production of the consumer goods.


Thus, to meet the needs of their families, which needs become important, parents are forced to work outside the family framework (remember that the family was a business in the past) and sometimes to multiply jobs, in the case of parents with little educated. This paid work makes parents of strangers to their children. These two partners (parents and children) rarely see each other for some emotional exchanges, sometimes with no real commitment. Some parents, because they have a lot of money, only give material when the child needs their affection and their real presence. In these cases which become legion in our societies, children are educated by the mass media or by unsavory people. Others, those who have no money, find that much of their parental authority is cut off. Because a parent who cannot provide for the child’s basic needs (eating, sleeping, dressing, going to school, etc.) loses most of his authority. This authority is therefore transferred to teachers and the mass media, who too cannot exercise it effectively. For teachers, faced with overcrowding, they do not manage to support each student so that they have the knowledge, skills, values ​​and knowledge of living together. Parental authority therefore follows two important factors: material assistance and emotional support. These two dimensions constitute what can be called child protection. The absence of these two imperatives makes children dependent on the outside world, making them vulnerable to the influence of friends who are often disreputable, not to mention the obvious influence of the mass media on children today. All these places of education find their strength because parents are often absent from the family. The increasingly long absence of women is more remarkable than that of men.

The woman raised children without working in the past in Africa; nowadays, thanks to her education, her emancipation and the feminist movements which work in recognition of the right of the woman, the woman is obliged to work outside her household, she works in all the sectors of activity. The nuclearization of families means that they are forced to resort to family helpers (domestic) who do not always have the qualities required to properly educate their offspring. However, the role of women in the education of the child is essential, it is the emotional fuel of the child. She was the one who saw him grow within him and who accompanies him until his social integration. She can’t do it anymore because she has to give it up very early to go back to work and make money.

In these conditions, the children are educated by the mass media in the absence of the parents. Television is a very important mental change tool. Television no longer plays its role of information, education and entertainment, it communicates ways of feeling, being and values. The education function is not taken into account very much in most programs of the various mass media. To be convinced, just follow the programs of our mass media. In short, the mass media are a means of introducing foreign culture, in turn, foreign values ​​in the African family with sometimes unfortunate consequences on children. This cultural borrowing, rather this cultural imperialism leads to what can be called a cultural heterogeneity which does not favor the integration of values ​​by children.

Another obstacle turns out to be the disharmony between the spouses. In order to educate children as a family, you need a minimum of values ​​shared by the spouses. It is clear that within the couple there are still misunderstandings that do not promote the integration of values. Because for a child to learn, the values ​​learned must be consistent. Sometimes the level of education can also influence the education of children. Low educated parents resign from responsibility because they believe that illiteracy is an educational vulnerability.

In addition, to observe closely, the current culture, we put the rights of children above those of parents, we are thus in a generation of children kings. His royalty comes from the fact that he can do everything because he has rights, not duties. There is a kind of sacralization of the rights of the child which sometimes leads to the weakening of the authority of the parents.


The peculiarity of Christian families is that they have received the light of the gospel. The obstacles we have just explored also apply to Christian families. The main obstacle in Christian families is the disharmony of the couple and their lack of Christian commitment. In other words, if Christian parents love each other and testify of Christ through their love, it would be easy for them to transmit Christian values ​​to their offspring. The seeds of a good society are found in the family nucleus. If we want our societies to be more livable, we must reconsider the basic cell. Our societies are like our families. So there is reason to think of new family policies, we need to rethink family education.

Dr Emmanuel Tamégnon YAOU

Assistant Professor of Sociology of Education University of Kara (Togo)