For families with children, finding an international school that offers a good education is one of the top priorities when relocating to a new country. When moving to Africa this can prove a little bit more difficult. Finding a school that offers a quality international education while allowing for the children to easily transfer to schools in a different country or continent at a later stage is vital. That the school qualifications that are offered upon graduating are also imporant especially for the child to apply for admission at competitive international universities.
A recent article by Geremie Sawadogo was very useful in assesing and organizing the various international schools found in Africa into 4 groups.
His summaries for each group of countries are described in detail below:
Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.
These are the countries which offer the best schools on the continent. The schools in this group have the breadth, scope and quality of instruction that is expected of the best international schools anywhere else. They offer an International curriculum leading to the IB Diploma, the French Baccalaureate or the UK GCSE - all of which properly equip graduating students to be competitive for admission to the best universities in the world. Most importantly, the education programs offered in these schools are highly transferable making the schools in this group the ideal or best choice for internationally mobile families who want their children to seamlessly transfer from schools to schools overseas and back home. It is however, important to note that these schools are only able to accommodate mild learning disabilities.
In general, the schools in this category have state of the art performance centers, chemistry and computer labs along with wireless hotspots for easy access to the internet. Classrooms are equipped with the latest technologies and the libraries are well stocked and provide ample study space. All have good sport complexes ( such as a soccer field, basketball court and swimming pool or they arrange for swimming activities with a nearby hotels or clubs); they have international extra-curricular exchanges with neighboring countries and the cafeteria offers nutritional meal plans. Many offer transportation and after hour care - for additional fees. Finally, security is very good in these schools.
Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Tunisia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zambia and Uganda.
These countries have schools which offer the same quality of education as the schools in Group A. However, they generally tend to be slightly limited in the scope and diversity of instructional offerings and in the overall quality of the facilities and learning technologies such as the chemistry labs may not offer the same range of opportunities for chemistry tests and exercises or the schools might not have a full sporting facilities or engage in international exchanges. Nevertheless, the quality of the education is excellent and children attending these schools will not face knowledge or skill gaps upon transferring to a different international school in Africa or elsewhere. However, transferring or relocating families must watch for faster pace, increased peer competition and issues of adjustment if transferring to larger schools as schools in Group B tend to have smaller enrolment and class sizes.
Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
This group of countries is made up of schools with limitations in scope and breadth. While the lower classes in this group generally offer high quality instruction, the upper level classes tend to be smaller - and in many instances, use mix levels and age groups. One clear advantage is that classes are smaller and kids get enough personal attention. However, teenagers can often feel isolated, lonely and even bored. The only exception are the French schools, particularly in former French colonies, since they have large enrolment and are well integrated into the local community. I would not recommend these schools to families with teenagers. Because they are very small and a fixture of the community, parents of children in these schools must also be prepared to be involved in the politics of the school.
Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Mauritania, Somalia, and Sudan.
This group comprises schools which are primarily located in warring, instable or non family posts countries. In many respects, instruction in this group is poor and management of the schools is not immune to the overall instability and quality of life of the countries in which they are located. The schools in this group do not always have the best teachers or administrators and this reflects poorly on the quality of the instruction. The schools tend to be small, have a rigid governance dominated by the largest contributors (typically the US Embassy or a large multinational) which yields a lot of power on the administrative and instructional decisions. The schools in this group typically have no cafeteria, no chemistry labs and make limited use of computers or blackboards for instructional purposes. Libraries are rare and have limited space and a very few volumes if they do exist. While these schools might be alright for small children, middle and high school level children would be better served not attending them. Anyone relocating family with middle school or high school age children who is relocating to these countries should consider sending them to boarding schools in Group A or B countries.
It is important to bear in mind that political instability as recently seen in Northern Africa or Ivory Coast can affect the placement of a country within the various groups listed above.