While higher education in West African countries is free and of reasonably
high quality, the requirements for acceptance to a university are
difficult to meet. Primary school is not compulsory, and governments
rarely build schools, let alone hire teachers for them. Some high
schools are found in larger cities, but in the bush, there is virtually
nothing. Village children attend schools run mostly by religious groups
who are responsible for more than 80% of the literacy in West Africa. In
this photograph, children learn to read and write from a Muslim teacher
who uses the Koran, the holy book of Islam, as the only teaching aid.
There are also other positive influences from the outside. The Internet,
oddly enough, has assisted with state-run education, because classes can
be centrally developed and administered with significantly less investment
in infrastructure and teacher training than is possible with traditional
methods. This allows state-run schools to be built in more remote areas.
However, with all these positives, there are still cultural barriers. Of
those students that do go on to college, few return to their home villages
due to fear of jealous dejection from their people. Another barrier is
the traditional hierarchy of the village, which does not warmly welcome
new ideas. These issues cause frustration for everyone, usually resulting
in the educated people leaving for the cities, or more likely, to live
and work abroad. This "brain drain" is a major contributing factor to
the lack of cultural evolution in West Africa today.