Why Africa needs to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all

As we mark the International Day of Education, the role of ADEA to support reaching the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 and SDG 4 is ever more crucial.

These girls are receiving a GPE-supported girls’ scholarship at Makalondi Secondary School in Niger. The program supports 700 girls in the country and has been in place since the start of the 2015-16 school year. Makalondi, Tilaberri Region, Niger. Photo: GPE/Kelley Lynch

This is the 1st blog post in 2020 as part of the collaborative effort between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

Education is a key driver to transform lives, build peace, eradicate poverty and drive sustainable development. The adoption on December 3, 2018 of resolution 73/25 proclaiming January 24 “International Day of Education” - co-authored by Nigeria and 58 other Member States - demonstrated the unwavering political will to support transformative actions for inclusive, equitable and quality education for all.

Today sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of education exclusion. Indeed 97.5 million children and adolescents are out of school in sub-Saharan Africa. Without urgent will and combined resources and efforts, the situation will likely get worse as the region faces a rising demand for education due to a still-growing school-age population.

Education is a human right and the key to sustainable development

Education is an inalienable right of every human being. It promises to free all citizens from the shackles of ignorance, poverty and disempowerment, and endow them with the capacity to be architects of their own destiny, and catalysts of entrepreneurship, innovation and global citizenship. Africa’s huge youth population can be a “demographic dividend” only if it is provided with quality education and appropriate skills.

The Agenda 2063, the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA 16-25), the Technical and Vocational Education Training Strategy (TVET Strategy) and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024) aim to significantly raise educational achievement in terms of access, quality, efficiency and relevance.

To achieve the global and continental education goals, African countries must provide a level of predictable and sustainable investment in education that exceeds that of other developing regions. If we really want to end this learning crisis and build a better future for the peoples of Africa, African leaders have to act now by investing financial and technical resources not only in educational scholarships, teacher training workshops, school building and improvement of water and electricity access to schools, but also by supporting leadership capacity development and bridging the gap between planning and execution.

However, time is against us because even if the enrollment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91%, unfortunately 59 million primary age children remain out of school. More than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa while an estimated 50% of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas.

Urgent action is also needed to close the gender gap, with girls increasingly the hardest hit from the growing learning crisis on the continent. Across Africa, 9 million girls between the ages of 6 and 11 will never go to school at all, compared to 6 million boys, according to UIS data. Their disadvantage starts early and gets worse by the time they become adolescents. The continent also exhibits pockets of boys’ disadvantage.

To support African policymakers to bridge this gender gap, it is key to produce gender data and develop a wider set of indicators to measure gender equality that go beyond gender parity, utilize data and analysis from within and outside the education sector so as to embed gender more comprehensively into education sector analyses and plans. 

Indicators related to access are good - separate toilets for girls and boys and the presence of female teachers, who can serve as role models and encourage girls to continue their education. However the continent needs to shift from access to equality for transformational change.

As we can see, violations to the right to education are still visible and tangible at all levels. Thus, how can we still accept it? What are we waiting for to offer them a ladder out of poverty and a path to a promising future? 

ADEA’s role in the education and training space

Since its creation in 1988, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) has been contributing to the empowerment of African countries to develop quality education and training systems that respond to countries' emergent needs and drive sustainable socioeconomic transformation.

Over the last decade, ADEA undertook several actions towards strengthening the capacity of over 3,500 experts in Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) in 45 African countries in topics focused on the entire EMIS cycle (i.e. from data collection to reporting).

Moreover, ADEA has been helping to develop capacity in African governments’ national EMIS through seminars, peer reviews and technical assistance. Ministries now benchmark their EMIS against a set of norms and standards validated at the continental level.

Today ADEA has nine Inter Country Quality Nodes (ICQNs) on different themes and one Task Force on Education Management and Policy Support (TFEMPS). The ICQN Network is a key tool to catalyze innovative policies and practices conducive to concrete change in education. They promote the pooling of knowledge, research, experiences, lessons learned and best practices on key education and training issues.

ADEA has been promoting peer learning among African countries through its ICQNs and helped identify scalable and replicable innovative solutions to key challenges areas in education and training. For instance, since the inception of ADEA’s ICQN-TVSD, the Association has promoted the paradigm shift from the conventional technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to the flexible and responsive technical and vocational skills development, with notable reforms in Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Rwanda.

In the last 30 years, ADEA’s policy dialogue initiatives and interventions at the continental and country levels – now guided by the Strategic Plan 2018-2022 – have produced positive outcomes linked to Sustainable Development Goal 4 in terms of policy reforms related to contractual teachers, multi-grade teaching, integration of African languages and cultures into education, leadership capacity building on early childhood development, curriculum reforms, the use of ICT in education, achieving peace through education, promotion of education-training-work continuum in Africa and so forth.

Success resides in a country’s will

Without political will and resources, African countries will not succeed in achieving inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all.

In a world of uncertainty and rapid change, ADEA’s ICQN network will play a vital role in fostering greater peer learning, knowledge sharing and sharing of best practices across African countries and education stakeholders, with a view to tackling the key education challenges countries face. 

Strategic partnership at local, regional, continental and international levels will remain the keystone to our common success.