Relocating to Central Africa: Know Your Education Options
There are many unseen challenges when relocating to Africa with children, but one of the biggest ones is education. Any family planning on relocating to Africa should take several factors into consideration: cost, location, language of instruction, and curriculum are the core requirements families should plan for before getting to the new destination. Our Best Practices for Effective Relocation to Africa: A Guide for Global Mobility Managers provides best practice solutions for global mobility professionals relocating international assignees, including those with children.
Central Africa, a core region of the continent, comprises countries such as Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Expanding to the UN’s definition of Middle Africa, the region also includes Angola, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and São Tomé and Príncipe. In total, 11 independent countries form Central Africa and Middle Africa and within them are a vast variety of cultures, economic activities, and living conditions. Indeed, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this region, with each location presenting its own set of unique educational challenges.
Central African and Middle African education systems are not widely publicised in rankings or in research, so information on outcomes and curricular content is not widely available. We have found that expatriate families opt for their children to adhere to a foreign standard, which can usually offer smaller classes and more developed facilities. This means enrolling children in international schools which offer a higher rate of university placement, and also facilitate the process of applications once they return to their home country or go on their next assignment. International schools can be single sex, co-educational, or boarding.
Often, international schools will be located in major cities, which means commute times need to be considered. Assignees moving with children should first select a school and then choose a property within the school area. This will help to ease the burden of long commutes.
Private schools can be found in some Central African countries and offer a parallel program that may compliment the UK- or U.S.-based curriculum. Private schools are usually more affordable than international schools. If you are planning on sending your children to a local private school, it is important to find out the composition of student backgrounds, the language, and teaching system. Private schools also tend to be less flexible in general with students with special needs, or when accommodating special education. Should a relocating family require such support, this will need to be discussed with the school as early as possible, typically during the enquiry stage.
Education Options for Remote Locations
If the assignment is not based in a city centre, assignees will need to look for a boarding school option as international schools are not found in remote areas. In the event that the school has no boarding facilities, it is necessary for one parent to stay with the children in rented accommodations close to the school, and the working parent to travel over weekends. Alternatively, the family member on an assignment could consider relocating on his or her own, leaving the rest of the family in the home country. This is something to seriously consider if there is no equivalent of the children’s current education system in the assignment country, and for when parents want to avoid the risk of their children starting over on a new curriculum. It is important to be absolutely realistic with the assignee and his or her family regarding available schools in remote locations.
French International Schools
As a special note on French international schools, applications for them are somewhat different and need to be submitted by the French Embassy in the origin country. As the process for French international schools is slightly different, it’s advisable to apply to preferred schools as early as possible.
Like most aspects of relocation, advance planning is key when searching for a school in Central Middle Africa. As soon as the assignment date has been scheduled, contact your relocation services provider so that school choices can be determined and searches can begin. For more information on relocating to Central Africa and practical guidance and tips for success, request a copy of our Best Practices for Effective Relocation to Africa: A Guide for Global Mobility Managers.
Special thanks to our destination services provider in Africa, Executive Relocations, for their insights on this topic.