Africa has a surface area of 30.3 million square kilometres (22% of the total land area of the Earth). At the same time a little more than one billion people live on this continent. Thus Africa is the second largest continent by population and landmass.
The African continent suffers from an antiquated education system, a western heritage from the 19th and early 20th Century. Unfortunately, when people reach adulthood they are unable to do much with their education, which is often characterized by overcrowded classrooms, stubborn memorization and lack of educational assistance. Only children from wealthy families, who are sent to private schools, have the possibility to later on effectively participate in economic life and in influential circles. But there is hope in Africa.
Waldorf education came to South Africa for the first time in 1959. Since then numerous well-established schools have emerged in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania, of which South Africa is home to most Waldorf schools and kindergartens. Other smaller Waldorf educational initiatives, some of which are also social projects exist in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe.
In many parts of the continent, people live in poverty with little hope for improvement in their living conditions. The Friends of Waldorf Education aim to promote change, both for the poverty stricken population and for those people who are better off. This will only be possible if more and more people are willing to support Waldorf education through educational sponsorships for example.
Like in many parts of the world a social change is also occurring in Africa. The centre of the life of parents is increasingly outside the family. Consequently, children spend more time in playgroups, kindergartens, or schools, and just as often they are left to themselves. Therefore, to fulfil its responsibility, education must rise beyond the traditional understanding of teaching.
The largest training centre for Waldorf teachers exists in Cape Town in South Africa. Particularly noteworthy are the 40 kindergartens (Educare Centres), which were established in the townships around Cape Town by graduates from the Centre for Creative Education. They show with just how much initiative and commitment the Waldorf approach is being adopted. In 2011, the Centre for Creative Education was facing a possible closure due to financial difficulties. The Friends of Waldorf Education, however, have been able to prevent such an event through a successful fundraising campaign.
A real challenge is to incorporate African elements in the training of elementary school teachers. Certainly these teachers teach African stories such as fairy tales, fables or legends of different African peoples to match the age of the children and their education. Nevertheless there are many areas in which an African way of education has yet to be explored.
The promotion of Waldorf teacher training has been a main focus of the work of the Friends of Waldorf Education. In Nairobi the kindergarten and teacher training is located for all of East Africa and is the second most important centre apart from Cape Town for Waldorf teacher training in Africa.